Thank you so much for sitting down with me. Do you mind if we get right into it?
I’d prefer that! But first off, my name is Damon. I am the owner and founder of Nomad Complex since it opened up in 2016. My pronouns are he/him.
How are you doing? I know that you had a health scare that led to the shutdown of the Nomad Complex Twitch channel. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Back in January at around 2am I began to experience a very severe pain in the left side of my body that eventually gave way into numbness. A number of years ago I had something called a TIA, or a mini-stroke that left my left eye slightly drooping. This felt remarkably similar to that. I spent the day in the emergency room and am currently undergoing blood tests and some other tests to pin down the nature of what happened. General health is something I have not kept up with for some time now and is something I am giving myself more of a focus of in the upcoming years.
While I thoroughly enjoy streaming on Twitch, connecting with the community and raising money for charity, the schedule it required was not something I could keep up any longer. I have redoubled my focus on Nomad Complex itself. That’s not to say there won’t be any streams in the future, however nailing down a weekly schedule has proven impossible with these new lifestyle changes.
Glad to hear you’re okay! However, it also seems something happened before your setup for Vancoufur 2023. Would you mind sharing with us what happened?
On Wednesday, March 1st, my partner and I were getting ready to pick up the uHaul we were renting in order to begin loading it up to attend Vancoufur. At that time, I got a text that a close friend of mine had collapsed while at class. To my devastation, I received another text about ten minutes later that my friend had passed away. He was very young, and this was completely unexpected. We were, and are still in, shock.
The next few hours were a blur. We tried to figure out the best course of action in order to go forward. It was decided that I would remain back in Vancouver in order to get ready for the show at Vancoufur we had already heavily invested in and were in the midst of preparing while my partner would drive down to the USA to take care of our friends partner. This left us scrambling to find staff to take care of the booth alongside myself as the original staff planned for the weekend were myself, my partner, and the partner of the friend who had suddenly passed.
Nonetheless, thanks to the support of some incredible friends, I was able to get the booth at Vancoufur set up and we managed to have a fantastic weekend seeing our friends, customers and colleagues. I want to thank every single person who came by our booth. I apologize if I was not my usual cheerful self - The combination of grief, short-staffed business and the sheer non-stop pace of our booth did not allow me to spend as much time talking with everyone as I would have liked to, and I do thank you for your understanding. At the time of writing this, I am in the grieving stages and still trying to process what has happened.
Please do not let this news make you feel any type of sadness! We did not announce this information prior to the convention as we specifically did not want anyone to worry. I am fine, we are doing what we need to do, and we will carry on.
With these issues affecting your personal life, are we going to see disruptions in business from Nomad Complex? Should customers be concerned?
Absolutely not. Thankfully Nomad Complex is much larger than myself and we have an incredible staff that keeps the day to day operations of the business running even if I am absent. Orders continue to be packed up and shipped out 5 days a week, Monday through Friday. Our e-mails and socials are going to be handled by my partner for the foreseeable future and there will be zero disruption to the operation of the business.
We do have one more note behind the scenes here of great importance at Nomad Complex however. Our lead designer who we know you don't hear from too often is going to be on a hiatus of their own beginning in March due to a scheduled medical procedure. It's total coincidence that this is happening around the same time that I am evaluating my relationship with work as we both tend to... work entirely way too much. It seems like a natural step-back point for both of us given the timing of everything that has been going on.
That’s great news. But it does beg the question; if there are not going to be any disruptions to the flow of business, then why are you discussing such personal details with us?
Because for my own sake, I have to. Let me explain.
Anyone who has ever worked in a field that has anything to do with content creation and having an audience - Artist, Twitch streamer, Youtuber, influencer - understands the feeling of constantly having thousands of eyes staring at you at all times. There is a self-imposed pressure of constantly needing to perform and that if you aren’t, you are going to lose your audience and the ability to maintain your income. Now here’s the thing - We know this is nonsense. We know that everyone isn’t suddenly going to forget about us. We know that, frankly, we could take six months off, come back and it’d be just like it was before. We’d go “Oh hey guys I’m back” and then you’d say “Cool” and then life would resume like normal. But even KNOWING that, the self-imposed pressure never alleviates. All of the benefits that you’d think would be associated with running your own brand.. You’d be surprised to learn how many comforts are taken away from you.
I’m speaking anecdotally here - The age of social media and algorithms has tricked our brains into this mindset. Despite receiving sales every day steadily for the past several years on our website, there’s always a nagging feeling in the back of my head that we need to be creating and actively doing something. Brainstorming new concepts, researching new ideas, sourcing new information, and it doesn’t ever stop. What you don’t see behind the scenes of our business is the thousands of hours of mental exertion that goes into the design process, the implementation process and the collaboration of colleagues fine tuning each and every piece we create. You don’t see the communications with factories, the testing, the sampling, the quality control, the logistics. Designs are usually finished from 4-8 months before they arrive on our website as they are proofread and manufactured. And don’t get me wrong - I LOVE it. I love every second of it. But I am illustrating the point so that I can help folks better understand just how much work goes into simply releasing a new t-shirt or hoodie.
But what this is at odds with is this constant need to create. To be working on something new, something exciting, something to stay relevant. And after over 7 years of creation, hard work and commitment, I am working on retiring this mindset and letting go of the invisible beast and the non-existent thousands of eyes that are peering into our backs that are saying “More, more, more!”. I am no longer giving them the same level of attention or focus that I have in previous years, because they are not worth it. And honestly? They don’t even exist. They are the beast that haunts anyone who has an “audience”, and I’m giving them my energy no longer. This has nothing to do with our audience or our incredible customers who are overwhelmingly supportive and care for us in ways I never could have imagined. It entirely has to do with the nature of content creation in this day and age.
You might be asking yourself “Does this mean you’ll stop creating, or will be creating at a slower pace?” and the answer is a resounding NO. We’re still going to continue to create, make new and exciting things. Hell, we’re sitting on a giant summer release right now that has been in the works since December. But the point of letting you in on this information is so that I can let go of the notion that there are a thousand eyes peering over my shoulder at any given moment, and to once more embrace and celebrate creating amazing products that our community finds so much enjoyment and comfort in. Beast, begone.
Your next convention after this one would have been Furnal Equinox taking place on March 16th. Are you still going to be attending this convention?
Due to the circumstances, I have made the difficult decision to cancel our attendance at Furnal Equinox 2023.
Conventions are one of the most fun, albeit stressful, aspects of running a business within the furry community. Nothing feels more validating than seeing the smiling faces of the fandom dropping by our booth, picking up a new thing to wear and just being absolutely ecstatic with it. That feeling is priceless, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
That being said, I am currently not in the right headspace to be able to put on a show in such a short time frame after Vancoufur. Our setup as you all have seen is quite large, requires a lot of resources, times and energy for shipments across the country and at this time, I am prioritizing my own health and spending time with my loved ones under the circumstances.
Thank you so much for understanding this difficult decision and know that it was not made lightly.
Can you speak a little bit about conventions in general? What sort of challenges does Nomad Complex face when approaching conventions?
So this is an interesting question and one that will take many layers to understand and answer adequately. We have been fortunate enough to see Nomad Complex grow into a business larger than I ever thought possible (Albeit still small by business standards). I could not be more thankful for the success we have seen, however with any upscaling of any business venture, it comes with some very intense growing pains.
As we’ve gotten larger, so has our catalogue. We have dozens of designs printed on t-shirts, long sleeve t-shirts, hoodies, tank tops, boxer briefs, jockstraps, trunks. We have dabbled in loungewear, hats, button-up clothing, all-over print t-shirts, shorts and much, much more. But as our offering becomes larger, the spaces available at conventions generally remain the same size. Not only do we require adequate space to display our merchandise, but we also require the space to store the merchandise behind the table - Enough of it to accommodate the large number of customers we see at conventions.
The space issues aside, it becomes easy to forget that we are located in Vancouver, Canada. The majority of conventions we would like to attend are in the United States as they are home to some of the largest ones. However that barrier of the border between Canada and the USA makes traditional selling at US conventions very difficulty and, as many longtime customers will know from past shows, risky. We have had to cancel a convention or two before because of hiccups at the border - None of which were our fault, however still heavily affected our investment into the convention itself.
These matters have led us to think about how we approach conventions in the future. While we would love to have our full catalogue available at each convention we attend, this sadly is not a viable option any longer. We have workshopped many new ways to attend conventions and will be figuring out trial and error as we go. Some of these options include;
-Attending conventions for the purpose of online advertisement. Instead of selling at conventions, we would use them as opportunities to give away gift bags with exclusive items such as pins, wristbands, stickers, literature, discount codes and more. The challenges for this option would be the financial investment of giving away several thousands of dollars of free swag with little return in online revenue.
-Attending conventions with very small offerings. This would involve bringing small amounts of stock and merchandise, such as 3-4 of our newest graphic offerings, and selling as a small display. The challenges for this option would be the potential to disappoint customers hoping to see us to pick up an item that we just were not able to bring.
-Attending conventions with the option of At-Con ordering. This would involve displaying all or most of our available catalogue, however we would not have the ability to physically hand you the product then and there. We’d have terminals at our booth to place orders for the merchandise you’d like while offering free shipping anywhere in the world as an at-con rate. The challenges for this option would be disappointing customers who would become excited for a product and then having to let them know they could not receive it right then and there. Sidenote; We have attempted this option twice in the past, to decent results.
Conventions have, and will always continue to be, a big contributor to our success. Not only does it allow us to connect with this amazing community face to face, but it gives folks the option to touch, feel and get excited by what we have to offer. We’re going to be doing some experimenting with how we approach conventions going forward and I’m really excited to brainstorm the best possible ways to do it.
I wish you the best of luck with the new setups! I’m sure whatever you decide on, people will be happy to see you.
I sure hope so. My first and foremost priority with Nomad Complex is and always will be helping people feel incredible about themselves, inside and out. And I mean like, the out part helps with the in part a lot of the time, y’know? I’m rambling. Next question.
Eloquent. So you did mention that despite this newfound approach, you had a big summer release planned. Can you tell everyone a little bit about it?
Oh, fuck yeah. So for the past several months our head designer and I have been working on an incredible line-up for the summer with lots of really awesome spring and summer appropriate clothing starting in MAY.
Not only will we be refreshing our underwear line with tons of new boxer briefs and trunks, but we will also be bringing back extremely soft, extremely comfortable button-up t-shirt and board short COMBOS that are going to look fire as hell.
This May will also mark the return of super soft, poly-spandex gym shirts in the all-over styles that we used to carry. All in all we will be adding about 90 new products to our line-up in May and when I say you will not want to miss it, I am NOT kidding.
Oh, and gaming mats anyone? We’ve got you covered there too. With our dive into some more cybertech geared design work, we figured it was time to grace your computer desks. Those will be releasing in May as well.
And how about a collaboration with an extremely gifted, talented design professional by the name of Tokyozilla? You seriously are going to lose your mind when we release this INSANE dragon-themed collab.