Juaquan Herron spent countless hours actively searching for comic conventions to share and sell his work — often feeling frustrated after learning about conventions too late, he recalled.
“Especially starting out in the industry, I didn’t have many friends and wasn’t finding out about vending opportunities,” said Herron, who founded 2923 Comics and created the comic series “The Scarlet Knight: Defender of the Block.”
His solution: create an app that would notify vendors of conventions and give them the opportunity to book such events from the palms of their hands.
The in-the-works app — VenBoo — is also expected to allow vendors to track all their expenses (from hotel stays to product materials) and calculate how much they need to sell in order to make a profit, Herron noted.
“People like myself, who are comic book creators, craft makers and antiquers, are often not looked at as having real businesses; people think of our work more as over-glorified hobbies,” Herron said. “I’m here to empower those individuals and help them locate and book [conventions].”
The idea for VenBoo, previously known as The Vendors Assistant, sparked in 2019, but Herron recalled pouring his full efforts into the app once the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“I knew finding [conventions] was a problem that other creators struggled with; I just didn’t know when I was going to work on the app,” he said. “When the pandemic started, I had no choice but to do it.”
Herron and his business partner Rodney McDuffie pitched to Digital Sandbox KC three times before they were awarded a $20,000 grant for VenBoo in July 2020, Herron said.
Switching from a creative writing background to the tech industry hasn’t been too difficult of a transition, Herron said — noting he is dedicated to learning new trades and asking lots of questions.
“In the developer meetings, I’m listening to the jargon, studying and making sure that I understand before going forward,” he shared. “But that being said, I am aware that I don’t have a tech background, so we’re currently looking for a tech partner.”
Click here to contact the VenBoo team about adding your tech experience to the venture.
With some conventions anticipated to resume by the end of August, Herron plans to partner with virtual convention organizers over the next few months for VenBoo’s beta launch.
“We won’t have a full launch until the end of summer, but we are talking on some smaller events that are outdoor or virtual,” Herron said. “Our next step is individually reaching out to different vendor hosts to be on our app for our beta launch.”
Herron is also looking to grow the VenBoo team with individuals who have experience in community relations and can find vendor hosts across the nation, he added.
After more than a year of vendor conventions on hold, Herron sees VenBoo as more important now than ever, he shared — explaining that conventions are a great way to connect with customers.
“When I go to a [convention], I’m not only selling my product, I’m building a fan base,” Herron said. “A lot of people will invest in you before they invest in your product. You can share your story on a website, but it feels so much better to look that individual in the eyes and do so.
“… I want other creators to be able to take more control of their business and to help them locate these events so that they can strategically sell,” he continued. “I know it’s so hard being a creator or antiquer or craft maker or farmer. You need every opportunity to sell your product. My main goal is not to make money, but more so to help individuals who are in this culture and need these events.”
As for “The Scarlet Knight,” readers can anticipate its third edition also being released in the coming months, Herron teased.
Click here to read the background behind Juaquan Herron’s “The Scarlet Knight.”
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.