Friday, April 15, 2016

Maid Cafe - Sweet Tea Cafe Part 1

I've been visiting this conventions Maid Cafe for a few years. For the last two years, I spent some time volunteering as a maid for it. It wasn't living up to it's potential.

The Maid Cafe wasn't a cafe at all. It was more like a bake-sale in the artist alley, not using the space as efficiently as they could. I knew after my first year of volunteering that I wanted to help change it. I'm really a shy person though, so it wasn't until early February of 2016 that I finally got the courage to ask if I could help. Apparently it was appreciated just as much as I appreciated being welcome to the team. One of the first things I asked was along the lines of "What are your goals this year for the maid cafe?" The original organizer told me that she wanted it to become an actual cafe but that the space constraints had prevented it from being so. I had planned it out pretty much as soon as I had left the building the year before what I would do to turn the space into a cafe. So I showed her a bunch of floor plans I had come up with.

Well, that's the main part anyway. I'm going to try and keep this short(ish), but if you have any questions about what kind of work we had to do that I do not cover, feel free to ask in the comments or something.

We met up and she revealed the theme for the cafe this year. The cafe hadn't had a theme for the past few years (that I know of) so this was an interesting change, but I fully supported it. It was simple enough, too. The theme would be "neko girls". We discussed, also, creating a social media page for the cafe as well as giving it a name. She seemed to like the name I had come up with while I was doing the floor plans and it kind of stuck, so we became "Sweet Tea". I was kind of proud of the name, too, because it sounds very Maid Cafe-like to mention something like tea, especially since that's what most of our drinks were the last year. What really made it for me was the fact that the county the convention is held in is actually the birthplace of sweet tea.

During the same weekend as our first meeting, I came up with a logo idea for our social media page. While I thought it was good, she wasn't quite as fond of it. We were on the same track of mind though, with the teacup. She had a few good things to say about the logo, but ultimately she was looking for something else. After a few constructive criticisms and some images given to me, I came back with another iteration. It still wasn't quite what she was looking for. She did mention that she would like to have a girl holding a teacup. Still wasn't quite what she was looking for, but each time, I think I got a bit closer. We did this sort of back-and-forth for a while until we finally settled on a logo.

I did most of the upkeep on the social media page, as per my request.  I used what I had learned about my cosplay facebook page in order to choose the best times to make posts. I took the advice I had seen given to other Maid Cafe pages as well and basically hoped for the best. We ended up getting over 100 followers before the event started, which I think is pretty good considering how truly tiny this convention is.

We started a group page just for our volunteers as well. It's actually really difficult to rally, train, and get information from volunteers when you can't meet them in person. I have a busy schedule so it's difficult for me to be able to group people up and train them. We did try to get a group photoshoot going but in the end not enough people were going to make it. I settled with asking for individual (decorated) photos of our volunteers in their maid/butler uniforms so I could introduce them on the public page. I felt this would create some sort of personal familiarity with potential customers and let them know a little more about what to expect. (I tried to make my photo look like a traditional Maid Cafe 'cheki', like the one I had received at one of the @home Maid Cafe's while I was in Japan.)

We had another meeting, this time with our third organizer. We went over things like what we wanted to do as far as functions in the cafe, what supplies we needed, what food to have, etc. I was mostly going to be in charge of designs, but if someone came up with something better, that was okay and we'd use that instead. I was also going to be the one to figure out how to train the maids. When I got home I started on a sort of 'guidebook' for what the maids should do and what was expected of them. It contained rules, tips, and instructions. I didn't post it for quite some time, though. I must have rewrote it seven times before I thought it was good enough to present.

Also, I should mention that at this meeting, I showed off a headband I had made for any maids who needed cat ears or a maid headband. (Did you know that a maid's headband is called a "Katyusha"? I used such a phrase to introduce our theme once we went public with it. "Cat-yusha's and all")
It didn't cost me very much to make, more time than anything. I was going to be wearing one with my outfit, and the more people wearing something similar, the more cohesive the cafe might feel, especially since we weren't going to have matching uniforms. Our only requirement was that the uniform be black and white (pink accents were encouraged).

Not long after our meeting, I also came up with the name-tags that our maid would be wearing. The theme of the convention was "Space" this year, so I had joked about making it a space-cat with a 'flying saucer'. It kind of stuck and this is what we ended up with. ( Hi! I'm also Maid Noraneko!)

The other two organizers were in charge of the printing and food among other things; I was more in charge of up-keeping the social media page, extracting information from our volunteers, a little design here and there, training staff, advice based on experience, stuff like that. I'd like to say our duties were clear-cut for each person, but sometimes three heads are better than one. Sometimes one of the other organizers would come up with new ideas or add in their suggestions to things I would be doing.

We did a lot of work together and it was really fun and a honor to work on something like this; it's been a dream of mine to run a convention Maid Cafe and being part of a team to help a pre-existing one out was certainly an adventure that I don't regret.

The second post of this series will be about the day of operation! Please look forward to it!

1 comment:

  1. Cute little touch with the flying "saucer" :3 Sounds like there was quite a lot of work involved, as I knew there would be. You like to make things the best you can and as perfect as you can (and it shows in your cosplays very well). More Cat-suyas =P