It’s Totally a Real Job: Elle, Nerd Out App Founder

it's totally a real job...

We’ve been talking to a bunch of geeky women in this series, and a lot of the women like the Geek Girl Brunch founders and Stewie from IGGPPC have created geeky things for you to take part in all over the world. While those are awesome, sometimes I always wonder what fun and geeky events are happening in my very city. I remember searching fruitlessly several years ago for other conventions or meet-ups in my area, but I just wasn’t sure what to search for because I wasn’t looking for a specific event. I just wanted to know what fun and geeky options I had within a short driving distance. That sort of fruitless and frustrating searching is a thing of a past ever since Elle created the Nerd Out app. I’m sure by now you’ve at least heard someone mention this app, which is essentially a nerd calendar that is filled with user-submitted events. So whether you’re going on a vacation, moving, or just want to know what’s happening in your area, this app can help you scope out the nerd scene in your area (of course, the calendar is populated with user-submitted events, so if you are hosting a geeky event, be sure to submit it to the app to help get the word out). It’s a genius app. Most of all, I think it’s going to help a lot more people get involved in geeky things they’ve always been interested in, but never knew how to plug in. So OF COURSE I had to talk to the app’s founder, Michelle–aka Elle–about making this rad app a reality. So let’s all meet Elle!

Elle

Where did the inspiration for the Nerd Out App come from?
Back in April 2015 I had been invited to a few events because of my blog Your Friend Elle. I was driving home from work talking to a friend about how hard it was trying to keep track of all these events because their information was so scattered (twitter, Facebook, tumblr). It then hit me, all of the events were nerd related. I then thought how awesome it would be to not only have a way to keep track of events, but to discover new ones! Before I had the blog I didn’t really even know there was a nerd community. Everyone knows about San Diego Comic Con, but not so much about more local events. And what do you do for the rest of the year? I know a lot of people have anxiety about large events so SDCC is not conducive for them. Also, it’s harder to connect with people when you’re running from panel to panel so it’s nicer to have the option to go to smaller and larger events. So to solve all these issues I created Nerd Out.

Did you work on this project yourself, or was this more of a team effort? If it was a team effort, what was the story behind how you all met? Was this a group of friends who always talked about starting something like this, or did you find people specifically to help with this project?
I’m mostly been a solo project. I have a friend who does help out with searching for events, but the day to day maintenance and development is on my shoulders. It’s been 5 months since we launched the app and we’re starting to slowly bring people on board. I can’t really say too much other than that because nothing is solid yet, but the important part is we’re always moving forward. We’re always trying to make a big and better app! It’s been a big learning experience because I’ve never created an app or started anything (other than my blog) from scratch, but it’s been a wonderful experience I would never trade anything for.

You were able to fund the app in large part thanks to people backing the app. Were you surprised at how well received it was?
The indiegogo campaign didn’t go as well as I hoped, but I am super thankful to those who did donate. I’ll always be thankful to those people who believed in the app even before we had the physical product. I covered some of the startup costs with that money, but a majority has come out of my own pocket. It’s been hard, but I truly believe in Nerd Out and will continue to do so. I still get excited when people tell me they really love the app. It is really wonderful to hear from people across the world. I had a really lovely lady tell me a story about how the app helped her brother make friends in a new city by going to an event we had listed. I was so touched by the story that I teared up.

You also blog in addition to working on Nerd Out. When you started your blog, did you hope to see yourself starting a company like this, or were you hoping to just kick off a blog that was successful?
I actually started Your Friend Elle because a high school friend had started her own blog. At the time I was working at a job I could have done in my sleep so it was a nice way to do something creative after I had finished my day job. She stopped her blog after two posts, I keep mine going. I had become unemployed for a time after that job so the blog became my daily accomplishment. When you’re unemployed it’s easy to sit around and just wait for the phone to ring. I instead chose to at least write a blog post so that I felt I was accomplishing something. I don’t do well with just sitting around. I never really thought that the blog would lead to anything other than maybe some free travel stuff. I’ve been lucky to meet some awesome people through the blog, but never foresaw a company because of it.

What has been the most challenging part of getting the Nerd Out app out to the public?
Getting the word out on a daily basis is something you continually work on. Luckily, I had a little knowledge of social media because of the blog, but apps are a different ball game so it’s been a learning experience. I’ve also had to learn that some people will love the app, some people could care less, and some you’ll just never win over. I’ve only had a couple of the latter, and thankfully the people who love the app are in the vast majority. Note, we’ve gotten with far without a single major news outlet (ie. Nerdist, Mary Sue) posting about us. I can only imagine when the rest of the nerd world catches on!

What advice do you have for those wanting to create their own app?
Research, research, research. From April to August I did a ton of research. First step I took was defining the app’s purpose in one sentence. Then I dug into other apps and websites trying to find something like it. I found nothing like Nerd Out. There are some sites that list cons, but many of them are outdated. A few websites list events but only for certain cities. They’re nothing as vast as Nerd Out which covers everything from large cons to smaller intimate events. I was actually shocked no one else had come up with the idea before. From there I’d say to start really digging into how it should function, which is where research is really helpful. I looked at several other apps and websites to see what I did and didn’t like. The current version of Nerd Out is not everything we have in store, there will be much more for our users in the future!

How much work do you put in each day maintaining the app? I assume with updates and bug fixes, it’s nearly a full-time job.
I have a full time job on a TV series currently so I really have to juggle the two. Some days there’s not a whole lot going on at work so I can get app work done, others I have to wait till I’m at home. It varies on hours. I do also work weekends on it, so it is basically a 24/7 job. I’m on call all the time. I do hope someday to do Nerd Out full time and have a team with me. I believe we’ll get there by the end of the year if not sooner. Updates and big fixes luckily aren’t a daily thing. When we do have users email with issues we try and resolve them within 24 hours. And let me just say, I do truly appreciate when users email us. It tells me not only are they using the app, but they care enough to report an issues they’re experiencing. And it’s likely an issue that may affect others so they’re helping everyone.

What has been the most exciting thing you’ve gotten to experience since launching Nerd Out?
Seeing how it affects people. I had a lovely couple come up to me at Comikaze just to tell me my app is awesome. I couldn’t believe they searched out my table just to say that. I’ve gotten to talk to people from Australia to Spain that are asking when the app will be listing for their city. It really blows my mind! I feel very blessed to have created something that is helping people. I sometimes have to pinch myself.

What would you like to see for Nerd Out in the next five years?
Worldwide domination!!!! Just kidding, well, not really. I’d like to be global before that point. We’re adding cities as fast as we can maintain. In the next few weeks we’re doing a big push so we’ll be adding more. Once we really get into team territory I’m sure we’ll be adding cities left and right. I do also have some other fun stuff in the works but can’t talk about it until it’s confirmed. I’m hoping to have some news in the next month or two.

Where can we find you online?
You can, of course, check out the Nerd Out website, you can follow Nerd Out on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and you can also check out my blog, Your Friend Elle. I’d also like to note that we are user submitted so if you see a city you’d like on the app, or if you have an event you’d like to submit please do reach out. You can find out how to do both by visiting our website. We currently cover 20 cities and will only be growing. We update on a daily basis to get the most up to date information out there for our users.

Thanks so much to Elle for taking time to talk with us and give us a peek into what goes into making a cool idea for an app a reality. Don’t forget to check out the other amazing women I’ve spoken with (like Teal from My Gimpy Life and The Guild, IGGPPC co-founder StewieAmy, writer extraordinaireJordan, the creator of the amazing Jordandene fashion lineKathleen, author of the upcoming book The Fangirl LifeMari of Sent From Mars, the Geek Girl Brunch founders and Meli from Melificent) in the rest of the series, and stay tuned here every week for another women who proved success doesn’t always come in a cubicle. And if you want to continue the conversation on Twitter, use the hashtag #RealJob. 

It’s Totally a Real Job: Teal Sherer, Actor

it's totally a real job...

I can’t really remember what made me tune in to The Guild for the first time, but all I can remember is that I fell in love with the show immediately. I loved the character so much, and often times related a bit too well with Felicia Day’s character, Codex. While I may have related better with the Knights of Good, I was obsessed with the show’s clan of evil gamers, The Axis of Anarchy. The Axis is hilarious, every character bringing something uniquely hilarious to the Axis. One of my favorite Axis members is Venom, played by Teal Sherer. Venom is hilarious. She’s hysterically angry all the time, and her furious outbursts are some of my favorite things to watch. I knew that I had to learn more about Teal after falling in love with Venom, and I stumbled across her series My Gimpy Life where the plays a paraplegic actor trying to make their way in show business. While Venom is hilariously ridiculous, Teal’s character in Gimpy Life (also named Teal) is real. She’s dealing with real struggles, fighting for real dreams, and she’s genuinely likable and funny. I knew that I had to talk to Teal for the series, ask her about being an actor, making her way in show business, and the amazing ways that she’s breaking down stereotypes of what it means to be a disabled person. She’s amazing, kind, and inspiring, and I’m thrilled to feature her here.

Teal Sherer

When did you decide you wanted to be an actor?
I started acting in college at Oglethorpe University. I had to take a theatre class as part of my Communications major and fell in love. My professor, Troy Dwyer, was so supportive and encouraging. He cast me in my first play, “The House of Bernarda Alba”, playing a character that wasn’t written to be disabled. I’ve been acting ever since.

I was first introduced to you through your character on The Guild, Venom. What was it like being a part of a web show that has become such a cult classic?
It’s super special. Felicia Day’s show has impacted so many people and The Guild fans are the absolute best! I miss playing Venom – she’s so cool.

Teal and Felicia

Screenshot of Teal and Felicia on My Gimpy Life

You created your own web series, My Gimpy Life. Did you want to keep that show web-based, or did you try to get it on TV first?
I would love to make My Gimpy Life for broadcast or cable or HBO or Netflix or Hulu or anywhere we could reach a larger audience. After we shot our pilot, which we released as episode 3, we did festivals and took all the meetings we could get, but we weren’t able to find a home or traditional funding for a series. Luckily, we found a partner in Steven Dengler and Dracogen to finish our first season.

What are the advantages you’ve found from doing a show online rather than through a television network?
Some people might say the silver lining in web producing is that you don’t have to compromise, but that’s not necessarily true. I look at shows like Louie and Curb Your Enthusiasm and I don’t see them compromising at all. With web projects you often have to make compromises because of limited time and money.

What was the most challenging part of creating your own web series?
The biggest challenge is finding your audience. By the time you reach the finish line, you probably don’t have a marketing budget. There are so many web series now that people have poured time and money into and they’re lucky if a thousand people watch the show. We hear a lot from new fans “how have I never heard of this?” and it’s because people are bombarded with major marketing all the time, and the only way our show breaks through is word of mouth.

What advice do you have for aspiring creators hurting for funding?
If you’ve never produced anything, crowd funding probably shouldn’t be your first avenue. Start small. Maybe try a 48 Hour Film contest in your city. Make friends, borrow and rent gear. Outside of Hollywood, people get excited about volunteering to be part of an indie project. If you’ve got more experience, crowd funding is a great way to expand and engage your fans.

What advice do you have for people wanting to start creating a web show, participate in one, or create something original online?
Don’t wait for the perfect time, just make something. Even if you shoot it on your phone. And emerging platforms are a great way to get noticed. YouTube is saturated, but if you can be one of the first people on whatever becomes the next hot app, you’ve got less competition.

I’m sure you’ve faced your fair share of struggles finding work in Hollywood as it isn’t always the most inclusive place. Though disabled actors feel it quite acutely, the industry has also come under fire for other ways it isn’t inclusive to women, people of color, or transgender individuals. How do you keep from becoming cynical and overwhelmed by that, and have you started to see any positive changes towards inclusiveness in Hollywood?
Creating my own opportunities, like My Gimpy Life, has helped me keep the cynicism at bay. And, yes, I have started to see positive change. For example, Ali Stroker is the the first wheelchair user to be on Broadway (in Spring Awakening playing a role that’s not disability specific), and I loved Target’s Halloween ad that featured a girl with a disability as Princess Elsa.

One thing I loved about Venom–apart from her constant rage–was that she wasn’t “the token character in a wheelchair”. She was real, and though her wheelchair was mentioned from time to time, her character really had very little to do with being a paraplegic. Even in My Gimpy Life, a show about a paraplegic actor, your character was a person with dimensions rather than a token character. How do you hope characters like those inspire other aspiring actors with disabilities?
In real life, people with disabilities are more than their disability – they are athletes, doctors, actors, moms, etc… Seeing this in the media helps break down stereotypes, and shows aspiring performers with disabilities that there is a place for them in the entertainment industry.

Where can we find you online?
You can follow My Gimpy Life on Facebook and Twitter, and you can check out episodes on Youtube. If you like an episode of My Gimpy Life, please please please show it to a friend!

My Gimpy Life

Thanks so much to Teal for taking the time to chat about acting and creating a space for yourself in your dream career. If you haven’t already, definitely check out My Gimpy Life–you won’t regret it. Don’t forget to check out the other amazing women I’ve spoken with (like IGGPPC co-founder StewieAmy, writer extraordinaireJordan, the creator of the amazing Jordandene fashion lineKathleen, author of the upcoming bookThe Fangirl LifeMari of Sent From Mars, the Geek Girl Brunch founders and Meli from Melificent) in the rest of the series, and stay tuned here every week for another women who proved success doesn’t always come in a cubicle. And if you want to continue the conversation on Twitter, use the hashtag #RealJob. 

It’s Totally a Real Job: Stewie, Co-Founder of IGGPPC

it's totally a real job...

Back when we talked to the founders of Geek Girl Brunch, I mentioned that later on in the series I’d be featuring an interview with Stewie, one of the founders of the International Geek Girl Pen Pal Club. Well kids, today’s the day! Stewie is a blogger, a cosplayer, a designer, and a gamer. By day she works at eBay as a graphic designer, and by night she’s either larping, gaming, blogging, or generally fangirling over My Little Pony and Disney. She’s an absolute delight to hang out with on Twitter or her blog, and she’s managed to start one of the biggest movements in the geek girl world in IGGPPC. I’m so excited to have her on the blog to talk about all of the awesome things she’s gotten to do.

leslie

You co-founded IGGPPC. Where did you all get the idea to start something like that? How did you meet your Iggle co-founder?
We began chatting through Etsy, because I had commissioned some necklaces from her for my bellydance troupe, Antipode. When I learned she was in England, the anglophile in me came out a bit and I wanted to know more. We decided we’d send each other candy and goodies from our home towns, and then began to brainstorm about how amazing it would be if there was a website that matched up like-minded geeky girls with other geeky girls from other countries. BAMF! The rest is history!

Have you been surprised at how popular IGGPPC has become, or did you always suspect that there was a huge market for this sort of thing?
I’m a serial Internet project starter, and sometimes my ENFP nature can cause me to dip my toes into too many pools at the same time. Around the time I was talking to Farquharson about this, I had (and probably still have) about 5-10 other projects happening simultaneously. So I suppose if you try enough things, eventually one will take off! I am surprised at how it took off, because I had worked on so many projects and none had really gone viral or blown up like the IGGPPC has. We’re boasting 40,000 registered members now!

How long did you have to dream and plan for IGGPPC before it actually launched?
The thoughts poured out in our chat like delicious Butterbeer, flowing quicker than either of us could type. We have pages and pages of Facebook chats where we decided what we’d call the club, how people could sign up (first using a simple free web form, then using Ning, and finally moving to WordPress), decided we wanted to divide people into age groups (houses) for better pen pal connections, came up with the concept of “Top 5 geek loves” for matching purposes, and launched the website in less than 24 hours. In the first 24 hours, we maxed out our 1,000 person cap, and re-launched into 2 more sold out rounds in under a week. That’s 3,000 girls to match in just 1 week! It was fun but exhausting.

What was the biggest challenge you encountered as you created IGGPPC?
This is something neither of us had experience with, so it was a lot of trial and error. We got lucky and things worked out greatly! I would say the biggest challenge is trying to make everyone happy, when the community is pretty uncontrollable by us. Sadly, people will complain that their pen pal doesn’t write to them enough or doesn’t respond at all, but unfortunately there are so many moving parts to this that are out of our control. I wish we could control those things! We just love happy pen pals and creating friendships.

What has pleasantly surprised you about the Iggle community?
The number of iggles who have traveled to meet each other, and even overseas! There have been so many real life friendships and meet ups that have blossomed out of this beautiful club. That and the friendship I myself have developed with Emily and my co-staffers. We are constantly talking about our real lives, and I love them all like sisters. I couldn’t imagine not having them to talk to!

What advice do you have for women wanting to start their own unique community?
If it doesn’t catch on after a lot of effort, perhaps try something new. If the demand for a community is there, it will catch on, but if not – no need beat a dead horse.

You’ve also worked on the NEPA BlogCon. What’s it like bringing a convention to life?
Also a lot of work, but in a different sense. It’s awesome to network with so many talented people and bringing their big awesome brains all into 1 room. To see all the ideas, collaborations, and learning happening is incredibly rewarding! It’s like hosting a party and watching people enjoy it is very fulfilling, but it’s different to be on the back end of planning it. I get so jealous of people enjoying it because I have such a different perspective! But I am so glad people love it.

What is one thing you wish people knew about working on staff for a convention?
It’s way more time consuming than you might realize.

For a while you also had an Etsy store. What was the best and worst thing about running your own Etsy shop?
It was fun to get creative and design my own awesome stationery, which paid tribute to my favorite geeky loves. I sold nerdy stationery, so the overlap with the members of the IGGPPC was awesome! But it was difficult to keep up with at times! At times I would just prefer to have someone else run the store, and I would just do the designs 🙂

What advice do you have for others wanting to start an Etsy shop?
If you’re passionate about it, it will be fun, no matter what. If it stops being fun, take a break. Life’s too short to be a slave to sadness.

Where can we find you online?
I usually frequent Twitter, and sometimes Instagram and Facebook. But mostly Twitter. Bring cake!

stewie

Anything else you want to mention that I didn’t ask?
My husband and I are going to be streaming on Twitch together, so I’d love it if any Twitch or video game nerds would give us a follow. The name of the Twitch is Defeat the Huns – a play on “Be a Man” from the Mulan soundtrack and our last name (Hunsinger) – much appreciated! I also help do website dev/design stuff, community moderation, and generally help run the Larpettes, a website (but mostly a Facebook community) dedicated to celebrating the female Larper. Hopefully any geek girls reading this who love to Larp, or who are interested in it, will join up!

Thanks so much to Stewie for taking the time to chat with us! Don’t forget to check out the other amazing women I’ve spoken with (like Amy, writer extraordinaireJordan, the creator of the amazing Jordandene fashion lineKathleen, author of the upcoming bookThe Fangirl LifeMari of Sent From Mars, the Geek Girl Brunch founders and Meli from Melificent) in the rest of the series, and stay tuned here every week for another women who proved success doesn’t always come in a cubicle. And if you want to continue the conversation on Twitter, use the hashtag #RealJob. 

It’s Totally a Real Job: Amy Ratcliffe, Writer

it's totally a real job...

When I first started blogging, I went to a panel at Denver Comic Con 2014 called Women in the Geek Industry. One of the things that really stuck with me during that panel was Bonnie Burton telling the audience to reach out to those people that inspire them. She encouraged everyone to tweet at their favorite creators, comment on their pages, and do whatever they could to try to pick their brain–after all, social media has made it easier than ever to get in touch with our faves. I decided that I would do just that when I returned from the con, and one of the writers I reached out to was Amy Ratcliffe.

Amy was doing exactly what I wanted to be doing: she was writing, and she was writing for some truly kickass places. StarWars.com, Nerdist, and IGN. I HAD to pick her brain. What was it like to be a writer full-time? How did she get to write for amazing places like StarWars.com? How did she manage to make people actually pay her to write? Without expecting a response, I fired some questions off to her. I figured she probably wouldn’t answer, but I didn’t think it would hurt to try and reach out. Of course, because Amy is great, she responded and sent me back a really helpful, informative response on how to expand my network and ways to try to find paying work. So when I started this series, I knew that I had to include Amy, one of the people who really helped me begin to find my footing in the writing world, and a genuinely nice person to hang out with on the interwebz. I’m so happy to introduce you all to Amy!

IMG_4155 (1)

What does a normal work day look like for you?
I spent most days at my desk for many hours working through my list. I use an Excel calendar to manage my deadlines, so I start my day with making a handwritten list of everything I need to do that day (it’s repetitive, but I really like crossing things off lists). The first thing I write most weekdays is a round-up of television news for Nerdist, and then I work through any articles that are due – it can be anything from TV reviews, to cosplay galleries, to interviews – and check my email continually to take assignments throughout the day if I have extra time. There are occasionally phoners or meetings, but mostly, I sit at my desk and write. Sometimes I remember to eat lunch at a normal time, but usually I don’t remember until I feel cranky. Finally, I usually have to watch TV for review purposes or research.

You write for some pretty impressive places like Nerdist, StarWars.com, and IGN–just to name a few. How did you get connected to those sites?
It varies. In some instances, I made connections through Twitter first. I didn’t necessarily start talking on editors on Twitter with the intention of networking, just discussing things we had in common. In other cases, I spotted a job listing (also on Twitter) and applied with a resume an writing samples.

What has been the biggest challenge as you’ve launched your writing and journalism career?
The hardest part is to keep writing. When you have to churn out large amounts of content – which often feels necessary because writing for the web doesn’t pay amazingly well – it can be hard to keep motivated and to keep it from being dull. I’m constantly learning about how to convey news and facts while injecting some of my voice, and that helps stop things from feeling boring.

What has been the most surprising thing, good or bad, you’ve experienced as a writer?
I’m continually surprised by how many sites – and not small ones your friend is running – don’t want to pay for content. A number of places try to push “exposure” instead of dollars, and exposure doesn’t pay bills. There are instances in which working for free is worth it, but it usually isn’t.

What do you wish people understood about your career?
That it’s actually work. I’m fortunate and get to cover a ton of awesome events and interview people I admire. I recognize and appreciate all the cool things I get to do, but people don’t understand that it’s also work. For example, doing press lines and covering panels at conventions brings neat opportunities but also a ton of running around and skipping parties/hangouts in order to file stories.

With books like Sam Magg’s Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy and Kathleen Smith’s upcoming The Fangirl Life, we’re seeing a lot of geek girl bloggers turn to books. Do you want to write a book someday?
I would definitely like to write a book one day. My ultimate goal is to write Star Wars reference books. I’m also trying to toe more into travel writing, but a book in that area is a long way away.

What has been the coolest thing you’ve gotten to experience as a writer?
I’ve been able to combine something I love to do with the stories I love. My fandoms are often part of my job, and that continually blows my mind. The way they mingle comes with its own challenges, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

Where do you hope your writing takes you in the next few years?
I hope to keep pushing myself and to write for new outlets and to write about new topics. I very much want to stay in the world of pop culture, but there are other corners to explore. I don’t want to get too comfortable, you know?

What is the piece of writing you’re most proud of, and why?
Hmm. I can’t point to one piece, but I am proud of most articles I write about equality and representation. It’s important to point out when film and television get it right and wrong when it comes to diversity, and I’m most concerned with gender diversity.

Did you always want to be a writer, or did that come as you grew up?
Sort of? I didn’t know what I wanted to be until quite late in the game – my late ’20s to be exact – but I’ve always enjoyed writing. When I was in junior high and high school, I loved writing essays and short stories. My enjoyment of writing fiction sort of died off around my first stab at college, and it took me a while to realize there were other types of writing that would satisfy me.

Who are some of your biggest inspirations?
Oooh. That’s hard because it changes. Today the answers are Neil Gaiman, Mo Ryan, and Cat Valente.

To be a successful freelancer, you have to have a pretty strong networking game. Does that come naturally to you, or do you have to work to network?
I’m terrible at face to face networking. Terrible. I’m not so hot at talking myself up or knowing when it’s even the right occasion to do that. I usually wait for work to come up naturally in conversation so I can find a non-pushy way to hand over my card, and maybe it’s cost me some work, but I’m fine with it. I see more than a few people who are constantly all “look at me, look at my work” and it’s incredibly obnoxious and doesn’t seem to really pay off. It’s a balance.

What are your tips for people who struggle with networking?
It’s hard but often a necessary evil. Do your best to be assertive but not aggressive, and if you’re better with emails rather than face to face, get a card and send a killer follow-up email.

What advice would you give for aspiring freelancers and aspiring journalists/writers?
Be prepared to write, write a lot, and write quickly. Start with your own blog and write a variety of articles and make sure they’re all as professional as can be. That way, by the time you start looking for paying work you’ll have a catalog of work and writing samples to send an editor. There’s probably something to be said for going to school for journalism too, but since I didn’t go that route I can’t offer advice in that particular arena.

Where can we find you online?
Right now I’m most active on Twitter at @amy_geek. I contribute to Nerdist, StarWars.com, and IGN regularly and occasionally post at my personal blog Geek with Curves.

A HUGE thank you to Amy for taking time to do this interview. Now go forth, you aspiring writers, write and create a space for yourself out there! Don’t forget to check out the other amazing women I’ve spoken with (like Jordan, the creator of the amazing Jordandene fashion lineKathleen, author of the upcoming book The Fangirl LifeMari of Sent From Mars, the Geek Girl Brunch founders and Meli from Melificent) in the rest of the series, and stay tuned here every week for another women who proved success doesn’t always come in a cubicle. And if you want to continue the conversation on Twitter, use the hashtag #RealJob. 

It’s Totally a Real Job: Jordan Ellis

it's totally a real job...

Fangirl fashion has really started to take off lately, and there are brands out there for whatever your particular style might be. One of my favorite brands is Jordandene, started by Jordan Ellis. Whether you’re looking for a tee, a sweatshirt, a tote, baby clothes, or even an apron, this shop has got cute, classy, and of course SUPER geeky designs for you. I’ve got two of her tanks myself, and I’m OBSESSED with them. Chances are if you follow any other geeky girl blogs out there, you’ve seen Jordan’s shirts featured there, too. Fangirls are eating her stuff up, and so of course I had to interview her for It’s Totally a Real Job. Jordan has created a unique fashion line that has gotten crazy popular since its inception, and I’m so happy to get to feature her here. So let’s talk with Jordan!

Jordan Ellis

How long have you been in the fashion industry?
I’ve only been in the fashion industry for about two years. I studied elementary education in college, so I don’t really have any training or background in this industry at all. I’m still learning everything as I go!

Where did the idea to start Jordandene come from?
The idea for Jordandené came as a much-needed creative outlet to keep up with all of my artistic friends when I moved to New York. I was working a pretty boring day job and really wanted to find something interesting to occupy my free time. I picked up a sewing machine, signed up for Etsy, and started my shop!

Did you always envision Jordandene as a company that bordered the line between geeky/fandom and fashion, or has it evolved over the years?
I definitely always knew that Jordandené would be based in some kind of geekery. I never expected, though, that I would ever be involved with fashion. My first line of products was for the home / kitchen, which is way more in my element. This fashion stuff is all new to me.

Fangirl fashion has really taken off in the past few years. Why do you think that is?
I think one of the reasons for the rise in popularity of fangirl fashion is smaller brands who are actually making well-designed options. I feel like, when I was growing up, the only nerdy clothing was boxy tees with giant graphics plastered across the front. Now we have so many better options, from fandom leggings to cute geeky jewelry to soft, flattering tops. It’s a lot easier to choose fangirl fashion when there are actually cute choices!

What was the biggest challenge you faced in starting your own business?
My biggest challenge in starting my own business was just knowing what I’m doing. I finally took my first real business class this year after three years of trying to figure everything out as I went. I didn’t know anything about marketing plans or wholesale or inventory management when I started, and it’s been a long process figuring all of that out!

What obstacle in creating your own business have you encountered that you didn’t plan for?
My biggest obstacle has actually been just learning how to run a real business and make sales happen. In my dream world, I can just be nice, and make cool products that people like, and then they’ll buy them, end of story. In real life, business doesn’t work like that. You need to look at conversion rates and pop-up boxes and advertising and web analytics, and I was not prepared for all of that!

What was the best and worst advice you received as you started up Jordandene?
I think the best advice I got when I started was to find a group of other business owners to figure things out with. Having a support group of like-minded people to bounce ideas off of, share research with, and encourage each other is truly one of the most helpful things I ever did. The worst advice I’ve gotten was to spend money on ideas and products I shouldn’t have. People always want to tell you how to run your business, but at the end of the day no one has to pay for your mistakes but you.

What has surprised you the most, be it positively or negatively, as you started up your own business?
I think the thing that’s surprised me the most about running my business is how many cool friends have come out of it. I always knew that I’d be working with a lot of other people (collaborations have been a big part of my business since day one), but I never expected to find so many deep and lasting friendships. I’ve taken road trips across the country, vacations to other states, and been a part of so many important life moments with people I met through the business.

Have you been surprised at how popular Jordandene has become?
Oh god, I’m still surprised every day when a sale comes in that people actually want to buy the things I’m making. I felt like I was living in a dream the first time I was able to go to New York Comic Con three years ago, and that feeling hasn’t changed at all.

What advice would you give to other young women wanting to start their own business?
I’d give other young women the same best advice I ever received: find a group of people to go through your business ups and downs with you and cherish those relationships. Help each other, work together, and use your different skills to make everyone succeed.

Where can we find you online?
Online I’m at www.jordandene.com, and my favorite place to hang out is on Instagram @jordandenenyc. I’m also at Facebook, on Twitter @jordandene, and at Pinterest.

Thanks so much to Jordan for taking the time to talk with me! I hope all of you aspiring fashion designers feel inspired to create your own space in the fashion industry. Don’t forget to check out the other amazing women I’ve spoken with (like Kathleen, author of the upcoming book The Fangirl LifeMari of Sent From MarsGeek Girl Brunch founders and Melificent) in the rest of the series, and stay tuned here every week for another women who proved success doesn’t always come in a cubicle. And if you want to continue the conversation on Twitter, use the hashtag #RealJob. 

It’s Totally a Real Job: Kathleen Smith, Author

it's totally a real job...

In this week’s installment of It’s Totally a Real Job, I’m chatting with Kathleen Smith, a blogger and the author of the upcoming book, The Fangirl Life: A Guide to Feeling All the Feels and Learning How to Deal. If you read Sam Maggs’ The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy, Kathleen’s book should be right up your alley! I’m so happy Kathleen took time out of her schedule to talk blogging, books, and all things geek with us. So without further ado, meet Kathleen!

kathleen

What drew you in to writing, both blogging and writing books? Was it a lifelong dream, or did you just sort of stumble into becoming a book author?

I have a history of freelancing and creating blogs on a whim, but I stumbled into becoming an author. A few years ago I made a deal with myself to try and get rejected every day, so that I could become immune to hearing “no.” One day I emailed a few literary agents to reach my “no” quota, and one of them said “YES.” I still can’t believe it. I ran down the street shouting obscenities.

How is writing a book different from writing a blog?

Writing a book is about showing up. You have no idea whether it’s going to sell, whether it’s funny, or whether it’s going to need a ton of overhaul. With a blog you can more instant feedback, which has its pros and cons. Chances are you’re more likely to stress over things like SEO and social media presence with a blog, so in that sense I find it much harder to focus on content. I like the solitude of writing a book and chipping away at something.

When you started blogging, did you do it hoping one day to transition into writing books, or were you just messing around?

I’ve had blogs since before the word “blog” existed. Many lost Geocities pages. I blogged about not wearing pants for year when I was in the Glee fandom (another story). But I created Fangirl Therapy while I was writing my book. I wanted to give fangirls an opportunity to ask questions about their obsessions and their mental health, and their questions helped me tailor the topics in the book. I think I’ve always had that Frasier Crane complex where I wanted to help people with their problems.

Where did you get the idea for your book?

As a therapist I spend a lot of time thinking about what motivates people and how people change. When I looked at what motivated me, I realized that there is a lot about being a fangirling that could be used for self-help and personal growth. I sat down and starting writing about it for NaNoWriMo, and eventually I had a book!

With books like Sam Maggs’ Fangirl‘s Guide to the Galaxy, the rise of
sites like Her Universe and WeLoveFine, there is a lot of great stuff out there for fangirls. What do you hope The Fangirl Life brings into the lives of fangirls?

I’d like for the book to be a welcomed kick in the butt for young women who want to live the kind of stories they admire in fiction. As fangirls we love to joke about our intense nature, but the reality is that there is enormous potential in our passions. We just have to figure out how to harness it and start conquering like the badasses we are.

In addition to your own blog, you’ve written on several different
sites like Salon and HuffPo. What is your advice to other women
wanting to start a freelance writing career?

Send a bazillion emails. Always be friendly when you get a “no.” Make yourself immune to rejection. I got turned down multiple times at Slate, Salon, and other sites before I found a story that was a good fit for them.

What has been the hardest thing about building a platform and a blog?

Sometimes I do stress about traffic and social media currency. I’m a fangirl, so I have that obsessive personality. I’ve learned that when you have a good idea, your number of followers isn’t that important.

Do you have another book in the works?

I have some ideas I’d love to pursue! Right now my focus is on promoting The Fangirl Life. Also finishing my PhD? My poor dissertation has been so neglected.

What advice do you have for other women wanting to write a book and get published?

Success tends to magnify neuroticism and other personality traits we dislike. It’s wonderful, but it’s not going to make you happier or healthier. Never neglect the real things that make you happy, like scratching a dog’s head, playing board games, or imagining fictional people kissing.

Where can we find you online, and when does your book release?

My site is FangirlTherapy.com. Twitter is @fangirltherapy. My Tumblr is fangirltherapist, if you want to witness my current meltdown over Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. My book is out July 5, 2016, and the full title is The Fangirl Life: A Guide to Feeling All the Feels and Learning How to Deal.

Thanks so much to Kathleen for taking the time to talk with me! I hope you’re inspired to go after ALL THE WRITING DREAMS after reading about her journey. Don’t forget to check out the other amazing women I’ve spoken with (like the Mari of Sent From MarsGeek Girl Brunch founders and Melificent) in the rest of the series, and stay tuned here every week for another women who proved success doesn’t always come in a cubicle. And if you want to continue the conversation on Twitter, use the hashtag #RealJob. 

It’s Totally a Real Job: Mari Ruiz, Founder of Sent From Mars

After taking a week break for Thanksgiving, I’m back with the next installment in the It’s Totally a Real Job series.

it's totally a real job...

This week I’m talking with Mari Ruiz, who is the founder and brains behind the amazing and Geekie Award nominated fashion line, Sent From Mars. Not heard of Mari or Sent From Mars? Chances are good that even if you don’t recognize the name, you’ll recognize some of her work–like her BB-8 inspired bag, her Hedwig-inspired wristlet, or her Boba Fett-inspired bag. Mari’s bags are completely adorable, and are a chic way to bring your favorite fandom into your everyday wardrobe without walking around with a giant logo on your purse. Unsurprisingly, Mari caught the attention of the Geekie Award panel, and was a nominee for the 2015 Geekies. I’m obsessed with purses, personally, and I love the bags you can get at Sent From Mars. I’m so inspired by the way Mari was able to carve such a unique space for herself in the fashion world, and I can’t wait for you all to meet her. So let’s chat with Mari!

Mari Ruiz

What gave you the inspiration to start creating geeky bags? Have you always been interested in fashion design?

Necessity! I love to “wear my heart on my sleeve” surrounding myself with the things that I love! Bags are something I carry daily so they were the perfect item to customize. I have loved adding my own spin on my clothes since I was a kid making outfits for Barbie ; )

How long have you been making geeky bags?

I have been making bags of all shapes and sizes for over 10 years now and have started really infusing them with my geeky passion this year.

You also do a ton of DIY projects. Do you have a favorite DIY that you’ve done?

This is tough! Its definitely a tie between the Real Life Concrete Thwomp and the Giant Yoshi! The Thwomp was a real challenge and was a project I knew I could bring to life without any idea exactly how, he keeps me inspired to test new ideas! And the Giant Yoshi….well….he’s a childhood dream come true! I have been blown away by everyone who has made one of their own and shared their stories with me, this has definitely been the most rewarding!

Were you surprised at how many people loved your bags, or did you expect that there was a big market out there?

I am incredibly excited+surprised+thrilled to see that people are sharing the same passions that I love! Designing is what I truly love to do!

What was the biggest challenge in launching Sent from Mars?

The first step of just going for it!

How long were you planning and dreaming up launching Sent from Mars before you actually launched your shop?

Having my own shop is something I’ve wanted since I was a kid. When I decided to focus on bags the idea finally starting coming to life and it was a few months before I listed my first one!

Do you run your shop and make your bags on your own, or do you have help?

Yes! Right now everything is 100% made by me ; )

What has been your favorite purse design?

Oh this is hard! I’ll go with the Pizza clutch, it was the first geeky bag I ever made, one of my favorite foods (in the top 2!), and inspired by my favorite kind of pizza!

You were nominated for a Geekie this year. What was that experience like? Were you surprised to find that you were a finalist?

I was so surprised to be in the finals! I watched the nominee announcement on a live stream and was so shocked to hear my name, I couldn’t believe it! I had thought of entering for a while and actually submitted my work on the last day so it was even more exciting! The experience was amazing! I made a lot of new friends and was introduced so many awesome people!

Where would you like to see Sent from Mars go in the next few years?

My long term goal is to build a brand : ) The bags are definitely just the beginning for me! I would like to (and am working towards) offering the whole package of clothing and accessories and creating an experience that people can be really excited about!

What has been the coolest thing you’ve experienced since launching your shop?

The feeling that my experience may help someone take the steps towards pursuing their dreams!

What advice do you have for other aspiring fashion designers out there?

Be yourself, do what you love, believe impossible things, and do them!

Thanks so much to Mari for taking the time to talk about Sent From Mars, and I hope it inspires you to start making that crazy dream in the back of your mind a reality. Be sure to check out Mari’s website, grab yourself an amazing bag or two (or ten, I’m not gonna tell you how to live your life) from her Etsy shop, and follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Also, Don’t forget to check out the other amazing women I’ve spoken with (like the Geek Girl Brunch founders and Melificent) in the rest of the series, and stay tuned here every week for another women who proved success doesn’t always come in a cubicle. And if you want to continue the conversation on Twitter, use the hashtag #RealJob. 

It’s Totally a Real Job: Geek Girl Brunch Founders

it's totally a real job...

I’m back with some more amazing, geeky girlbosses! Last week we talked with the fabulous, Geekie Award-winning fashion blogger, Melificent, and this week we’re talking with the founders of Geek Girl Brunch, Jamila, Rachel, and Yissel. GGB has completely exploded recently, with chapters opening up around the world for geeky women to come together, enjoy their shared love of all things fandom and geek, and enjoy some tasty breakfast food. After all, we all know how magical breakfast foods can be.

breakfast-food

More than a regular brunch date, Geek Girl Brunch has proven to be a tight-knit, supportive community that is not only working overtime to support its members, but it also working to help those in the communities surrounding GGB chapters. These women haven’t just started a brunch club, they’ve created a global community dedicated to loving and supporting one another and giving back to their communities. I’m incredibly honored to get to feature them in this series. So let’s get to the interview!

geekgirlbrunch_wasabassco

l-r: Yissel, Rachel, Jamila

 

Kendall: How did you three meet?

Rachel: Shout out to The Way Station! We all met at this awesome bar.

Kendall: What gave you all the idea to launch Geek Girl Brunch?

Jamila: Almost 3 years ago I had brunch with fellow geek blogger Kristin and dubbed it Geek Girl Brunch. It was a blast! We figured the more the merrier, so we invited our other geek girl friends to the next brunch. After a few brunches we tossed around the idea that we wanted to start making Geek Girl Brunch a “bigger thing” and open it up to more geek girls. We didn’t want to keep all of this fun to just our group! We officially launched in NYC in May 2014, but soon enough geek girls all over wanted to be part of the Geek Girl Brunch. Less than a year later we were officially international!

Yissel: At that inaugural group brunch I knew I wanted to see it grow. Jamila was on the same page. Fast forward to our Doctor Who brunch, when Rachel joined us. We ended up being the only three there. By this time I’d already created a shared tumblr for the group, and Jamila had bought a domain. With Rachel onboard and just as eager, that brunch became our first planning meeting. Over the past year, GGB has really exploded. It’s all over the US and even all over the world.

Kendall: Did you all expect it to catch on like it has?

Rachel: No way!

Jamila: Not at all, I’m still blown away by how much it’s grown. But it goes to show that there was a need for an IRL space for geek girls!

Yissel: I think we’re still a little shocked at our growth. It’s a testament to how large a need we’ve been filling.

Kendall: What was the biggest hurdle you all faced with launching GGB? How did  you overcome it?

Rachel: I think we’re still working through our biggest hurdles. GGB got bigger than we ever thought it would, faster than we ever thought it would. We’re basically playing catch-up all the time. We also want to make sure that the decisions we make about GGB are the best decisions we can make, and that we are making all the GGB Brunchettes our priority. Sometimes we all disagree about certain directives or what we think is the most important current project. Communicating openly has really benefitted our decision-making processes..

Jamila: Ditto to everything Rachel said. This is all on a volunteer basis, so our work at HQ, our officers and other Brunchettes who help out all do it because they believe in GGB. Most of us are working or in school and have side projects on top of the Geek Girl Brunch work. Not to mention spending time with family, partners, children and friends! So finding the time to manage it all has been a learning experience for sure. We’re working on sharing the workload more. We have a wonderful community of women who are down to help which is beyond helpful.

Kendall: In founding GGB, what is a mistake or misstep that you made that you wish you could tell your past self (or others trying to create something similar) to avoid?

Rachel: One shared email! Yissel and Jamila can confirm that I have a history of struggle with the GGB emails. I can’t really check it throughout the day. I can get overwhelmed when I go into it in the evenings. I never thought we would deal with the volume of emails we get every day. And at least 75% of those emails are from people who don’t know that we’re just 3 geeks with day jobs. They think we employ whole departments of people!

Jamila: I would have probably recruited more help for GGB HQ sooner. Although we have over 2,000 members and over 60 chapters worldwide, we’re only now getting around to having more HQ positions. My advice would be to make sure as you grow, your workload stays manageable. If you more need help, ask! You’d be surprised at how many people would love to help.

Yissel: Just one?! PACE YOURSELF. Go one step at a time. Research, research, research. Go through all the legal stuff first. We are making-and have yet to make important decisions now, that we should’ve made at the start. GGB has in many ways, become bigger than us. Now we’re having to double back to find solutions to old problems. The thing about starting something like this, is that no one ever tells you how exactly to prepare for it. That’s why we’re still figuring things out. What we were offering, there was overwhelming demand for, so it often feels like we rushed into expansion, before we’d perfected it. I will say, it’s nice to have a growing community of people helping us to do just that.

Kendall: What is one of the most challenging parts of starting a website, business, or a blog?

Jamila: I feel like a broken record but make sure you have the time to dedicate to whatever you’re starting.

Yissel: Finding that niche. What is that you can offer that no one else does? How will you do that? When I started Fashion + Geekery for example, there was no one blogging about high end designers taking inspiration from geek culture, and the resulting collections. Like GGB, it was a simple concept that no one had yet approached.

Kendall: Where would you like to see GGB going over the next five to ten years?

Jamila: I hope to have chapters on all of the continents! Although Antarctica may be a bit difficult.

Yissel: GGB Tokyo. GGB Milan…. Yearly national meetups. #BrunchCon anyone? Brand partnerships would be amazing. Collaborating on capsule collections with fashion and beauty brands… that’s my hope.

Kendall: You guys have also co-founded several other projects. Jamila, you’ve started Straight Outta Gotham and Girl Gone Geek Blog. Yissel, you’ve founded Fashion + Geekery and Rachel you’ve co-founded FireandLunch. Can you all talk about some of the other projects you’ve founded, and how you manage to keep yourself sane when you’ve got so many different projects going at once?

Rachel: FireandLunch is a group that came together via a mutual love of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. We often found ourselves discussing the books over meals hence the name. We organize fan meetups (called Moots in the ASoIaF fandom) and we document all our adventures as fans of ASoIaF. We’ve met so many awesome fellow fans through FireandLunch. It has been very fun and has given us all a chance to really explore our shared fandom.. We also produce a podcast called The FireandLunch PieCast. There are 6 of us so scheduling is our biggest obstacle. We go to events, travel, blog, record and edit a podcast. We can get extremely busy, especially during the viewing seasons of HBO’s Game of Thrones series. We work mostly in email and shared google docs and we try to cycle responsibilities amongst ourselves.

Jamila: Girl Gone Geek Blog was launched in 2010 and it’s where I blog about my geeky obsessions and musings. It’s pretty much what birthed a lot of my other geeky endeavors. Straight Outta Gotham is a Tumblr blog where I curate geeky rap lyrics shared as gifs and memes. It’s a lot of fun, I have bigger plans for it as well. The good thing about Girl Gone Geek and Straight Outta Gotham is that they are my creations and I only answer to myself. So there isn’t pressure to make sure I blog or post frequently if life is hectic.

Yissel: Fashion + Geekery stemmed from a desire to remove the intimidation factor of high end fashion, by demonstrating that designers were geeks too. I suppose I wanted to do the same for the closet geeks among the fashion set, by showing them it’s okay to like this geeky thing.  There are many geek fashion sites out there, but they’re run by geek girls (some fabulous ones at that) that only covered budget to moderate level clothing, without much insight beyond price and availability. What I cover is mostly young designer and designer markets, from the perspective of someone with a background in fashion.  So I will go into detail about inspiration, brand history, fabrication and design development. I wish there was another me to focus on that blog. I’ve devoted so much more time to GGB lately, that I neglect F+G for long periods. Fortunately Jamila had written a post a while back about getting over bloggers guilt that helped me. I’ve learned to forgive myself for not posting often. Rachel has even contributed a post to my blog, offering her insights as an art history major.  I hope to enlist other knowledgeable contributors in the future.

Kendall: What inspired you to create so many different spaces for yourselves on the internet?

Jamila: My blog Girl Gone Geek (although it probably represents me the most) wasn’t the best platform to host some of my other interests. So I made new ones!

Yissel: I wanted to put my BFA in Fashion Design to good use. I saw a need and I wanted to fiil it!

Kendall: Have you dealt with any negativity from starting either GGB or any of your other projects? How have you dealt with it?

Rachel: Negativity comes in many forms. There’s the obvious – people saying things directly to you at an event or on social media or in an email. I try to learn from every experience and do something about whatever it was that made someone have a negative experience. At GGB we have a code of conduct that makes dealing with a lot of things pretty clear cut, but I also allow myself to dismiss feedback if it is obvious trolling or unhelpful. I can’t please everyone and sometimes people are just hateful. I really focus on positive comments. Doing more of what makes the people I’m reaching happy. I think the more insidious kind of negativity is being taken advantage of by other people. When you are starting something new many creators feel pressure to say “Yes” to anything. Any kind of partnership or acknowledgement. But many people out there are just farming you for content or trying to use you as free labor. If it doesn’t match up with your goals for the project, if there isn’t a mutual benefit – say “No”.

Jamila: Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Yissel: Ditto.

Kendall: What advice would you give to other women looking to follow in your footsteps?

Rachel: Starting up a project with your friends can be really hard but really rewarding. So absolutely go for it. Communicate, always! Tell each other when you disagree (I feel like a lot of young women have a hard time telling their friends that they disagree.). But tell each other when they are awesome too! It’s a give and take and it’s cliche but communication is key!

Jamila: Communication, delegation and organization are essential.

Yissel: Don’t underestimate the power of planning. I can’t stress enough that research is an integral part of any venture. It’s also possible to go it alone, but you’ll be grateful for a team. If you get overwhelmed and you need to step away, you’ll have people ready to step in, and the work continues.  Lastly, it so important to network as much as you can, and maintain healthy relationships, because along the way, you WILL be calling in favors! People like Leslie Stewart*, our pixel princess, and a co-founder in her own right  who helped us at the beginning by creating our logo and our website are a prime example of this. Make ALL the friends.

Kendall: Where can we find you all online?

Rachel: Twitter: @DarthRachel, Instagram: Darth_Rachel, and FireandLunch.

Jamila: Twitter & Instagram: @JamilaRowser, as well as  Girl Gone Geek and Straight Outta Gotham

Yissel: Twitter and Instagram: @TheDesignerGeek, Snapchat: TheDesignerGeek, and Fashion Plus Geekery

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Kendall: Anything parting thoughts?

Yissel: A couple times a year, Geek Girl Brunch will host events that the Geek GUYS can attend too! We also launched an initiative a while back called #GGBDoBetter in an effort to promote outreach, to highlight girls that give back to their communities. We also have a page on our site called “Help Beyond Brunch,” to raise awareness of more serious issues that you may feel uncomfortable talking about in a brunch setting. The page offers a list of resources, should you need to reach out for professional help beyond our capabilities.

*Leslie aka Stewie will also be featured in this series. So stay tuned!!!

Thanks so much to Jamila, Rachel, and Yissel for taking time to talk with me. If you haven’t already, check out the Geek Girl Brunch site to see if there is a brunch chapter near you–if there isn’t consider starting one in your area! All the info you’ll need is on the GGB site. Don’t forget to check out the other posts in the series as I continue to talk to amazing women creating a space for themselves, starting businesses, and pursuing creative careers. Be sure to use the hashtag #RealJob to follow along on Twitter!  

It’s Totally a Real Job: Melificent, Blogger

it's totally a real job...

I’ve gotten to meet some amazing women since I’ve started blogging, and one of the coolest women I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with is the lovely Meli from Melificent.com. Meli has managed to create a blog that celebrates her favorite forms of fandom and geekery, but she also brings her signature style in with some amazing and inspiring fashion posts and writes about her newest adventure: parenting (geeky parenting, of course). She’s created a brand and a true community with her readers, and it’s not only inspiring for someone like me who’s also trying to create a brand and community, but seeing her build something and truly succeed is inspiring to anyone who comes in contact with her. Even more awesome, her hard work paid off in October when she was given the Geekie Award for best website and blog. I’m so excited to start off my newest series, It’s Totally a Real Job with her. Meli has been a huge source of inspiration to me in my writing and blogging, and I know she’ll inspire you, too. So without further ado, let’s chat with her!

Melificent
What were your big dreams for Melificent.com when you first started your blog?

That someone would actually read it!
No, seriously – I didn’t know what I actually wanted when I started the blog other than to share. I had always had some sort of blog, whether it was a Livejournal account or a blogspot. At that point in time, I was just using blogs to chronicle my life so starting a “big girl blog” was a little daunting. I also started it without much of a focus, but I always knew I wanted to connect with others – something I had always loved about blogging and the Internet in general.

Did you always have an interest in fashion, or did that develop in time?

I had always loved fashion, playing with patterns and colors, and expressing myself through my wardrobe. I decided to start posting outfits as part of a 30-day challenge a few years ago, and I got such good feedback that I started incorporating them into my blog. Before I knew it, I had a fashion blog!

You recently won the Geekie for Best Website/Blog. Did you ever imagine getting an award like that? 

Not in my wildest dreams!!!! I’ve been blogging for so long, and have worked so hard to make my content original and special, that it was incredible to finally be recognized. When I got the news, I seriously thought I was dreaming (granted, I was on a couple of hours of sleep right after my daughter’s birth). 😉

One of the tough things about starting a blog and website, especially when fandom is involved, is finding your niche. It’s tempting to write about all the things and have a crazy, scattered site. Obviously being a geeky mom came from being pregnant, but even before Luna, how did you manage to settle on a theme and idea for your blog?

This was very tough for me. As I said, I’ve been blogging for a very long time, but I could not just focus on one topic. My blog was everywhere. The biggest criticism I received when asking for advice from other bloggers was that I needed a focus, but I didn’t believe them. Boy, were they right.
One day, I realized that I had ventured down a road that I was unfamiliar with. I felt disingenuous, which was the last thing I ever wanted to be. It was then that I sat down and thought of what I really love and who I really am. That’s when the Melificent you all know and love was born. I’m geeky. I like geeky things. I’m a fangirl. I love fashion. It’s incredible how easily posts are written when you are focusing on something you absolutely love.

Not only have you set yourself up as a reliable voice in “geek chic” and being a geeky mom, you’ve really created a Melificent.com community. What is the thing you want your readers to take away from your site? 

Aw, well thank you!
Most importantly to me, I want to be real. I want to help others, whether it be in superficial ways, like putting together a great outfit, or delving a little deeper, like sharing my experience of loss and growth. I don’t want to present a facade because I feel like that’s too prevalent in the blogging/social media culture. No, my life is not perfect. No, I’m not perfect, but that’s OK.

What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned since starting your site? 

That working hard pays off. No matter if it takes 2 days or 2 years. You will see the payoff.

You also work a “normal” 9-5 in addition to your work on your site, correct? How do you balance a job, a life, and a site? 

I get asked this constantly!
It really isn’t hard work for me, and I attribute that to being a little OCD and anal about scheduling. I have, and always have had, excellent time management skills. My 9-5 is also not necessarily 9-5, which makes it easier for me to keep up with writing posts. I’ve realized that if you love something, you truly will make time for it. I was worried about falling behind when I gave birth to my daughter, but I found it pretty natural to fall into a routine again (aka; blogging during my late night/early morning shifts). I’m sure the same will apply when I have to go back to work after maternity leave. If you want to make it happen, you will.

What mistake did you make in the formative years of Melificent.com that you’d like to help other aspiring creators avoid?

Write about whatever you love. Do not start a blog (or anything for the record) because it seems to be working for other people or is popular. Follow whatever you are passionate about. You will always speak and create from the heart.

If you could impart one piece of advice to others aspiring to follow in your footsteps, what would it be? 

Similar to the above, be yourself. You’ll never go wrong. 🙂

Where can we find you online? 

Facebook, Twitter: @somelificent, Instagram: @melificent, or Pinterest.

Thanks so much to Meli for taking the time to answer these questions. Be sure to check her out on her blog and follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Her OOTD posts alone are worth the follow! Have questions for Meli or other geeky girlbosses I’ll be talking to in the future? Let me know in the comments, or ask me on Twitter with the #RealJob hashtag! I’ll be back next week with another awesome woman talking about her unique path that is totally a real job. 

Introducing “It’s Totally a Real Job”

When I was a kid, I had a dream of being an actor. When my obsession with the Mission Impossible franchise started, I was certain that I would be the first kid actor to be on the franchise…as the youngest villain the IMF had ever seen. It was going to be awesome. I was certain of it. I just knew that, after watching Tom Cruise get to do stuff like this onscreen:

tom cruise

…I just knew that I had to someday live a life where leaping from a mountain face to a precarious outcropping of rock was “just another day at the office”.

For lots of reasons, I didn’t end up becoming a professional actor. I acted in high school, a bit in college, and then I was done. Every now and then I have times where I wish I had really given my all into my pursuits of acting, I don’t think I would have been able to really hack it as a professional actor. Still, the desire to be creative, and to make a space for myself is one that I don’t think I’ll ever shake, which is why I cram ballet classes and writing into a pretty crammed schedule–I love creating.

With women like Sophia Amoruso and Sheryl Sandberg coming on the scene, encouraging women to lean in and become a #girlboss, it’s a pretty empowering time to be a woman making her way in the business world. Still, there are some of us who don’t count “success” as landing a corner office in an 8-5 corporate gig. Some do–and, to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with a traditional, corporate career if that’s your jam–but some want something a bit different. I’ve got more and more friends dropping out of their corporate gigs and starting their own businesses, freelancing, creating, and doing work that not only puts food on the table, but also fills their soul and creativity. That kind of bravery, vision, and creative energy inspires me to no end. Because of that, I decided to start a blog series called “It’s Totally a Real Job”.

it's totally a real job...

In this series, I’m going to be talking to women who have created their own place in the business world by creating their own business or embarking in a geeky/creative career. These women are brave, creative, bold, determined, and super inspiring. I hope that hearing their stories will inspire you to chase after your passions, whatever they may be, and create something beautiful.

I’ll hope you’ll head back here each week to see who I’m talking to and learn about some of the awesome women doing amazing things in the world of business and art.

What are some of your personal goals, and who are some of your biggest inspirations to achieve them? Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and keep the conversation going on Twitter with the hashtag #RealJob.