My story is probably very singular, but maybe there's something general you can pull from it.
In 2009, when I was still in elementary school, there was this forum I was very active on, and one of the moderators was a huge Gundam fan. So in our Random Chatter forum (or maybe it was her personal staff get-to-know-me thread), she would keep posting the word Gundam. GUNDAM GUNDAM GUNDAM
I don't recall seeing anything specific (mobile suit names, character names, show names, era names, etc) attached to the word Gundam, but maybe that's because all I saw was GUNDAM GUNDAM GUNDAM
That summer (or maybe it was the summer of 2010, not sure, but I definitely started seeing GUNDAM GUNDAM GUNDAM in 2009), I finally looked up "Gundam" and somehow first arrived at the Wikipedia page for Gundam SEED. I've always been a huge spoilers person (I actively go out of my way to find spoilers, and I often don't watch anything unless I've already found spoilers), so I read up on it and I was like "oh so this is an anime thing like what my friends like" (my besties were already in the world of anime/manga and often chatted about them in our group chat; their conversations were hilarious to me, so I never minded that I had no idea what they were talking about lol)
and then I read the detailed plot/synopsis and OOH I WANNA WATCH
I'm... now pretty sure I didn't watch it legally lol I just found a site where I could watch all of Gundam SEED (and then SEED Destiny because OMG SEQUEL) for free.
Yes, that was my first anime! and I'm still a major fan of GS/GSD
I've always been a casual anime person since I watched GS/GSD but that's what got me into the anime world and what made me one of those people who knows what anime is
(Also, TV? what's that lol the only stuff on TV I've ever watched regularly: the Olympics, Nick Jr., PBS Kids
and money? what's that? lol before college the only money I ever got was money for field trips to buy souvenirs xD)