In the world of magic exists an unwritten set of rules, sometimes referred to as the ‘Magician’s Code’. It dictates what trade secrets can and can’t be revealed, how tricks can be taught, and promotes camaraderie and respect in the secretive industry.
But that code also extends itself to those who make and sell materials used by magicians, according to business owner (and magician) Nathan Darma.
“People in the industry don’t let non-magicians in. If you’re not one, you can’t penetrate it, people won’t buy from you,” he tells SmartCompany.
“It’s a bit weird,” he laughs.
Luckily for Darma, he’s had no such trouble. A magician from a young age, the entrepreneur has run two separate, and successful, Kickstarter campaigns for high-end playing cards, intended to be used in flashy tricks and illusions.
His most recent campaign raised a total of $27,474 for high-quality, foiled playing cards, which Darma sells as a limited run under the brand Implicit.
“In 2016, I wanted to make myself a deck of cards to play with, a fancier deck than the ones you can buy at Woolies. I did some research and found the minimum order was quite high, and I didn’t want to pay that much for something only I’d use,” he says.
Darma had managed to build himself a strong following in the Australian magic community, with nearly 30,000 followers on Instagram. He pitched the idea of a Kickstarter campaign to them, got a positive response, and a year later funded his first campaign, raising $14,000 in just four days.
“The cards got into Walmart in the US, and in a few stores across Sweden and Germany, it was super bizarre,” he laughs.
“The card world is quite niche, with strong followers who love to collect premium playing cards, so I did another campaign this year and it worked again.”
Lessons learnt from being sued
Having started a clothing line, an app, a completed psychology degree and an ongoing law degree, Implicit is strictly just a “side hustle” for 24-year-old Darma, who works full-time for swimwear brand Skwosh as a sales and marketing executive.
“It’s a great way to make a bit of extra cash, and from a branding perspective,” he says.
“People see my playing cards and go: ‘Who’s that guy?’”
One thing Darma has under his belt other 24-year-olds probably don’t is a legal battle win against multi-billion-dollar energy drink company Monster, who attempted to sue the entrepreneur, alleging part of his clothing line infringed on their trademarks.
Labelling it a “bit of a weird event”, Darma says he was presented with the ultimatum of ‘stop or we’ll fight you’. But after doing a bit of research and investigating the claim, he realised the company didn’t have a leg to stand on.
“I knew straight away they had no grounds to sue me, they were trying to claim monopoly over a generic term. I met with the Dean of my law school, and he basically told me they were just trying to scare me,” he says.
“I figured I had nothing to lose and I might learn a bit along the way, so I fought the case against the number one litigation agency in Australia and won.”
So confident Darma was of his case, he didn’t even attend the hearing in Canberra, submitting a written case instead. He says the experience taught him a lot about business and trademark law, and has helped him launch his later ventures without stepping on any copyrighted toes.
Turning a hobby into a side business
Looking forward, Darma says his magic business will remain a side project, saying while he loves the art, he thinks relying on it for his income would “kill” his love for it.
He has some future projects planned but says they’re not magic related.
“I don’t think I can keep being reliant on just magicians buying my stuff,” he says.
However, he encourages anyone to have a crack at launching a side business based on their hobby, believing it can be easier than you think.
“If you’ve got a hobby or a personal interest and you can find a way to monetise it, it doesn’t take that much to sell it with the rise of social media,” he says.
“It doesn’t take that long to look into, and it’s not going to be as scary as you think it is.”