See-Scape definitely isn’t your average bar!
The Toronto favorite is the brainchild of owner/operator Sara Nguyen, a young woman first-time entrepreneur who took some pretty wild ideas and brought to fruition a really unique neighborhood haunt.
Sara ran into a lot of setbacks and discouragement while undertaking her labor of love, but she refused to let the naysayers stop her from creating her geeky oasis. See-Scape is now a popular hang-out for game-loving locals who love the bar’s laidback atmosphere and amazingly creative decor (the gaming booths are incredibly detailed!)
I talked to Sara about her determination to bring See-Scape to life and her commitment to supporting her local communities – check out her interview below!
Tell us about your business in as much detail as you can. What is it that you do and who are your customers?
My business is a sci-fi themed bar and event space. People come to See-Scape to hang out with each other and indulge in their love of movies, comics, board games, and video games. We also throw events like themed burlesque shows, robot battles, stand-up comedy, and a number of themed/cosplay parties. Our customers are all ages and come from all walks of life – they come to See-Scape to join us in our celebration of creative and imaginative forms of art.
What made you choose this path? Is it a family legacy or are you a pioneer? Did you go to school for it or are you learning as you go?
If I had to choose, I’d have to say I am a pioneer. I wanted to create an environment that could bring together as many of my likes and interests as possible. I’m definitely learning as I go – I’ve never owned a business before and See-Scape really exposes me to a lot of new and interesting challenges.
They say that to be successful you have to be passionate, so share what drives you every day. Why do you love what you do?
I built See-Scape around things that I love. Seeing others who share in that love and want to support it really motivates me all the time. Part of me wants See-Scape to be known as a place that’s unique, creative, and an alternative to the condo developments, gentrification, and homogenization that’s taking place in Toronto these days. I want to help keep alive Toronto’s tradition of being a haven for the arts, and for art appreciators.
Has it been smooth sailing or have you overcome adversity to get where you are?
It definitely has not been smooth sailing. The banks I approached for loans did not have any support for a young female entrepreneur and my ideas seemed too new or weird to any potential investors. When I finally did save enough money to get started, some of the contractors I hired believed they could take advantage of me financially because I’m a young woman with no previous experience. With the help of my crew members, we overcame our obstacles and were finally able to make my vision come to life.
We all know that crazy happens. What’s the wildest thing that’s happened on the job?
Well, See-Scape is a bar and we’re located in the Junction area of Toronto. There are plenty of characters in our neighborhood and several that have made life interesting for us at one point or another. Most that of that is just because we’re a bar and they’re standard bar issues. But, apart from that, seeing robot fights and having burlesque shows can make for some fun wild times. Flaming spinning tassels? Hell yeah!
What do you do with your time off? Are you familiar with that concept?
I’m an avid reader, but I do spend most of my free time at See-Scape. I like planning events or the next upgrades to the space. Then, if there’s time, I’ll sneak in some video games or Magic: The Gathering.
This is the age of the social network. How important is social media to your business and how do you make it work?
Social media is very important to us. Facebook is our number one resource for informing the public about our upcoming events and we update it often. We still print posters and flyers, but most of our customers tell us they heard about us online first.
How are you involved in your community?
Well, that depends on which community you are referring to, because See-Scape is involved with many. We are a functioning art gallery and we showcase a lot of local talent. Our involvement with the robot fights connects us to another community altogether. Our live magic shows provide a proving ground for Toronto-area magicians to practice in front of a live audience. And in the broader geek community, we’ve been touted as a place to really chill and connect with other like-minded individuals. We’ve also found that we have several film and television industry people coming by and comic book artists as well. See-Scape offers these people a place to meet or host events for their respective communities.
What does supporting local mean to you?
For us, it means giving Toronto-area artists some exposure and a chance to sell their work. As fans of many genres, we love work from all around the world, but we like to shed light on whats being made in our own back yard as well.
What does the future look like for you and your business?
We are hoping to expand our facilities in the near future, by way of a renovated basement. We want to make the space available for more types of events. We are interested in hosting live music, dance nights, tabletop gaming, and tournaments. We also want to expand the capacity for some of the tutorials and classes that happen here.
The future looks like there will still be a lot of work to do, but I’m really excited for it and to see See-Scape grow.
Do you have any advice for aspiring business owners just starting out?
Do your research. You’ll save a lot of time and money by having a thorough plan. And really save your money – however much money you think you need to get your business started, save triple that amount instead.
Don’t let your feelings compromise your judgment.
Believe in yourself, even when things go wrong.
And be sure to surround yourself with supportive people.