Anthony Stanberry is a graphic artist, author and cartoon drawing instructor who started Freeze DNA in 2001. What began as a graphic design firm became a literacy campaign that today reaches every corner of Canada and parts of the U.S. Here’s Anthony’s story.
The story of Freeze DNA
How did your business get started?
Freeze DNA was meant to be a design and advertising firm that Anthony and his brothers, Jermaine Smith and Justin Stanberry, started in their mother’s basement after college.
In effort to develop some promotional material to showcase their talents in design, storytelling and marketing, Anthony developed a comic book called Blac Ice. Avid comic fans since they were kids, the brothers realized there was a void of Black superheroes in comics, thus the birth of a superhero comic that features the Shadow Brothers. These two are transformed from regular teens into superheroes with superhuman strength.
Due to the uniqueness of a black superhero comic designed by a local family, Blac Ice received local and national media attention, with appearances on YTV’s The Zone and CTV Toronto News, as well as features in many news articles.
The slow climb to recognition
In the early day, it wasn’t easy, with all three working part-time jobs. Justin had the idea to host art classes at Brampton libraries. This evolved into learn-to-draw comic art workshops at schools in Toronto.
Students at the art classes loved the Blac Ice comic book and asked how they could make their own comic book.
This gave birth to Freeze DNA’s “learn-to-draw” comic art books.
Freeze DNA begins touring Canada’s schools
In 2007, Freeze DNA formed a partnership with TD Bank Group and launched the Freeze Kids Comic Book Art Tours. The tours took Anthony and his family to schools across Canada and the United States, teaching kids the fundamentals of drawing comic art.
The goal was to inspire kids to read by teaching them to create their own characters and write their own stories.
In 2008, they extended this project with TD Canada and created the learn-to-draw comic book titled “Sketching History.” This book featured historic Afro-Canadian and African-Americans.
To accompany the book, Freeze DNA launched a cross-Canada workshop tour for Sketching History. These workshops were created to help bridge the gap between art and literacy while providing insight into the underrepresented figures of Afro-Canadian and African-American history.
Based on their contributions, in 2010 the Freeze DNA team received the Excellence in Community Impact Award from the Toronto Business Development Centre.
It was about this time that Anthony realised he needed to get his business online and promote it on his own. GoDaddy was his choice to start his new online journey.
A gold-medal track record
To date, Freeze DNA has engaged with thousands of students at schools, libraries, and community events across North America. To date, Freeze DNA has published over 20 learn-to-draw comic art books.
When COVID hit, Freeze DNA’s in-person events had to go online. Anthony ramped up his home office and online cartoon classes so his audience could follow along online on his YouTube channel.
Even though in-person tours have ground to a halt, Freeze DNA has never been busier.
Now that he’s no longer travelling, Anthony has more time to develop new comics, new characters and learn-how-to-draw training videos for his fans.
Today Freeze DNA is a family-run children’s book publishing company, based out of Brampton Ontario. It’s also available all over the world, thanks to their online store built with GoDaddy Websites + Marketing.
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What was it like filming the GoDaddy commercial?
This was a real treat for me. I applied because I always say, it’s a good idea to try something new, even if you don’t think you’re going to be the best, it never hurts to try. I auditioned with a group of other Canadian customers and I actually got a call back!
Three weeks later, I found myself on the first commercial set I have ever been on.
It turned out, I was on the same set as another small business owner and Canadian Olympic Medalist Andre De Grasse — getting to talk about my journey, successes, challenges and goals for the future of Freeze DNA.
What I thought was going to be an overwhelming experience, turned out to be just as fun as when I made my first sale, or completed my first online tutorial or partnered with another brand.
Being part of the commercial was great because everything I represent is my actual business. Like all the scenarios before, I’m promoting my business — it’s not acting. I was so happy to get the opportunity to showcase that to all of Canada with the help of GoDaddy.
What is your business philosophy in a nutshell?
To keep going until you catch a lead, then keep going.
If we hadn’t kept pushing forward when things were tough, we wouldn’t be in business today.
If we hadn’t promoted our advertising firm, I may not have developed Blac Ice.
If we didn’t have second jobs, we might not have been able to share our comics and come up with the idea to expand into teaching kids to draw.
Without this, we would have never met partners like TD or Chapters who taught us the real value of launching a business and why a website is necessary.
Today, we are busy, doing what we love, have an amazing website and now even get to be part of a national commercial focused on helping everyday Canadian entrepreneurs.
What online tools do you use for your business?
We used Websites + Marketing to create our web store, which we see as the hub for our business. We have an awesome design optimised across all devices.
The website includes a shop where you can buy our comics and check out our promos. Our books are very affordable (under $10!) And of course it integrates all our social pages, including our YouTube channel.
In addition to Websites + Marketing, we also use GoDaddy’s Professional Email, which sure was a big help during lock-down. With online communication one of the key ways to communicate in 2020, it was really important to look professional when sharing business content. Gmail wasn’t going to cut it any longer.
My site hardly has an interruption and it puts my mind at ease to know that customers can visit my website, sign up to my newsletter and make purchases safely because my site has the most up-to-date security software available.
What difference have these tools made to your business?
Without these tools, we wouldn’t have a way to get our business out there and reach the right audience. There’s a level of ease I get from using GoDaddy Website + Marketing.
I have a website, updated promos, a way to sign up for my emails and a place to buy my products and watch the videos. The difference is now I feel confident that my business is running as best as it can.
Do you have any advice for someone who’s just starting a business in your field?
Yes — if your idea seems big, that’s a good thing. It’s ok to feel discouraged at times or question if the next step is the right move, but if you keep going the results finally start to show.
I try to approach my work the same way I approach my health, it’s about mind, body and soul:
Mind – focus on the task at hand
Body – you need to practice a routine to keep it working
Soul – does the end product match your goals? If not, is it time to change your business strategy, or pivot your goals?
Are there any mistakes you made that others should try to avoid?
There are a lot of them, but to be honest, mistakes aren’t always a bad thing. Trial and error are how I learn, gain confidence and expand on my ideas and business approach.
What one thing do you wish you’d known when you were starting your business?
How important is it to clearly define your business objective, service/offering and goals. When you just start out, you have so many dreams and get excited when thinking about all the possibilities, but sometimes that can make it a challenge to know where to begin. It helps to focus.
Thanks for talking with us about your passion project, Anthony. To see all that Freeze DNA offers, stop by Anthony’s website or connect with him on Facebook. Or if you’ve always wanted to become a comic book artist, check out Anthony’s YouTube channel.