You may have seen her on TV in shows like Eureka, Supernatural, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer or many places on the web -- Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible Sing-Along Blog or her own breakout series, The Guild. She's an actress, online personality, geek, gamer, writer, director, and even a book author with a memoir called, "You're Never Weird on the Internet (almost)." But it's easy to overlook that Felicia Day is also a successful entrepreneur.
Heading to Hollywood after college with no connections and no clue about how the business operated, Day worked her way up through commercials into some appearances on televisions and then into recurring parts. But there are dead ends and disappointments in the industry, so she wrote her own. The Guild, a niche web series focused on a group of gamers, was turned down by everyone, so with the help of some friends she brought it to the web, where it flourished for six seasons.
While continuing acting (ironically, it became the day job the made everything else possible), she continued with YouTube, social media, and convention personal appearances. Eventually she co-created a YouTube channel called Geek & Sundry as part of YouTube's original channel initiative. Last year, after YouTube said that it would no longer subsidize channels, Day and her partners sold Geek & Sundry to Legendary Pictures. She continues as creative chief officer with the channel. And she has some interesting takes on business.
Too much focus is bad
Most entrepreneurs hear over and over that absolute focus is the key to success. But if what you're doing is creative -- and any business really should be creative -- too much focus is a bad thing.
"You have to have varied interests but a lot of motivation," Day said in an interview, "especially when you're innovative. That's creativity and creativity comes when you bring disparate things together in your mind. You have to have broad interests when you're creative, whether something traditional or business."
Skip the mass market
Huge businesses seem to go after mass markets. Look at Facebook, which isn't satisfied with more than a billion users. But success doesn't necessarily mean that everyone should be a logical part of your audience.
"With a lot of show concepts that I've done, there are people who say that the demographic is too small," Day said. "We are in a global world on digital. You can make a business aiming toward very small niches. Not only can you corral people in an easier way, but you can open doors for people. I find interesting subgroups and subjects that might not be as widespread as they could be." Think of it like a niche business in a small town, which might well fail, and one in a huge city. A small percentage of a lot of people can mean big business. That's what the Internet can do for you.
Not just about the money
Wanting to be a billionaire is fine, but that won't necessarily get you over the barriers that you'd find to making your business work.
"You can make money a lot of ways," Day said. "If you want to pioneer, you have to have passion behind it to keep pushing the envelope and opening the doors that are closed to you. Make sure it's something you want to wake up every day to do."
Don't knock everything that came before
There's a tendency you can see among many in business to dismiss anything people have tried in the past and assume that everything is open for change. And it can be, except you can toss out shortcuts to where you want to go at the same time.
"I feel like I'm continuously learning [the industry and business]," said Day. "You have to go into situations with the idea of pushing the envelope and throwing everything out to get the new blueprints down. And then shoring it up with what has worked in the past and maybe what has worked in other venues."
Don't live and die by data analysis alone
Making a hit in the business world isn't something you spreadsheet into. You need to have some strong empathy and understanding of how people emotions work.
"You don't specialize in one thing," she said. "You have to be wherever your audience is and anticipate their impulses before they know themselves. I think it's an emotional instinct. To understand emotion and what people will respond to and what to share and enjoy and what touches them, that's where you find success in the digital world." Or in any other.