An Interview with Ben Santos

One of the most time consuming parts of running a vendor business at conventions, whether you’re in Artist Alley or the Dealers Room, or even running a Fan Table, is finding the conventions in the first place. Most of us are familiar with the standard sites like http://www.upcomingcons.com/anime-cons or Eventbrite. We’re also familiar with the convention ritual of running round to all the table with those convention postcards and hoarding those like chipmunks with acorns (Or maybe that’s just me.)

Well a gentleman by the name of Ben Santos decided about a year ago that that was just not going to cut it. He’s started a website called Cosplay Convention Center.com the tagline, One Site to Find Them All. Now even though he was very busy I managed to sit him down long enough for an interview so he can talk about his site and what it can do for Vendors.

A: So is Ben Santos your name or a moniker?

B: Its my name.

A: Have you been attending conventions for long?

B: I’ve been into Cosplay for about 5 years, but only really been hitting up more conventions over the past 2.

A: What got you going to more conventions 2 years ago?

B: I actually got my dad into it, he does a William Hartnell that is really good and he got hooked on going so we started to check out more and more.

A: That is awesome What was your dad’s first convention?

B: Portcon Maine

A: Did he have a good time?

B: It took him over an hour to get inside because so many people wanted pictures. I enjoy cosplay but there is a slight chance he enjoys it almost more than I do if that is possible.

A: So what’s your favorite cosplay that you’ve done?

B: Hellboy, it’s what I have done the most.

A: How many other cosplays have you done?

B: 3, I have done a Delgado Master from Dr. Who and I also did a very rushed steampunk riddler once.

A: Very rushed?

B: Compiled it in under 24 hours

A: Wow, how’d it hold up?

B: It lasted the day and it was pretty comfortable to wear. I may go back and do it at some point but finding the time is tricky.

A: So I imagine you have your wishlist Cosplay. The Cosplay you would love to do if only you had the time and money to do it, right?

B: Wheeljack, G1 Transformers, fully operational and cartoon accurate.

A: Wow, that’s a big dream cosplay. So if you did make it what Convention would you debut it at?

B: A small one, I’d expect things to go wrong lol.

A: Awww, I’m sure if you had the time and money to pour into a costume that exciting you’d have the kinks figured out. Do you ever participate in Cosplay Contests?

B: I actually haven’t for quite some time. I’m more then happy to walk on in a masquerade type capacity but I prefer personally to let others compete. As cool as it is to win something like that, I just get more enjoyment when I hear a kid say Hellboy so quietly it’s almost a whisper. But I also love seeing the contests and cheering for the amazing costumes.

A: Have you won a Contest?

B: My dad and I won an honorable mention with a skit we called Hellboy meets Dr Who, where I basically told him he couldn’t park the tardis wherever he liked.

A: That’s awesome. Now you have started a website called Cosplay Convention Center where you can literally find all the conventions nationwide on one site. What started that?

B: As my dad suggested we check out more conventions, he began to look for them and was less than thrilled with what he found. I, being a bit more computer savvy, started looking and felt there should be something better. The more I spoke with vendors, con goers, and con organizers, everyone seemed to have the same opinion. I had a horrible day at work last year, 4 days before Boston Comic Con and I came home, sold a toy online and bought the web site. I then found myself cold pitching a 4 day old idea to vendors at Boston Comic Con and now, a year later we will table Boston Comic Con.

The site has one major goal, make it easier to discover conventions. Attendees, need this and so do the conventions, if no one knows it happening, no one shows up. The other big part is that I wanted to help the merchants, everyone and anyone who tables at a convention to have a much more useful tool to discover events near them. I refused to clutter the site with ads, pop-ups, and click bait. I will continue to keep those things off the site, I hate them. As the idea grew I decided that people should be able to discover merchants just like conventions.

Business cards get lost, misplaced and go through the wash. So if you did want to do a purchase from a vendor and you forgot who they were, we could offer a way for you to find them. Sorry it’s a long answer.

A: No no. Long answers are fine. This isn’t a topic that can be summarized.

B: It started out as let’s make a better way to find conventions, and it became One Site to Find Them All. Cons, merchants, cosplay groups and we are working on a business to business section which would be where a business who offers a support feature but doesn’t actually show up at the con could be featured.

A: And it seems to have worked really well. Are there any future upgrades you have planned for the site?

B: There are quite a few upgrades we would like to tackle and plan to do so. It is however a two man team, myself and Gerry Shannon so at the moment we knock them off as we can. Getting images and embedded videos included at no extra charge we were very happy about. We have also received wonderful input and feedback which has really helped shape the site. A lot of companies say “we listen” or “we care”, we actually do.

A: Tell me about Gerry Shannon. How does he figure in the business?

B: He took my mental concept and made it into digital reality. He constructed the database and the web site, I have done the data entry, promotions and public relations. Gerry is wonderful and easy to work with and we have actually started taking on some other projects as well, most recently we were brought on to design and create www.northeasttrekcon.com

A: You guys must be so excited.

B: It is a lot of fun and a lot of work. It really makes us feel great though when people reach out and let us know how much they have enjoyed the site. Overall the response has been very positive and people appreciate that they can contact me and actually hear back. I have 20+ years of customer service experience between retail, and IT so I understand and enjoy working with customers.

A: Do you still have a dayjob or is this what pays your bills?

B: I do have a day job actually, I just got a new one, I put in 50 hours there by Friday and then have the evenings to manage the site and my weekends to hit up the conventions. At some point I would enjoy the site being my full time gig and that is the goal. I love running the site, working with merchants, conventions, it’s a blast. There are so many talented individuals out there and I want to help them get discovered.

A: Trust us, we love the help. So how have you been showcasing the site?

B: We have really done this on a shoestring budget, so Social media, Facebook and Twitter have been utilized quite a bit Getting to as many conventions as possible has also been a big goal.

A: Do you guys get table at conventions to advertise?

B: Some we do, we did at Bangor Comic & Toy Con, Portcon, SeaCoast Comic Con which is this weekend and then the big one, Boston in August .As useful as tabling is for visual recognition, sometimes walking the con and getting to chat with the merchants and hand over a card is really key. One merchant, whom I will not name, was not very thrilled to get the card and was highly skeptical, about a week after the convention he sent me an email complimenting the site and saying they would be passing it along.

I am a soft sell guy, I think we have an amazing web site and I think the Merchant profile is a great idea at a very reasonable price but I would never force anyone into buying one, or make them feel that way. I fully understand the expense of tabling at conventions. That is one reason why we will never charge anyone to search for conventions, that will always be free.

A: And all the vendors who use your site are grateful for that. Have you considered advertising in the convention pamphlets at some of the larger cons?

B: We have and we are actually exploring some partnerships with conventions the thing is even more important than print ads it’s word of mouth, tell people about the site, mention us to your friends, your fellow cosplayers, the merchant or aspiring professional cosplayer you know. Our traffic has steadily grown every single week since we launched.

A: When did you launch?

B: Technically Feb 29 the site went live for the first time. Launch a business on a leap year with a presidential election? Yeah let’s do it.

A: That certainly was a risk.

B: It was, and still is but when I can work a 10 hour day and look forward to sitting down to work on the site, I know I’m doing something right.

A: When is your next convention?

B: Saturday, Sea Coast Comic Con in Kittery Maine, a brand new 1st year con.

A: Well I’ve run through my questions. Do you have anything you’d like to add?

B: Thank you for interviewing me, and being one of the very first merchants to jump on board when you heard about our company. Cosplay Convention Center wants to make it easier to discover everything, conventions, merchants, artists, photographers, writers, professional cosplayers, cosplay groups, etc…and we want to do it without breaking anyone’s budget. We are actually getting ready to roll out a pay by the month option so stay tuned for details on that. Check us out, hit us up, share us like us, follow us, tweet at us. We want to hear from people.

A: And we’ll make sure as many people as we can talk to hear about you. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview with us.

B: No problem I was happy to.

Now if you, my dear readers, want to check out the website please click on the link https://www.cosplayconventioncenter.com and check out all the amazing conventions coming up in your area. Also take a look at some of the amazing vendors and cosplayers he has featured!

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