You could say that Felicia Day is unabashed.
After all, she's the first to admit that "weird" was the genesis of her web production company, Geek & Sundry, which today boasts nearly 1.3 million subscribers on YouTube alone. The venture is currently headed up by Day's business partner, Sheri Bryant (Day serves as chief creative officer). Like most web-based ventures, Geek & Sundry makes money through sponsorships and advertisements, as well as events and merchandise, though the company wouldn't disclose revenue.
Day, certainly, is no stranger to fame. The 36-year-old entrepreneur and gamer first headed to Hollywood--with zero contacts--upon graduating from college in 2000. There, she proceeded to land roles in hit TV series such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural, but when she grew tired of being typecast, she pivoted to launch her own, gaming-themed web series, The Guild.
Accepting what makes you different is a central theme in Day's new memoir, You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), which hit bookshelves today. In the book, she dishes on her childhood and career and the challenges that come with starting up an entertainment brand in a male-dominated industry--in a nontraditional medium, to boot.
Ahead of the release, Day spoke with Inc. about what it means to have authenticity when building a digital brand. Day herself is an expert in this field; she ended up selling Geek & Sundry to Legendary Entertainment for an undisclosed amount last summer.
To establish a lasting and lucrative presence, here's what you need to keep in mind:
1. Be true to your voice.
Growing up as a homeschooler in Huntsville, Alabama, Day admits that her conception of "cool" was different from the norm. "I was never told by my peers that it wasn't cool to like video games or enjoy fantasy literature or be really good at math," she quips. This is why Day developed a passion for the Web and decided to leverage it when starting her company.
Still, establishing an impactful presence--let alone one that is profitable--is far from easy. To be successful, Day says that it's critical to have a powerful, consistent voice. "When you can see a creator behind the creation, that drive of personality means more online than in the past forms of entertainment," she says. Perhaps in contrast to the realm of Hollywood--which had balked at the idea of airing The Guild when Day initially pitched it--on the internet, she says: "You will only get visibility if you're unique."
Libby Turner, an account director at social media agency Room 214, agrees. "Felicia Day does a fantastic job," she says. "Her tone of voice is very consistent, and she's very fan-centric." Turner adds that cross-promoting her fans on platforms like Twitter and Facebook helps to cement Day's viewership and credibility within "nerd culture."
2. Do as much as you can yourself.
"I had to learn every single thing under the sun," Day says, when she first launched Geek & Sundry back in 2012. In fact, her company--in stereotypical Silicon Valley fashion--began in her garage with just a few hundred dollars to spend and a video camera to shoot episodes. Without a background in marketing, web programming, or PR, Day recalls learning everything she could herself, ever-so-aptly, by watching YouTube tutorials.
"Whenever I encountered a situation where I couldn't afford to hire someone--which was pretty much 99 percent of the time--I would just do a bad job of it, but I would cobble together enough skills to make it passable," she says of the early stages.
The areas where Geek & Sundry is least successful, Day adds, are the places where she delegated the work to a third party, because it's not in keeping with her voice.
When hiring, in addition to finding a personality match, she says it's crucial that you bring on people who are better than you at certain aspects of the daily grind: "You really have to identify where you're weakest, and look most aggressively in plugging up those holes."
3. Leverage the power of the internet.
Thanks to trailblazers like Day--or Michelle Phan or PewDiePie--it's now possible to create a business through your web personality, but there are caveats to note. While the conduits to launching are there, it's also more difficult to stand out from the crowd.
To do so, expand your presence across different platforms: Geek & Sundry now has a live-streaming function, for instance, and Day similarly points to Marc Maron, whose podcasts have earned him a positive and unique reputation as a standup comedian. Today, Maron clocks 545,000 Twitter followers (he created his account in 2009, just months before his podcast launched) and more than 7,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel.
Turner notes that Day, for her part, is a "content machine." In addition to her social media reach, Day had partnered with Xbox Live and MSN Video to expand her web footprint with The Guild.
4. Recognize unconscious bias--and do something about it.
It's no secret that women have a harder lot in Hollywood. Day herself says she's been subject to her fair share of "unconscious bias." But that doesn't mean women have to take it sitting down. Rather, they need to insist that they have a "right to be at the table," she says. One way to do this is to create a presence for themselves.
She nods to television icons like Tina Fey and Shonda Rhimes, who are doing just that: ensuring that women are represented on their own shows.
To that end, and next up for Day, Geek & Sundry will be creating more scripted content, for which, she says, she'll try her hand at directing. Day hints that another television show may also be in the works.