Today we spoke with Gareb Shamus who is the founder of Wizard Entertainment. Wizard Entertainment is the largest media outlet in the world covering comic books and toys. They also run the comic-con tour which is the largest series of events in the industry.
Gareb started the company because of his love for comic books while he was growing up. The job market was awful in the early 90s so he decided to try and create something for himself right out of college. That ambition turned into the industry leader everyone knows today. Read below to see what he has learned and what he thinks about young people starting businesses…
Tell us about your background
I grew up with 3 brothers and was always into collecting sport cards and comic books. I went to the University of Albany where I ran the advertising for the school newspaper. I was pretty good at it too. Right when the first mac computers came out we bought them for the newspaper. We did all of the publishing on them and that is when I decided I liked the business.
The job market was very bad in 1990 so I started working for my mom who ran a sport card and comic book store. I started a newsletter for the store which turned into the magazine that everyone knows today.
What have been the 3 biggest lessons you have learned while running Wizard Entertainment?
1. Hire great people. When you don’t have great people who don’t have the same interest it makes it almost impossible to run an organization.
2. Resources. You need the financial resources to do what your business needs to do in order to advance.
3. Focus. It can be so easy to lose focus and go in many directions. It is so important to do 1 great thing rather than 3 good things. When you look at the big people out there you can always name 1 great thing they did even if their company does multiple things.
How have you stayed ahead of the competition and at the top of the industry for so many years?
In my industry of comics, movies, news and toys there is always something new coming out. My job is to predict what’s hot before anyone else. That has always kept the company on the cutting edge of the industry. Today it is not only the magazine but we have taken a new focus on the website and even started a newsletter for geeks. We have become the world leaders for geeks! We have also added events. There is a huge interest in getting people to market to the attendees of the events and we have gone from only a few to 25 this year.
The company did have to make some major shifts in the past few years. We now outsource a lot more stuff. This let us trim many parts of the company which we had to in order to be pro-active in the new economy. We used these times as an opportunity to hire great new people into the company. A lot of people had lost their jobs so we created an opportunity where we went out and brought the best talent into the company.
Has the younger generation caught on to comic books and the industry or are they lacking in interest?
There is always an interest from the younger group. We do a lot to foster the next generation and consumer. Things like kids under 10 getting into our events for free. We also have a magazine that caters to moms and kids under 12. We use the events to bring in celebrities to attract the kids and their parents.
The more parents do these things with their kids the more they will be fans when they get older.
You started Wizard Entertainment right out of college. Looking back on it all is there anything you would rather be doing today?
At the end of the day there was nothing I really cared about when it came to resumes, job fairs, etc. My dad made his work what he wanted it to be so I never thought about the “get a job” mentality. Instead I grew up with the attitude of getting an idea and making it work.
Right now there is no other place I would rather be. I’m like a little kid in a big kids body.
How do you think more people can go about starting a business around their passion like you did with comic books?
In order to be successful you have to enjoy what you do. It’s not just money that drives people. They want to come home and feel good about what they do and make an impact. I am lucky that I turned my passion into a profession. If you like fashion go into fashion, if its writing go into writing etc…
When people do what they enjoy they come into it at a much higher level than most people. When you grow up loving something it is something you have done your whole life. That is much different than learning a career and getting a job at 25. You have a lifetime of experience doing what you love!
If you love what you do, you will be successful over time.
If you could attribute your success to one thing what would it be?
Determination. You have to be very determined. You are going to fight a lot of battles and you will not win them all. The most important thing is you have to know what you want and you have to go get it.
Just be smart about what you do. A lot of people might do something just for the sake of doing it. Don’t do it until you are ready. Spend a couple of years in the field learning and working with the right people.
My friend in the movie business became an assistant in the business because he was willing to just get into the industry. Now he is a high end producer doing what he loves.
Is there anything else you would like to say about young people starting out in business for themselves?
Before people get into the entrepreneur world they need to understand that there are a lot of sacrifices you have to make. A career where you work 9-5 supports you. An entrepreneur has the responsibility that does not go away when they go home at night. You have to be prepared that your job does not stop when the clock stops.
You may be working all of the time when others are enjoying the weekend or time off. There will be many sacrifices you make that others will not have to.