Mandarin MiniCon, an event 10 years in the making

After weeks of wondering about rain, I couldn’t have asked for better weather on Saturday, March 28th. It was clear and sunny, but uncharacteristically cool for late March in Florida. A beautiful perfect day to put on what was going to be my biggest, most ambitious event ever.

Candy Keane at Mandarin MiniCon

Me, 9 months pregnant and happily surveying the scene at Mandarin MiniCon

Three Muses started as a website in 2005, but I’ve been in Mandarin Square since my retail store opened in early 2009. It’s an odd little spot, right on a major road, yet tucked back and pretty much hidden. The #1 phone call at the shop is from lost people asking for directions. It looks more like an office complex and has zero walk-in traffic. Nobody just casually wanders in. The good thing is that privacy also means we don’t have a lot of rules. No required hours to be open or a supervisor to answer to. The bad thing is the part where I mentioned we have zero walk-in traffic and everyone gets lost.

I’ve been wanting to do a large event to get people out to the plaza for a long time. I’ve done much smaller store events that always went well, but I’d never taken advantage of the freedom we have to use the entire plaza area. The thought of getting so many people involved and then hoping people would actually show up was very intimidating. I’ve seen too many empty events with grumbling vendors. Jacksonville can be a tough crowd sometimes.

Then Mythical Mountain moved in a few doors down and mentioned doing an event together for Free Comic Book Day. I’d have loved to do that, but I’m having a baby around that time so it wasn’t going to be possible. Not wanting to lose out on a good opportunity to kick off my maternity leave with a bang, I suggested we do an event earlier. Our own little “mini-con” with other vendors, conventions and local businesses. For some reason having a partner store in this, especially a comic book store, was the push I needed to make it happen. The fact that I would be nearly 38 weeks pregnant at the time and was the only one working at the shop was something I’d just deal with when the time came.

I contacted the building manager and the response was basically “do whatever you want, just clean up afterwards.” So I started sending Facebook messages to everyone I could think of to see if there was interest. One thing I knew was that I wanted to keep it free. We didn’t have to pay for use of the plaza and any money put in would pay off with visitors to the store that day and for long after. I was happy to discover Mythical Mountain had the same mindset.

In the beginning, I really thought I’d be begging people to be involved. But by the time word got out and things started rolling, I suddenly had a waiting list of vendors. That’s when I started to get excited about the interest being shown and knew we were on to something. I also started getting worried about logistical issues like where would they park, what if they got thirsty and hungry and where would they go to the bathroom? Our plaza area was open and free, but it was also free of the usual amenities you get when having an event in an actual building.

So next came the addition of food trucks and porta-potty rentals. With the event rapidly growing in size, I tried to map everything out and measure out spaces to see how many vendors we could fit. I can tell you I do not have a future in map making. I drew a lot of scribbling with some numbers and then decided I had the gist of the layout and would give everybody a spot when they showed up on Saturday. I’m still pretty surprised that actually worked.

I got in early that Saturday and vendors started showing up early right behind me. By our official start time at 11AM, everyone was set up and ready and the store seemed a little slow and manageable. I thought, not so bad, I can handle this. By just a couple hours in, we were slammed with a waiting line to check-out.

I’m very lucky to have friends that stepped in to help! I couldn’t have run the shop that day with Bridget and Meisha helping customers, Ted showing up early to carry the big sign down and help with set-up, Sean keeping an overall eye on things and getting people off the roof at one point and Matt emptying the large trash cans. I know there were also other people helping out and I’m thankful to you all. And all those that helped with clean-up were amazing. The plaza was left spotless.

I keep using the word “amazing” to describe the day because it really was. Things rarely go off so well and so easily. Yes a lot of work went into it to make it happen but you never really know how things are going to come together. The feedback afterwards was enough to give me the warm fuzzies for a week. In fact, I still have them. I feel like everything and everyone I have dedicated my time to, been involved with and supported showed up to return the favor. And on top of that was a whole new group of people I got to meet for the first time.

Click here to check out our photos on the Three Muses Facebook page

I need to do a few more shout-outs besides the aforementioned friends:

* Mythical Mountain- thank you for being my partner in this venture and for being as blindly optimistic as I was about everything! I look forward to doing it again.

* Max Micheals / Movement Magazine- thank you for doing the graphics for the event page, ads and fliers. And for bringing DJ ENS and the music / microphone / sound system. The event would not have been the same without the music. DJ ENS did a great job as both DJ and MC.

* The local conventions – thanks to AmeliaCon, CollectiveCon, GAAM and WasabiCon for being part of the event! Hope you all have the best year yet for your own events. Looking forward to attending them all.

* The food trucks – thanks to Delish Kabobs for coming out and serving some truly delicious food and I love the little food court area set-up! And Mister Softee ice cream was the perfect sweet treat for the day.

* Our costume contest supporters – Big thanks to all those that donated prizes and really made it a contest worth entering: AmeliaCon, GAAM, Actualized Arts, Bento Studios, Fantasi Kandy, Crafts by Helen Duffy, Red Velvet Photography, Showstoppers Variety Show, Art by Sabina

* Red Velvet Photography – thanks for coming out and covering the event! The photos area great and really show all the amazing costumes and crowd. Check out their photos here:  http://redvelvetphotography.com/p827394140#h407cb3c7

* The Jedi Academy of North Florida – thank you for entertaining the crowd with your performances!

* The Jacksonville geek/nerd/comics/cosplay community – it was wonderful to see so many of you come out and enjoy the day and dress up!

* All our vendors and participants:
AmeliaCon
Shoebeedoo
The Art Of Joseph Daugherty
Adorable Foxie
Scrub Oak Soaps
Iron Man – Jax
Jenifer Ann
WasabiCon
Movement Magazine
Collective Con
Jedi Academy of North Florida
Red Velvet Photography
GAAM
The Coffee Bard Coffeehouse
Art by Bento Studios
Actualized Arts
Umbrella Corporation Jacksonville (Home of the 219th Brain Surgeons)
Art by edbot5000
North Florida Chapter of the Heroes Alliance
Gotham City FX
Art and Caricatures by Art by Sabina
The Retro Raver
Comic Crafts by Helen Duffy Williams
Art by Mario Scott
Kawaii Designs
Silliness of Sewing
Orchid Ink Studios
I Am Sheridon
Nerdities
Color Television
Fantasi Candi

* I hope I managed to list everybody but if not, I apologize! I truly appreciate everyone involved.

Mandarin MiniCon – A Day of Comics and Cosplay

Mandarin Minicon A day of comics and cosplayJoin Three Muses Clothing and Mythical Mountain Comics & Collectibles for a day celebrating comics and cosplay at Mandarin Square! The event will be held outside both upstairs and downstairs in the plaza. The weather is supposed to be cloudy, a little cooler, but no rain! Sounds like a great way to enjoy a spring day.

Get your costume on and come join us for a FREE event featuring vendors, food truck Delish Kebobs, ice cream from Mister Softee, music by DJ ENS from Pixelated, sales, specials, a costume contest, a special performance by the Jedi Academy of North Florida and more!

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/826523284049763/

Costume contest at 3PM (details and prizes to be posted soon)
Performances by Jedi Academy of North Florida at 1PM & 4PM

This will also be the LAST DAY Three Muses is open until June. We are closing just for April & May. I am having a baby so the shop is taking a little break during this transition time. (and I really hope I make it till Saturday. I am ready to pop!)

Guests and vendors confirmed:
AmeliaCon – win free tix in the costume contest!
Shoebeedoo – one of a kind comic book heels
The Art Of Joseph Daugherty
Adorable Foxie – fun to wear furry things
Scrub Oak Soaps – all natural soaps
Iron Man – Jax Cosplay Guest
Jenifer Ann – Cosplay Guest
WasabiCon
Movement Magazine
Collective Con
Jedi Academy of North Florida– with performances at 1 & 4PM
Red Velvet Photography – roving photographers
GAAM – with the TMNT Van for pics and tix for costume contest winners!
The Coffee Bard Coffeehouse
Art by Bento Studios – with gift certificates and buttons for the costume contest!
Actualized Arts – with trinkets for the costume contest
Umbrella Corporation Jacksonville (Home of the 219th Brain Surgeons)
Art by edbot5000
North Florida Chapter of the Heroes Alliance
Gotham City FX
Art and Caricatures by Art by Sabina– win a video game print in the costume contest!
The Retro Raver
Comic Crafts by Helen Duffy Williams
Art by Mario Scott
Kawaii Designs
Silliness of Sewing
Orchid Ink Studios
I Am Sheridon
Nerdities
Spiders Web Marketing
Color Television

We do Jacksonville’s One Spark Festival Three Muses Style – 5 Days of Corsets and Cosplay

Last week Three Muses participated in a unique crowdfunding festival here in Jacksonville known as One Spark. We were competing with 609 other creators for a piece of the $310,000 to be awarded based on the votes of more than 260,000 people who attended. While only people who were physically at the festival and checked in were able to cast votes, a new option this year allowed anyone from anywhere in the world to contribute funds to their favorite projects through the website.

Our One Spark project

Our One Spark project

We didn’t participate last year and after attending one of the events, I felt like it was a missed opportunity. So when registration opened this year, I jumped at the chance to be a part of something potentially momentous. Problem was, I had no idea what my project would be. I wasn’t trying to start a new business and I didn’t have time to do anything not directly related to what Three Muses was already doing. Luckily the innovation category allowed for established businesses that wanted to take things farther and grow what they were already doing. So after years of contributing to countless funding campaigns for other people’s projects on the likes of Indiegogo and KickStarter, I decided to throw my hat into the crowdfunding ring.

Three Muses One Spark

The Three Muses table at Grease Rags

Our project was called Reintroducing the Art of Corsetry, because We Need a New Sewing Machine didn’t sound as catchy. But the basic idea was raising funds to get new equipment so we would be capable of producing our corsets and more items in-house rather than continuing to outsource overseas. Dreaming big, we figured if we could actually get a few machines then we could hold sewing classes in our workshop area.

Once I confirmed Brema was on board for five crazy days of talking about corsets, I got together our profile and we shot our video pitching our idea. A unique aspect of One Spark is that a venue has to choose to host your project. We were thrilled when Grease Rags Clothing Co. picked us and we immediately accepted. We have very complimentary stores and felt it was a great fit.

 

One Spark Jacksonville

One Spark Jacksonville

So for five long days and nights, Brema and I worked our butts off. We talked to everyone, did corset fittings and handed out over 300 cards as we pitched our idea and said our project number a million times. We ran back and forth from downtown to the shop, still managing to keep the store open every day. My mom came to visit and danced in the street wearing isis wings while handing out cards. We dressed as super heroes, video game characters, wore matching outfits and crazy tights. We visited other projects and cast our own votes. We posted incessantly online for people to vote and contribute.

Three Muses One Spark

Candy and Mom at One Spark

In the end, we managed to get 109 votes, which earned us $180.92 out of the $310,000. We raised a whopping $0 in contributions. (JULY UPDATE:  did not get enough votes to even get the money. So we got NOTHING.)

So between paying Brema to work the table and Jessica to work the store, food and gas, marketing, etc., I actually spent enough to have just gone out and bought some new sewing machines myself. But really, what’s the fun in that? I know for sure that doing the One Spark festival will pay off in the long run and quite honestly I wasn’t expecting much in the way of prize money so what we got was a welcome surprise. (JULY UPDATE: I wasn’t expecting much but to have the results say we would be getting something and then get nothing was a huge disappointment. And no, it did not payoff in the long run. Maybe 1 or 2 people came in that following week saying they saw us at One Spark)

The funds will be distributed in 4-6 weeks and when they are we plan to go shopping for a new sewing machine for the shop. The one we have now is getting a little old and temperamental. So just getting that small amount is pretty cool and we plan to put it to good use. (JULY UPDATE: Well that’s just depressing to read. That small amount would have indeed been cool.)

I feel the contacts we made at One Spark and the opportunity to connect with so many people was the most invaluable part of the festival. Every one of the cards we handed out was to people who were genuinely interested in what we had to offer. This was an incredible chance to directly market to people who will become future customers and those connections will pay off way more than the short term prize money.

(JULY UPDATE: Would I do this again? No. I think it’s great for someone who doesn’t have a fulltime job and can afford to be out there for 5 days pushing some new project. But to miss work and have to pay Brema to work the festival plus extra for working Sunday and pay to cover the shop and cover food and everything while we were there…it’s just too much. We made a lot more contacts just walking around. So we’ll definately be attending the festival again, just as attendees not creators.)

Big thanks to everyone who did come out and visit us and vote! And to Cindy at Grease Rags for being such a great host! We are already working on ideas for our project next year 🙂 (JULY UPDATE: We still love Cindy but our project next year will just involve enjoying the festival and maybe helping out someone else’s project)

 

One Spark Jacksonville

Mario and Luigi cosplay at One Spark