Pop culture is my life blood and I'm so glad we live in a time where it's mainstream - Anyone who's anyone can now embrace their inner fanatic. Comic Book movies make billions of dollars as do video games, board games are in a golden age of popularity, fantasy and sci-fi dominate TV ratings, comics and manga feature heavily in any modern book shop...There's never been a better time to be myself, and to share my passion with the world.
So why not start a business driven by all of this knowledge, passion and love? That's what I aimed to do! Before my idea became the Random Encounter it ran under two different names. First was Nerd HQ - That's what I wanted to call it, and it was going to be a Pop-culture cafe and retailer that catered to every part of the pop culture spectrum. Not just a space to play your favourite trading card or board games, or where you can have a few drinks whilst reliving your favourite retro gaming memories. Not only watch your favourite TV shows and movies then discuss them afterwards, but also buy the latest comics and not have to scurry home to read them. Nerd HQ was going to have it all, a pop culture hub if you will, with Ellen and I working together to achieve our new, recently discovered dream!
But after attending a Prince's Trust Business course, reality kicked in - A business of such great scope would require a lot of money and be very difficult to fund. Also, after some intial market research, Nerd HQ proved to be a divisive name - That's when SUM Club (Super Ultra Mega Club) was created.
I wanted to establish a brand online and garner a following whilst tabling at conventions and selling online, running it as a fan club - A Super Ultra Mega Club! *Dun-Dun-Duuuuuuun*
It was October 2015, I had been signed off from my job of 8 years with work related stress, which later turned out to be a prolonged bought of anxiety and depression. I’d been off work for nearly 3 months by now and at this point I knew it would be detrimental to my health to go back. With very little idea of what I would do to get by, my future felt like a black void and worrying about it only made my illness worse.
This is when my long-term partner (now fiancé) Ellen stepped in. With a fear that I was gradually becoming agoraphobic, she treated me to a weekend away in Newcastle to allow me to clear my head and reassess my situation. I begrudgingly went along, not that I was ungrateful, but I was genuinely frightened of the outside world at this point.
Knowing me better than I know myself, Ellen knew it was exactly what I needed. The trip was a lot of fun – we headed to a retro game exhibition at the Life Centre, ate tasty food, caught a movie, had some cocktails and visited all the excellent Board Game/Comic Book shops Newcastle has!
It was pretty much perfect – All of my favourite things packed into one day. The next morning, we had a little extra shopping time before heading home and stopped by a geeky Cafe. It was the first time I’d seen an area dedicated to gaming as well as serving food, it seemed like a nice environment but unfortunately the menu was substantial enough for mine and Ellen’s appetite!
So after a trip where I managed to indulge all my favourite things, I had a lightbulb moment – why couldn’t I translate this passion and love I have for all these things into a business? That’s when Random Encounter was born!