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Spotlight on Variant Edition Comics + Culture: Building an Inclusive Culture is Good for Business

Futurpreneur | February 3, 2016

Brandon Schatz and Brendan Capel love comics and gaming, but always thought the industry as a whole needed to do a better job of making products, services and events available to people other than the die-hard fans. They based their business, Variant Edition Comics + Culture, on this belief.

“We started Variant Edition after deciding that Edmonton’s comic market was focusing on far too narrow an audience,” said Brandon. “Comics and gaming, as all forms of entertainment, include something for everyone. Having a place that not only had something for everyone, but made an effort to bring in a wider audience to the mediums, felt like something vital that has been missing from the community.”

As their name suggests, Variant Edition is not a regular comic shop. “In industry terms, a ‘variant edition’ is a comic that has the same contents as a regular edition, but a different cover,” explains Brandon. “Much like that, we are stocked like a normal comic shop, but the way we go about business is different. Instead of focusing on collectors, we key into readers. You won’t find new comics on our shelves sold for wildly inflated prices just because they are deemed ‘rare’. We offer comics as they were and are intended to be: items to be read and enjoyed for fair prices.”

There is no shortage of competition from other comic stores in Edmonton. However, sticking to their values around inclusiveness, Brandon and Brendan set themselves and their business apart. They work hard to maintain a unique and welcoming experience for all customers that enter their store. They also use social media extensively to share updates and as a way to interact with the wider community.

Brandon and Brendan’s inclusive approach to comics and gaming seems to be working. “As it turns out, if you stock a wide range of product and genres and don’t shame people for a perceived lack of knowledge of the medium (a big problem in the comic industry), the audience will emerge,” said Brandon.

He says it’s heartwarming that they have been so successful at creating an open and welcoming environment for people in their community. “Hearing people come in and say that this is one of the first comic stores they’ve felt comfortable in has been so rewarding.”

Looking to the future, the duo will continue building on their success. “In the short term, we’d love to grow our place as the biggest comic shop in Edmonton,” said Brandon. “We’d like to be able to make sure there are as little barriers to reading comics or getting into card and board games as possible, not only growing as a business, but supporting the community both in and around the store.”

In the longer term, Brandon and Brendan would like to be able to move their business into a larger space.

To aspiring entrepreneurs, Brandon shares this advice: “Prepare well and be adaptable. But accept that all the planning in the world won’t save you from the random things that can and will impact your business. Allow yourself some movement while keeping your vision in mind.”

Written By: Rachel Shuttleworth, Marketing Manager, Futurpreneur Canada