Updated: May 30, 2019
Bryanda Law is anything but ordinary. While the typical twenty something is just beginning to touch their toes at the edge of life’s seas of opportunity, Bryanda dove into the ocean, busy planning one of the biggest and most unique festivals to happen in Durham. QuirkCon, a festival geared towards gamers, cosplayers, and fans of anime, comics, cosplay, and all things considered quirky, takes place this weekend, May 31st – June 2nd. While QuirkCon is an inclusive experience for all, it specifically gives space to people of color, in particular African Americans (and in particular, particular African American women), who share these experiences but have not been given a space to celebrate their weirdness. Bryanda is no stranger herself to quirkiness. In fact, she created the app Quirktastic as a response to her own need to create a community of peers who share her interest in anime, comics, and gaming that was not geared specifically to White and Asian men. What started as a mere need has grown into a community that reaches across the US as well as Canada and the UK. Be Connected reached out to Bryanda to learn more about Quirktastic, her connections to Durham and the upcoming QuirkCon event.
Be Connected: What is Quirktastic? Why did you feel it was important to create a universe for alternative people of color?
Bryanda Law: Quirktastic is a friendship app and media community for geeks, gamers and nerds. We are also building an event management and ticketing site for fandom events, such as comicons and expos. Our company is for everyone. If you go into our app, we have representation in every state, as well as the UK and Canada. With that said, it is no secret that our focus is on women, people of color and the LGBT+ communities. If you go to most nerd and geek sites and apps, it is obvious that they were created to serve young white and Asian men. If you are someone who likes anime, k-pop or comics and you don’t fit this description, without community, it can feel lonely. This was how I felt in high school and being one of the Black girls at the first few years of Animazement. All of the people who work for the company are women, people of color or LGBT+ and we all have similar stories. We would like to think that Quirktastic can help the next generation of geeks and nerds look a lot more inclusive.
You have a longstanding interest in science and technology, earning your Bachelor of Science at UNC Charlotte and working as a cytogenetic technologist. What challenges have you faced as a black woman involved in a predominately white-male dominated field? How did these experiences add to the development of Quirktastic?
I’m sure we can all agree that the world is very male dominated, especially white-male dominated. Not unlike other Black women in the startup space, the biggest struggle has been funding. Raising venture capital in general is no easy task, but it can be discouraging talking to my male peers that were able to raise funding with just an idea and a prototype, while we struggled to raise funds with our community of 200,000 people and 10,000 users on our new app. I think it is easy to focus on the challenges, but I knew that if I used these challenges as an excuse, the company would go nowhere. Instead of trying to win the hearts of investors, we have been focusing on winning the hearts of our community. Since launching our new app, we’ve actually been able to raise $265,000 in funding from angel investors, the Shea Moisture New Voices Pitch Competition and from our newest investor, Snapchat!
How did you become connected to Durham? How has Durham helped to influence your quirkiness and the development of Quirktastic?
I moved to Durham after graduating from college to focus on a career in science (I used to work in the Research Triangle), though what kept me in Durham after I decided to forge a different career path was the amazing entrepreneurial spirit I felt every time that I came to Downtown Durham.
Tell us about QuirkCon.
QuirkCon is a 3 day conference for geeks, gamers and nerds, with a primary focus on people of color and the LGBT+ community. Topics covered at this conference include anime, cosplay, comic books, gaming, sci-fi, art, film, mental health and alternative lifestyles.
QuirkCon will have over 40 speakers, including special guest, Kiera Please, Momo Pixel (founder of Hair Nah), Searit Huluf of Pixar, Black Girls Anime, Adorned By Chi, Thaddeus Coates aka Hippy Potter and more.
The 1st Annual Cosplayer Awards will also take place Saturday, June 1, 2019 at 7:30pm in the Durham Convention Center and will be hosted by popular YouTuber, actor and LGBT+ personality, Miles Jai. The Cosplayer Awards received over 300 nominations and voting took place online early May. The 12 winners will be announced in our academy style award show during QuirkCon.
You have quite a diverse collection of speakers and events lined up for the weekend. What were you looking for when you were seeking out presenters, speakers, and performers? Who are you most excited about?
We definitely wanted QuirkCon to feel somewhat like a nerdy reunion. A lot of the speakers are a part of the fandom community, either popular cosplayers, well-known Youtubers or other creators that are making great things or working on cool projects. We are excited about everyone attending, though our audience seems to be most excited about Kiera Please and Miles Jai.
Where can people learn more about Quirktastic?
You can download our friendship in both the App Store and Google Play. You can also read some awesome articles, listen to nerdy podcasts and watch geeky lifestyle videos on www.quirktastic.co.