I'm late getting this post out ><
This post covers the story of our first industry booth at Japan's largest figure and garage kit event - the Wonder Festival (also known as Wonfes).
The first time I attended Wonfes was back in 2006 and this is what it was like. Back then I attended as press - this time I attended with my team as a hobby maker - makers of Mirai Suenaga Smart Doll - the doll that I believe will change and grow the global doll market.
This was to be a special event as it was our first time - none of us expected it to be so unforgettable due to the worst ever snow in history to fall in Tokyo.
And here are some of the Danny Choo T-shirt collection that we had on sale. Sold out in a jiffy though ><
Folks are required to book booth space for the Wonfes about 6 months in advance. Back then I thought that Smart Doll would be ready to sell so paying for the space (5.5 meters x 4.5 meters which cost about 250000 yen) was worth investing in.
As it is my first time producing hobby products, I was learning as I went along and some things look longer than anticipated which subsequently delayed the launch by a few months. This meant that the dolls were not ready for the Wonfes this time round.
The 250000 yen is for the land only and does not include construction - the quote we got for a simple layout turned out to be 1000000 yen which was an amount that I could not invest in just for a show that lasts a few hours (from 11AM to 5PM).
I decided to see if we could make a booth made entirely from only IKEA furniture + some of what we had in our office. We managed to bring costs down from 1000000 yen down to just over 100000 yen with a difference - we were still able to use the furniture after the event unlike many other companies who forked out millions of yen for a few hours and then have their booth torn down for good - most of them sold stuff though so they probably recuperated costs.
I do understand that having a booth at an event is not just about recuperating costs and should also be seen as a marketing opportunity so spending what we did was just about worth it.
At the IKEA Kohoku branch picking up some LINNMON tables and JANSJO lights - the tables are to be used as part of our display and also as part of the doll studio on the first floor of our office.
I really didn't think too much of the design of the JANSJO lights but they turn out to be really practical.
The beginnings our the doll studio - this is where we will build and ship out Smart Doll.
Working on merging MiraiFrame with the first version of the Automated Smart Doll.
And she's all ready for display at the Wonfes. You can see that Smart Doll has a hole at the base of the spine for a removable stand - take note of it in the photos later on in this post.
Until I find somebody who is a ninja at cutting soft vinyl, I'll be doing the cutting of the flash.
I think the time I spent in my dad's shoe studio cutting uppers helped a lot - the fundamental difference is that while leather is cut from top to bottom, soft vinyl is cut from bottom to top - the knife should be held in an upright position like you see in this photo and instead of moving the knife - you move the part to be cut.
The doll production studio in full swing - using the cardboard that came with the tables to protect them while we work on the dolls - didn't want them looking all battered before the show.
Here I am with Vincent who is helping out part time - if you keep an eye on my Twitter and Facebook then you will know that I usually post job positions there like I did for Vincents role.
MiraiFrame T4 is back from the factory just in time for Wonfes! The head and mecha hand parts are now part of the runner.
Still a few issues where parts are tight/loose but am working on it now. Copy and pasted from Kenplas, below are just some of the issues that we deal with in Injection Molding ><
Most of the display dolls are now ready.
Folks asked me why I bothered to unwrap the tables and put together the doll studio when we were going to dismantle it just a week later anyway for the show.
We needed to put together the dolls for the show and without the appropriate environment to do so then it was going to be difficult - the doll studio for that week alone provided a working environment which enabled us to assemble the dolls in a short time.
Doll studio dismantled ><
Dismantling the 2 floor office too as we are also going to use two of the glass tables ><
We could have bought furniture just for the event and left the office as it is but then we would have been left with 8 tables and no where to put them after the show - we could have paid for storage of the tables but that just didn't make sense.
Through running this business without much time or cashflow, I've learned the importance of "working with what you got."
Many folks focus on what they could be doing if they had a lot of cash to play with through investment but I feel that having no cash flow forces you to innovate and think of ways to work with the resources that you already have.
Today we are bringing the tables and display stuff to the venue using Tanabe-san's van and our Dualis.
Tanabe-san runs a printing company in Asakusa called Pop Box - if you need anything printed then he is your man.
Working on a keynote for the booth as we head over.
2 hours later and we are at Makuhari Messe. Time to set up booth.
3 of the LINNMON tables were used at the office - the other 3 were unwrapped.
If you are ever going to set up a booth in the middle of a Japanese Winter then make sure you wrap up warm as they leave the blast doors open for the cars and lorries to come into the hall.
Tables all set.
Time to do the wiring. As the blast doors are left open, there is a constant gush of wind that enters the halls that blows stuff over from time to time.
Didnt fancy leaving anything on display as we don't have cases so we pack up the dolls and head back to base.
By this time, the snow starts to turn into a blizzard. We didn't have chains on the tyres at the time which made it tough getting home - the car would continue to slide even after braking ><
By evening, the snow was so deep that the tyres had hardly any traction and I had to get out to push ToT
The patch of ground that you can just about see is after using our dustbin lid to dig away at the snow to enable the car to backup into our parking area.
Most highways were closed and without chains on the tyres, there was no way we were getting to the venue by car but had a load of stuff to bring to the venue. Got up at 4AM to reduce the amount of stuff to display and fit what we could into suitcases and try our luck on the trains.
The trains were severely affected by the snow too and we wasn't even sure if we were going to be able to get the venue.
At Musashikoyama dragging our bags through the snow ><
Somebody was either hit by a train or fell into the tracks causing more delays.
The trains that we needed were running on a reduced timetable but at least running.
Arrival at Makuhari - just over an hour to setup before they open the doors.
The wall of snow on the right gives you an idea of how thick the snow was in this area.
Time to setup! Linus has not been infected by dolls yet so he looks after the Mirai World display.
Engrish works well for POPs like these.
Pretty much all set and done. This is about all we could do with the time and budget we had. The rotary design of the layout was made with the intention that people would walk around it to check out the goodies which they did.
As there is nothing tall in the booth, you cant see it at all from afar but actually worked out well - folks would walk towards that area thinking that it was a pathway but then get stopped by the tables and ended up looking before they went along their way.
A quick group photo before everybody came in.
Now a few closeup shots of stuff on display.
Mirai Suenaga Cheergirl and Maid versions.
Kizuna Yumeno Bikini and Mirai Bedtime versions.
We wanted to have a large print with our Logo on it but it would have cost quite a bit so we decided to bring our TV instead ^^;
Linus went above and beyond to make a trailer for our Culture Japan Girls.
Summer and Winter uniform versions of Mirai Suenaga.
Mirai Suenaga Judo Version.
The "T2" written on the shoulder of MiraiFrame is just for us to know which version it is and won't be on the final production version.
Mirai Winter Casual Version.
Mirai looks a bit cold here.
This is the "Main Stage" where the 2 robotic Automatic versions and flagship Mirai Suenaga Casual Version are.
This is the default version of Smart Doll 001 : Mirai Suenaga. She comes with a small bust and casual wear which are her shoes, socks, shimapan, half-sleeve T-shirt, beanie, hairclip. Camera and wristband not included ^^;
Mirai also comes with a stand that can be attached to the hole at the base of the spine.
This is the current version of MiraiFrame - T4.
As you can see, with the hole at the base of the spine, the frame can do a load of dynamic in-the-air poses without a clumsy looking C stand around the waist or a crotch stand.
Which of these Mirai goodies do you have?
Thanks to everybody who dropped by to meet mai daughters ><
The app on my Xperia Z1 is what controls the Automatic Version of Smart Doll.
Also got to meet a load of readers too ^o^
Comrades from Kotobukiya.
Together with comrade and illustrator Tony Taka Sensei.
Just a hypothetical question - if Tony was to illustrate Mirai and she was to become a figure made by Max Factory - what uniform would you like her to be in?
From afar, our tables gets lost in the sea of the other corporate booths ><
One happy Linus!
At 5PM the event is over and time to pack up.
All cleaned up!
Our team worked over the weekend so I gave them Monday and Tuesday off which leaves me to clean up and restore the office ><
All the wiring was from the office and the lights can be reused in the doll studio. The other display materials such as the cork blocks are for the dolls and also reused in the office.
12:30PM Monday afternoon.
5:50PM Monday Afternoon. Could finally get rid of the cardboard that we used to protect the tables during the week leading up to Wonfes.
But its not over yet - doing a test setup of a display for the Hobby Maker Show to take place that Friday...