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Inspiring Conversations with James Rodriguez III of Nexus Entertainment

Today we’d like to introduce you to James Rodriguez III.

Hi James, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
My journey began similarly to most boys my age in about 2nd grade. My first introduction to gaming was on the Nintendo 64, playing Golden Eye and Super Smash Bros. This started a long string of events influencing my passions, hobbies, and interests today. It began with Pokémon and Final Fantasy in elementary school, YuGiOh, MMORPGs, and anime in middle school, and expanded into comics and tabletop gaming in high school. These core components are part of the makeup of who I am today and have become a large part of the DNA of my business. The initial itch to start a business didn’t occur until high school. At this point in my life, I was getting heavily into YuGiOh, but to be competitive, I needed funding to buy cards and travel to tournaments. I didn’t have a job in high school, so I was limited in my options. A solution didn’t present itself until I bought my first YuGiOh collection from a friend who was quitting the game. That single point in time spurred everything else in my life. I used that collection to start buying, selling, and trading at my local game store. I began using the profits to fund my competitive YuGiOh career and new hobbies in gaming and comics.

I think what is most fascinating to me is how I learned the art of business. At this time, I was also into Runescape and World of Warcraft which both had in-game economies. I became good at understanding the market in both games, and I transferred those skills into real life. Before I knew it, I also became part of a growing and amazing community that forged lifelong friendships during this journey. The community embraced me and showed me how passionate they could be. Those experiences inspired me to start my own business eventually, and that decision greatly influenced my educational career.

During my college journey, to achieve my goals of combining technology and business, I earned a bachelor’s in computer science at Arizona State University and a bachelor’s in business management at Northern Arizona University. In college, I continued to travel to events to buy, sell and trade while starting to leverage online platforms like eBay and Tcgplayer to expand my footprint. Of course, this continued to fuel my other rapidly growing hobbies and interests, and I also used this to pay part of my way through college.

When I finally graduated with my second degree, I officially formed my business in 2016 called Nexus Entertainment. While maintaining my day job as a software engineer, I continued to run my business on the side while expanding my operations through online platforms. In 2018, I decided to take the next step to lease an office, and I hired my first two employees to help me run the business. I also started attending conventions and shows as a vendor. Leading into 2019 through 2020, I had started expanding into my first brick-and-mortar location. Unfortunately, I hit some roadblocks along the way that eventually led to the pandemic’s start.

With uncertainty on the horizon, I paused and reverted to being self-ran at the time. I took the time to plan further and expand my dream of what I wanted to achieve with Nexus and how I would get there. I started to build a strong and diverse business team to help me expand, plan, and execute it. Going into 2022, I decided it was finally time to execute my vision for Nexus. My goal is to provide a premier, inclusive, and safe Nexus for fans, hobbyists, cosplayers, collectors, crafters, and gamers to come together and cultivate a growing community.

Reflecting on it now, little did I know how my small dream in high school would expand over the years into something so ambitious that I honestly believe it would completely disrupt the industry. Every future customer I have talked to is ecstatic about what my team and I are trying to achieve, and the market is hungry for change. I’m still in the thick of it with the execution of building out the store, but we are on track to launch later this winter, in 2022 or early 2023.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There were a few obstacles along the way, mostly surrounding trying to expand into my first brick-and-mortar location. Back in 2019, I secured a small business loan to open my first brick-and-mortar store. A few locations fell through for various reasons, but I remember when I thought I had finally found the place. I had gone through negotiations. And had a check in hand to secure the lease, but that location also fell through. I was very discouraged then, but I held on to hope and continued searching. The most obvious roadblock happened when the pandemic hit. Because my business model was highly dependent on foot traffic and in-person events, I had to make the painful decision to pause everything, especially as a startup facing uncertainty. The next hurdle was when I was trying to secure financing for the much larger vision of my business. I didn’t have anyone to lean on but myself to try to get enough capital together to pursue this dream. Thanks Rick from the Small Business Department Center (SBDC) for being my mentor and guide. It’s an awesome program and resource for any small business owner, and it helped me overcome some large hurdles. I know there will be more obstacles along the way, but I’m confident that between my business team and I, we will be able to tackle anything that life throws at us.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next, you can tell us a bit more about your business?
Nexus is not your average pop culture, gaming, or hobby store. What truly sets us apart, and I am most proud of, is that we focus on building a safe and inclusive space to cultivate a welcoming community. It is core to the DNA of everything that we do. Nexus is for all self-proclaimed nerds, geeks, gamers, weebs, cosplayers, and crafters. We want to provide a place they can come together to call their own and be their slice of paradise. We hope to achieve this by offering curated products, services, and events. We have a long list of service offerings. Still, some highlights that I am most excited to share are our private rooms featuring: theater, karaoke, and gaming rooms with streaming capabilities for tabletop, PC, console, and VR gaming; a library of comics, manga, tabletop games, miniatures, terrain and battle maps; a crafting station with 3d printing for creating props, cosplays, miniatures and terrain; and lastly, public play spaces for tabletop, PC, console, VR and arcade gaming.

We will also have a strong retail presence in-store and online, offering comics, manga, anime merch, toys, figures, collectibles, games, and gaming accessories. We will also feature products from the community and other small local businesses. To fuel our community, we will also serve Boba, tea, and coffee with plans to expand into hot foods like rice bowls and ramen. We have a very flexible business model that allows our customers to engage with our services in the way that makes the most sense for them, whether it be hourly rate services, day passes, or one of our monthly or annual memberships. However, I think our memberships will be the most popular for our customers with the wicked awesome benefits and rewards that we can’t wait to share! Our space, services, and events are tailored to encourage the community to share their passions and hobbies, learn from each other, celebrate accomplishments, and make friends that will last a lifetime. It’s cliché, but I know from personal experience how powerful a place like this is in facilitating these opportunities. There is so much cross-pollination of passions and hobbies from people in this industry, and our space will allow our customers to enjoy all of them and probably pick up some new ones along the way. We want people to have an experience when they come into our space where they are left in awe every time. I am very proud of all the work my team and I have put into executing and bringing this vision to reality. I absolutely cannot wait until everyone gets to experience Nexus.

Do you have any memories from childhood that you can share with us?
One of my favorite childhood memories was when I began playing video games for the first time in my life. When I was in elementary school, I had two neighbors around my age, and the older of the two had a Nintendo 64. We would all go to his house almost daily and play either Zelda, Golden Eye, or Super Smash Bros. We would all sit on the floor and crowd around one of those old small box TVs as the Nintendo logo would launch on the screen, starting the game. That introduction to video gaming began my journey into my interests and hobbies over the years. Now, I’m trying to recreate these experience opportunities at Nexus for all generations.

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