“You have to do what makes you happy.”
By day, Dayna Kenworthy is a Guelph-Humber student in the Media Studies program, specializing in Media Business. When she’s not in school, Dayna puts all of her time into her brand, Dayna The Sloth. Who, or what is Dayna The Sloth you ask? She is Dayna’s online persona in the cosplay industry. Since being introduced to cosplay four years ago, Dayna has turned her hobby and passion into a side business.
Here’s what Dayna had to say about being an entrepreneur in the cosplay industry:
How did you get into the cosplay?
I started late in the cosplay scene. I was sixteen and it was the weekend of my prom. My friends and I were really into anime and they invited me to an anime convention in Toronto. I had never heard of it before or been to a cosplay convention. I was mindblown. Everyone was in a costume and there were vendors who were making things I’d never seen before. I thought it was the coolest thing. I love Halloween and when you come to one of these things it’s like Halloween every day.
In terms of your business, what do you do?
I focus on costume design and recreation from popular video games, films, and comics. I do a lot more video game based content. I’m studying marketing and I realized that I could merge it with my passion, which is all things geeky. So, I’ve created my brand, Dayna The Sloth, which is my online persona. I then started to market my costume commisions, print sales, and other content.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve come across with turning your hobby into a business?
For me, it was trying to establish myself as an artist in the community.There are so many people doing cosplay in the GTA. You’re competing against really talented people who are as good, if not better than you. You have to be really impressive to make money in this industry. To set yourself apart you have to bring something new so I had to figure out how I was going to differentiate myself. I’m not anywhere near a professional cosplayer but to make money from it you have to be committed to learning your craft and developing new skills. I realized quickly that if I wanted to be noticed and make a business out of it I had to become really good.
How did you differentiate yourself from your competitors?
I became really passionate about making good armour. I’m a huge video game nerd and love games like World of Warcraft, so I wanted to try to bring those characters to life. A lot of people were doing glamourous cosplay but I wanted to do the gritty, scary, medieval armour. I like to redesign characters to have an armour build or I’ll gender bend characters. As a female, you stand out when you’re in a large armour build as opposed to the popular glamourous cosplay costumes. I just gravitate towards the big, intimidating battle warriors but I do love and support the glamourous cosplay side as well!
Is there something you wish you knew about the industry before you started your business?
Looking back, I would tell myself not to focus on the sexy, glamorous looks since there’s a lot of successful people already focused on it. I was more into the glam look at the beginning and I wasn’t even happy. The attention was fun but at the end of the day, I wasn’t passionate about it. Now, my giant armour builds cost double the amount to make and I only get half the attention but it makes me happy and that’s where true success comes from. You have to do what makes you happy. If I could go back I would tell myself to skip the glam look and go right into the armour builds. If you spend more time on what you like and are good at you’ll gain the followers and money will follow.
A lot of people are intimidated by the idea of starting their own business.What was the moment that made you realize that you should go for it?
I was working on a build that I was very proud of and I was showing my mom what I’d made. She was telling me how proud she was and that she couldn’t believe that I had made that from scratch. She was saying to me, “You know, not everyone can do that. What you’re doing is special.” I think it had been my first World of Warcraft build that I’d made. I brought it to a cosplay convention and people were amazed that I’d made that. I started to see that what I was doing was special and that I could help others bring their favourite characters to life. When I opened my commision as a test run and posted it on a Facebook page, I got 50 replies. It was crazy. When I saw how many people were interested it got me thinking that maybe I should try selling prints too. From there I kept going.
What’s a piece of advice you could give to a student who wants to turn their hobby into a business?
Stick with it and don’t get discouraged. There will be some failure, and it’s cliche to say but you will hear no a lot. You have to look at it as trial and error and not feel defeated. Don’t abandon it, because one day you will find success whether it’s small or big. Just keep going.
Where do you see your business going?
It’s hard to say where it’s headed because the cosplay industry is constantly changing. I might not always do this as a business but I do hope to always produce some sort of cosplay content. No matter how my business is doing, I won’t stop making costumes or going to conventions. For the next year or two, I’m hoping to raise enough money to go to cosplay conventions in the U.S. Their conventions are massive and it would be great to showcase my work there, especially since armour is more popular. So that’s where I see myself headed within the next one to five years. Either way, I’ll never let the brand die.
*This interview has been edited for length and clarity
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