Editor’s note: New in KC is an ongoing profile series that highlights newly relocated members of the Kansas City startup community, their reasons for a change of scenery, and what they’ve found so far in KC. Click here to read more New in KC profiles.
As her career leveled up, a Twitch-personality found herself headed back to Kansas City — twice.
“I was raised here … but I didn’t get to be an adult here,” said ThaButtress — a creative-focused Twitch partner who has amassed nearly 30,000 followers on the monetized live streaming platform with her online chats, gaming, and model building.
Buttress — who asked that Startland News help protect her offline privacy by identifying her using only her social media handle — spent her teenage years in the Raytown-area before leaving the metro for Seattle in her early 20s.
“I stayed out in Seattle for a good eight years or so, then I tried Texas for a little bit and ended up moving back to Seattle really quickly. Finally, I was like, ‘You know what, I’m going to try Kansas City again.’”
Upon her arrival, Buttress was finishing her stint on the Twitch-hosted game show, “Stream On” — a creative way for the platform to highlight its up-and-coming partners.
At its completion, she was invited to join the company as a full-time team member, helping shape the overall partner experience.
“I was only here for seven months before I had to move to the West Coast — and the whole intention of moving back here the first time was to get out of that high cost of living,” she said.
But working on-site with the San Francisco-based company didn’t last long.
Future Gundam City
The COVID-19 pandemic quickly saw remote work adopted as a long-term option for Twitch employees, giving Buttress a third shot at the Show Me State.
“What my heart is so drawn to in Kansas City — is a variety of things,” she laughed. “The top thing for me is the food. The food is the best food in the country — from everywhere I’ve lived — hands down. There’s so much love for local food, local art, local music. A lot of big cities have lost that.”
The city’s Gundam community — the Japanese anime series Buttress is most associated with — and access to Google Fiber are additional bonuses, she said.
“I’ve been scoping out local [gaming] shops and seeing what events they like to host. I’m thinking of getting involved with that post my second [COVID] vaccine dose,” Buttress added, noting her return to Kansas City could also foster the realization of a long-held vision for a small business.
“For the longest time I’ve been planning on [opening] my own Gundam cafe. It’s styled like this thing they have in Japan — which is a super over-the-top place to buy Gundam models and relax,” she explained, referencing the series for which she’s spent countless hours talking with followers about while building and painting character models (also known as Gunpla.)
“I would want to make it my own and [give customers] the ability to buy these kits and maybe rent tools. You could get some eats and drinks while you chill there,” she envisioned, noting the cafe idea isn’t likely to materialize anytime soon — but unexpected plans do happen.
“I think that this is the kind of city that something like that would thrive in. You can put a really cool, novelty thing in L.A. and it’ll be a hotspot for a month. That stuff can’t last if there’s not a lot of local support.”
‘I’m a girl with nerdy hobbies’
While the venture would take Buttress’ work from the digital world into the physical world, it’s nothing her online notoriety hasn’t prepared her for — providing its own segues into entrepreneurship.
“It’s a lot more work than people think it is,” she said, looking back on ways her personal brand has grown since her first streaming event in 2015.
“I was working at Microsoft at the time as a tester for the HoloLens — it was the time of my life. I would go to work and I would come home and my roommates — I lived with a bunch of dudes — were always watching Twitch. And I was like, ‘I feel like I can do this,’ so I just jumped in and started playing.”
Buttress soon realized an online presence requires just as much nurturing as a physical brand or business.
“Discoverability is super hard … you’re swimming against a bazillion other streamers,” she explained.
“When you don’t have a brand or you don’t do a lot of promotion — and you’re not consistent, it doesn’t grow very quickly. It takes a lot of doing those things over and over again — planning your next stream or maybe planning some sort of marketing event to get people to come in and [subscribe].”
The subscriber (and sponsorship) floodgates opened when Buttress launched her model building — her unique way of standing out in an online crowd.
“I would say I’m an entertaining version of someone building models,” she said of her online presence, which most often sees her casually chatting with viewers, answering questions, and involving them in the process.
“It doesn’t sound like it would be entertaining to people. But there’s a community of people building models who weren’t hanging out in a community of people building models,” she said, specifically noting she hopes to use her digital fame to set an example for girls and women who want to play in a same space many believe belongs to boys and men.
“I’m a girl with nerdy hobbies that doesn’t give a fuck if you like her or not,” she said. “I’ve dealt with a lot of gatekeeping as a woman, but once I showed people what I can do, [I built] a pretty sustainable community — and I’ve only grown from there.”
And so has the business of streaming, Buttress added.
“Sponsorships are really big for streamers. If there’s a local business that has online sales — and I say this all the time, not just for myself — find a streamer that vibes with your brand and pay them to eat it or drink it on stream. Pay them just to have your music playing in the background,” she said of ways the industry has evolved in the era of influencer marketing — and ways Kansas Citians can best support local streamers.
“Live streaming is the future.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.