Answer has all the right anime stuff
When Answer Styannes was born, she was the answer to her parents prayers, hence her name.
Thirty three years later, she might be the answer to the prayers of local anime lovers.
Last summer, Ms Styannes, set up Anijoy, an online business selling merchandise related to popular Japanese style cartoons such as My Hero Academia. Attack on Titan or Dragonball Z. Items include everything from T-shirts, plushies and water bottles to dinner ware.
“I started in August and ever since then sales have been building each month,” she said. “I have really seen a noticeable increase this month.”
She loves the excited look anime fans get when they see her at events such as the Court Street Christmas Market last week.
“People have said a lot of nice things since I started,” the 33-year-old said. “People have said ‘your business makes me happy’, or ‘about time’ or ‘I can’t believe no one ever thought about this before’. I really get satisfaction when people give me feedback like that.”
Ms Styannes grew up watching anime in the suburbs of Jakarta, Indonesia.
“In Indonesia anime is very common,” she said. “It was one of the few entertainments available to children when I was little.”
As a toddler, one of her favourite anime cartoons was Doraemon, about a robotic cat from the future. While this show was very popular in Indonesia, she has noticed it is not as well known in this part of the world.
She met her Bermudian husband, Blaine Outerbridge, when he came to Indonesia to visit a friend. They married and she moved to Bermuda with him in 2016. She now works as an investigating officer at the Information Commissioner’s Office in Hamilton.
When she came to Bermuda she found that there was an anime community. There is an Anime Bermuda Facebook group, for example. But there were not many local stores exploiting that interest.
“I had to buy online or go overseas,” she said.
When she started Anijoy she thought, if the business did not work out she would just end up with a huge pile of anime merchandise she liked anyway.
“So I always make sure that I end up with things that I actually like,” Ms Styannes laughed. “If they don’t sell I can keep them. That is my strategy.”
At first, she thought that her main customers would be, like her, millennials with a bit of cash to burn and no children to spend it on. It did not actually work out that way.
“A lot of my customers are actually parents,” she said.
Sometimes worried parents tell her about the shows their children watch and ask if they are age appropriate. Not all anime is for children. Usually, Ms Styannes offers feedback and reassurance.
“It has been awesome to help parents understand their kids a little bit,” she said.
Her biggest challenge has been pricing.
“I want to make sure that my items are affordable and accessible to everyone,” she said. “But at the same time I only want to bring in high-quality, officially licensed merchandise. And that is not necessarily the most affordable option, especially if you calculate in shipping and duty. Just balancing that is the biggest challenge I would say.”
And she sometimes suffers from self doubt.
“A lot of times I think I am not cut out for this,” she said. “But I want to challenge myself. Thankfully, I get a lot of support from my husband and friends on the island. I enjoy doing this.”
Her dream would be to see Bermuda do a mini anime convention one day in the future.
“It wouldn’t have to be like the big conventions in New York,” she said. “Maybe anime lovers could get together and screen movies and play anime games. If Bermuda had something like that, it would be really cool.”
For more information, see Anijoy Bermuda on Facebook or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.