There’s this misconception that business owners aren’t helpful to people starting out. While that might be true in some cases, it’s generally not the norm. When starting Stone Valley Games I really couldn’t reach out to anyone here, as local business owners really don’t want to provide any advantages to people moving in on their territory. However, reaching out across state lines takes the competitive portion out of it.
The Green Dragon has been in business for over 40 years – almost as long as there has been a gaming market. If I was going to consult with someone, why not start with one of the very best? Scott C., the owner (who, like me, is very friendly but doesn’t want their full name distributed) agreed to meet.
What / Where / When
In the beautiful city of Charleston in South Carolina resides the Green Dragon. Scott named the place based on his love of gaming, and his appreciation and practice of the martial arts. Wendy and I decided to make the trip in May, right before the volcanic-hot summer months. The Green Dragon is clean, large, well stocked, and organized. While seemingly not that big of a deal, the biggest draw is the large gaming room in the facility. If I were to imagine my future brick and mortar store, it would look very much like The Green Dragon. He avoids Warhammer like the plague, and carries the same types of games (board games, roleplaying games, card games) as well as supplies, and he does pop culture and comic books as well…which is what I may delve into later. Scott is heavily invested in miniatures, and seemed very interested in my concept of developing and manufacturing my own line of miniatures.
During introductions I told him I was standing up a gaming business and he quipped, “I’m sorry.” I knew I was in the right place.
His first question was basically asking me if I thought I could make money playing games. I replied that I didn’t have a lot of time to play games now, that I was in it for several reasons. First, I really love the culture. A combination of the very intelligent, slightly off, young, old, etc. However, the gaming community is one of the most inclusive groups of individuals I have ever been around, and I enjoy it. Second, I’m a businessman and my first priority with the business is to make money. Finally, there’s this whole resurgence of adults about my age who played in the original heyday of late 70s to mid 80s. These folks went on and lived lives…and are now diving back in since their children were leaving the nest. That seemed to have done the trick, because after that we talked business for hours.
There’s no way I could expound on everything we spoke about, but the highlights were:
The gaming industry, where things have been and where things may be going. The impact of Kickstarter and finding hidden gems.
Remaining LLC vs. Incorporating. This topic is heavily based in local and state law, as well as the national incorporation vs. LLC laws. This is a vital conversation for anyone looking to branch into any kind of business.
Taxes. Then more taxes. Followed by taxes and CPAs. (There’s a lot of taxes in business).
Inventory maintenance and management. How much of what kinds of products to carry and why. How to schedule purchases and time vs. expenses. This includes overhead costs and pricing strategies – what things to sell at retail and when to put things on sale.
Selecting distributors. The general idea is to stick with the big boys, but those distributors that have their own line of products is often very appealing. Bottom line, though, is the smaller ones don’t tend to last very long.
Seizing opportunities and understanding niches. The ideal strategy would be to start a niche, but there is a lot of risk in this area. It’s very difficult to tell what will be a hit and what will not. Who knows if what’s popular today will be popular in five, ten, or twenty years?
We really seemed to hit it off, and at the end of the day we had a lot of similarities in business and in life. As we were parting ways he told me he should probably charge consultation fees, and I told him that I’d pay them. He gave me his card, which I couldn’t return…because I haven’t had any cards made yet. (Doh!) I did ask if I could call and check in from time to time and he agreed. It’s still very fluid, but I think I’m going to have to put the Green Dragon on my visit list.
It turned out even better than I could have hoped. I came away with two things. 1) A really good feeling about how I had been building up my business to this point and the viability of eventual success. 2) A wealth of information that will really help me in inventory, management, and business operations. Bottom line, an absolute success. Thanks Scott.