The next Senpai Spotlight Interview is with Sunny from Cosplay Station, a Canadian cosplay store that’s been around for well over a decade now! I have mentioned them in my best cosplay websites guide, and for good reason: their products are top-notch.
It was in 2008 when it was her first time attending Anime North. Like many people who attend AN for the first time, she was amazed by all the people cosplaying and the energy they brought. She found her calling.
She found her calling because after the convention was over, she made a big decision. She decided to quit her full-time corporate job to start a cosplay business.
Her name is Sunny and she is the founder of Cosplay Station. And more than 14 years later from attending that first Anime convention in 2008, her cosplay store is still going strong!
Read and listen below to hear about Sunny’s experiences running Cosplay Station, including:
- How her store is about high-quality cosplays and expecting her suppliers to live up to that standard
- Getting good at wig styling and choosing the “hard way” to get better at it
- Her advice on anyone wanting to start their own cosplay commission business
You can find Cosplay Station by clicking here.
Rogersenpai: Welcome to another episode of the Senpai Spotlight! Where I interview people in the community to get their insight.
Today we have Sunny from Cosplay Station and for you guys that don’t know, Cosplay Station is a cosplay store located in Toronto, Ontario. They’ve been selling cosplays for over 10 years and I myself have been working with them for a long time. I’ve always bought costumes and I always love the wigs that Sunny has made for me they’re so beautiful. So thanks for being on here today.
Sunny (Cosplay Station): Oh thank you. Honored come here to your blog yes it’s always a pleasure.
Rogersenpai: So just to get started, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
Sunny (Cosplay Station): About myself, very simple! So I came here 2003 as an Immigrant from China and then I started Cosplay Station business in 2008. Five years after I moved here, so now I still ran in the Cosplay Station but also this is my side business. Now I’m starting a coaching business coaching because I have been an entrepreneur.
Rogersenpai: I always knew you had Cosplay Station; I don’t know if that was like your full-time thing or if that was your more of a side hustle, like you’d have a day job and then you have Cosplay Station on the side?
Sunny (Cosplay Station): oh no no no no no no (Cosplay Station was) a full time (job), I worked 10 hour a day. It was quite busy and also I had some employees before, so that was very busy very it’s grown too fast in some way I could not handle myself. After COVID, I started slowing down, closed some areas, now it’s more like a part-time business. People love my wigs!
Rogersenpai: How did you come up with the name, “Cosplay Station?”
Sunny (Cosplay Station): The name of “Cosplay Station” came from the idea that my shop acted as a “gas”station where you stop to fill your “gas” for your cosplaying passion.
Rogersenpai: Your wigs are beautiful! I guess for anyone wanted to run a cosplay store, it definitely takes a lot of time, doesn’t it? It’s not just simply “someone just clicks on a costSunny (Cosplay Station)e and hey just get someone from China and ship it to them!”
Sunny (Cosplay Station): It is a lot of work, (to) be honest and running a business it’s a lot of things you have to deal with.
Rogersenpai: What made you want to start Cosplay Station?
Sunny (Cosplay Station): Oh it’s a good question! My daughter brought me to the cosplaying industry because when she was a teenager, so she’s very into Japanese Anime and Manga. So like every Friday night, our family movie night so she showed us what anime she’s watching, we’re watching together we had a lot of fun so I enjoy it very much.
And I think it’s around 2008, so one weekend she brought us all the way to Anime North. I saw thousands of people young people lined up, dressing up having fun! And all the other people in the long line to try to get into the event. So you know as an entrepreneur, I have that instinct; so I can sense and say oh gosh this is fun and also that must have a lot of demand. It’s just started right 2008 is quite new, I said “Oh this is good chance.” So I quit my corporate job, then I started full-time to run this Cosplay Station business.
Rogersenpai: Oh wow that is crazy! Not a lot of people would be brave to do that, to go to one event and say, “Okay I’m quitting my job and I’m gonna start this business.”
Sunny (Cosplay Station): At that time, my husband had a full-time job, so I knew I had a backup plan if things didn’t work out. But I also because I had experience as an entrepreneur before, so I know I have the sense to know how whether it’s going to work or not.
Rogersenpai: Did you learn that in school, your entrepreneurship or is that something you kind of picked up on your own?
Sunny (Cosplay Station): Before I moved to Canada, I built two companies (in China) so I knew all that how that works.
Rogersenpai: So you’ve been doing it for 14 years. Can you tell me the things you like about running Cosplay Station and things that are not so nice about it?
Sunny (Cosplay Station): I like working with young people and I love their energy and I love the fun part. Sometimes I receive some commissions and I never can imagine people were that creative. The thing I don’t like a lot is dealing with the vendors. I (also) don’t like managing my employees and training them, (because) that’s a lot of effort, so it’s not my kind of not my cup of tea. For me, I’m a more creative person, so I’m good with any changes r related to the creative part. But for to manage people, to understand and communicate with the people is my weakness. So everyone has their own different ways of doing things.
Rogersenpai: For those who don’t know, Cosplay Station, it’s actually located in Toronto Ontario. So while the actual store is located in the city, the actual manufacturing takes place in China. Correct me if I’m wrong. You mentioned it is difficult. I can only imagine, if you’re communicating with people on the other side of the world.
Sunny (Cosplay Station): At the beginning, it was difficult. The quality control and also the way we communicate, the difference we speak, same language but the way we look at things different. So working together to meet that line, to make sure that everything comes out as we expected as their little bit, the same standard as I remember and also the wig supply that I get. Sometimes their schedules slow, sometimes the color coming not as I wanted.
Rogersenpai: Do you work with a lot of different vendors or is it the usually the same vendor that you’re working with in China?
Sunny (Cosplay Station): At the beginning, I had several different ones, half like three four years later. At the beginning you need to start out, just like dating. You don’t know who you’re gonna meet.
Rogersenpai: I wonder how is it like to have your home as a (pickup location)?
Sunny (Cosplay Station): The reason I choose at home is because it’s so convenient for me, and I save a lot of rent. It’s (also) kind of like a studio; I create my wigs there. So yes, I think at that time is a very good choice to have a home studio.
Interesting story actually. (During) Halloween, some people just show up in our front door. Instead of getting candy from me, they are looking for the last minute cosplay. So they come in (and ask), “Do you have a cosplay instead of candy?”
Rogersenpai: That’s amazing! That’s really nice of you. I wanted to talk about your wig work. For those who don’t know, Sunny is an amazing wig stylist! How did you get so good?
Sunny (Cosplay Station): Practice practice practice! I didn’t have any training before, but the one thing I knew; if I want to learn, I just needed to practice then become good at it so that’s the trick. I started with the complicated ones, because I know if I can conquer and learn the hard one, the easy one is easy.
Rogersenpai: So you kind of you kind of took… I want to say the “bitter pill.”
Sunny (Cosplay Station): Yes yes, let’s build the confidence of a hard one. That’s just my way to learn things. That’s pretty opposite of most people I know, like at least when it comes to cosplay. Usually people start with the simple stuff first and then they move on up. I guess as an entrepreneur part of that in me, I like challenge. If too easy, I get bored. I mean I won’t lie, I like (when) it’s comfortable. But at the same time, I know I have to push my comfort zone in things in order to grow.
Rogersenpai: Would you say sewing is kind of a similar learning curve like wig styling?
Sunny (Cosplay Station): I do sewing too but wig styling is different. I enjoy the wig styling; I don’t know why sewing for me sometimes I feel bored. For the wig styling, you can see the result much faster because usually the wig is just one part most of the time, whereas doing a cosplay it’s all these pieces that are coming together.
Rogersenpai: If someone wanted to get started into wig styling, do you have any advice you would give them?
Sunny (Cosplay Station): I think for most people, starting from the easy cheap wigs. If you made a mistake, just throw (it) away. With a wig I mean if you mess up, you can just always buy a new one. Wigs aren’t usually too expensive. Just buy the cheapest as cheap as possible. Another thing I want to share; you can buy some wigs pre-styled, then you try to copy it. If you buy something, it’s in 3D (and) you can see it from the different angles. It’s hard to copy from something 2D (like printing out a photo of a wig).
Rogersenpai: I’m curious to know where most of your customers coming from.
Sunny (Cosplay Station): Actually most are from United States and Europe. I was surprised too at the beginning. But after I set up everything on my own website and the eBay store, all the orders (are) from outside Canada. I have feelings maybe because my product is really high quality, some people really want this high quality stuff they cannot find local, so they go online.
Rogersenpai: What kind of factors influence the cost of a costume?
Sunny (Cosplay Station): The complexity, how many pieces. So like embroidery costs a lot because a lot of time, my workshop I have to commission other workshops to provide because they could not do themselves either, so they have to go to another store to do it. So those are extra cost to it. We have been working for 10 years, they know my standard.
Rogersenpai: What are your standards? I’m curious to know.
Sunny (Cosplay Station): High quality and not going to the cheap stuff, because I pay them well. I told them “Do not try to cut a corner to save money on the material; just get the best thing you can.” So they know that I treat them well, I pay them well so they don’t cut corners. At the beginning, there were some dishonest ones.
Rogersenpai: That’s really cool! I really like that approach to making cosplay. Everyone hates buying a cosplay that falls apart. It’s always the worst feeling when you go to a convention and your cosplay breaks down on your first wear.
What advice would you give them that for someone that’s starting out a cosplay commission or cosplay store?
Sunny (Cosplay Station): My suggestion is you have to ask yourself whether this is this is your passion, whether you are enjoying doing it. So if you enjoy doing it, you can start with providing free service to the customer and also looking for the feedback: what your customer likes more or what part you need to improve.
Also, you need to have a backup plan if your cosplay commission service does not make money, so you can support yourself. For example, maybe you have to take a part-time job to support yourself. Do not quit like me, quit my full-time job (and) go into your business without any income. So for the people, you need to have a backup plan because surviving is number one. You need money to survive, then we talk about creating the business like your passion.
Rogersenpai: Well to be fair, you said your husband had a full-time job at the time, so you did have a backup plan then as well. I remember you saying that to me when I when I was when I bought my (expensive) Marth cosplay where you said to me, “Hey don’t buy anymore cosplays, you got to save up for other stuff.” So I know you’re you’re big on the money.
Sunny (Cosplay Station): Yeah that’s true, it’s because once you are short of money, you’re under stress. You make irrational decisions and also you give up faster. Because again, running a business at the beginning, you might not see money coming for half a year. Building, building, building (but) no money coming in. So you prepare that part.
My name is Roger Senpai. I’m a cosplayer that’s been in the community for well over a decade now. I’ve traveled all over the world to Anime and Comic conventions and hosted my own cosplay events. Now I’m writing articles for new and experienced cosplayers like you to help inspire, save you money and improve your cosplays!