Each month we choose a Super Heroines, Etc. member to feature on our blog. This month we chose Lisa Pavia-Higel, a long-time SHE member and one of our fabulous bloggers!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be a Super Heroine.
I’m a professional educator, performer, writer, creator and strategic planning consultant born and raised in St. Louis. During the school year my “day job” is as a Communication faculty member at Jefferson College where I help students learn both public speaking and media literacy skills. .
In the summer, I make and sell geeky jewelry at cons and fairs, work with cosplayers to design custom pieces, and do what I can to support other entrepreneurs, job seekers, and organizations through communication and organizational consulting. I also love to write and perform when the opportunity arises. My husband and I are also currently trying to start a podcast about communication, productivity and more, all through a geeky lens! I am also a mom, my daughter, Sofia, just turned six years old and luckily, is into geekiness too.
As for SHE I got involved when I found the group online through Meetup. It looked really interesting, and I’d been wanting to get more involved with other fantastically geeky folks in the community.
I would say that all the SHE in the Pub events are amazing, but I have to say that last year’s big fundraising event, Drinks & Curios, at TechArtista was the most fun!
What are your TOP nerdy interests?
- Comics – Mostly Marvel and Image
- Podcasts and podcasting – I love Myths and Legends and Pop Culture Happy Hour
- Star Trek/Star Wars – What can I say, I love the classics
- John Scalzi and Patrick Rothfus’s books and their amazing blogs! – Check out Collapsing Empire!
A few of our events are focused on creating crafts and I know you’re really into crafting with your nerdy business, what crafts do you do and what led you to an interest in crafts?
I spent long hours online looking at Cosplay pictures and saying “I TOTALLY WANNA MAKE THOSE,” then I realized that I have exactly zero sewing skills. I could get something together, but it wasn’t fun at all. I also noticed a complete lack of merch for the stuff I really was into like Captain Marvel. On a total lark, I took a class at JoAnn’s on basic jewelry making… I enjoyed it a great deal! That year I made gifts for every person on my Christmas list and started making geeky stuff to share with friends. In total I made about 33 pieces.
What inspired you to launch a craft business?
After that fateful Christmas I got enough good feedback that I decided to try and make some things to sell. I started mostly with natural stone jewelry, but quickly found that market to be wickedly flooded. However, the little fun pendants I had made for my friends were more unique. I started selling at the Arnold Farmer’s Market first, and opened at Etsy store. I got enough traffic to find myself connecting with some cosplayers who needed pieces for their specific costumes (my first commission was for a Loki burlesque set) and my second, two wonderful pieces for our own Fox! Also, I had always wanted to donate money to charitable causes, but never really had the cash. So, I started donating 10% of all my sales to different organizations. I decided to keep doing it until I stopped liking it. I just celebrated my first full year in business.
How do you balance the business of crafting with the fun/enjoyment of crafting?
Phew. That’s a good question! A few things. First, I had to learn when to say no to shows and opportunities. As someone who has a “day job” and a family, my time that I can work on my business is limited. I would MUCH rather be making than working on my Etsy, website, mailing list and such, so sometimes, I don’t. I then try to binge a bunch of those tasks when I have a block of time, mostly in the summer. That means knowing that I am missing out on sales and being okay with that.
I am also a LOT more choosy with where I put my effort. I do better at cons than craft fairs and on Etsy. Those cons are also a lot more fun. I also find that having a looming show keeps me on task. ‘
How does your geekiness influence your craft business?
Since the bulk of my business is to recycle comic book art, and other materials, it influences everything I do. It’s also something I find makes the people that buy from me awesome. When you can finally give someone something that represents something that gives them life, it’s an awesome moment. I had one little girl tell me all about how Ms. Marvel helps her get through being an oddball at her High school. Another told me how a special Frozen necklace I made for her autistic daughter made the little girl break out in song. My niche is really in representing the geeky fandoms that don’t get as much love as other properties. I also work hard to make sure that I have a broad range of representation so that any customer who comes to my table sees someone with whom they can identify. That social justice orientation and the donation aspects of what I do, are also, I think, thanks to all that starry eyed, optimistic science fiction I grew up with.
What advice would you give to women wanting to start their own craft business or just get into a new craft for fun?
Oh dear… Let’s start with the business part.
Focus – A lot of crafters do two things wrong. First, they try too many things at once. They like doing a little of everything and assume the more, the merrier. That’s not the case. For example, I love making gemstone jewelry, but so does everyone else. That doesn’t mean I had to give it up. I still make that stuff by special order, and for friends and family, but when I’m going out to sell, I focus on one aspect, my fandom stuff. That doesn’t mean you can’t diversify, but make sure everything meshes. Also think about your “USP” or unique selling proposition. What makes your products extra special? Work on that until it’s a one to two sentence statement.
Keep track of stuff – Craft stuff tends to pile up and clutter a space. You need to be at least a little organized. The less time you spend on finding that one tool, or your supply of beads, the more you can produce. Your labor is key when deciding if your business is viable.
Decide where to sink your time – pick craft fairs, shows, and cons carefully. Spending two long days talking to strangers is exhausting. Just sitting quietly behind your work may get you some sales, but you’ll do better if you are in an environment where you want to interact. These events are often overwhelming for buyers as well, so it’s easy for them just to walk by your awesome stuff.
You will also want to decide how much time to sink into an online presence. Etsy is a constant debate crafter circles. Mine is currently empty because I’ve been going to a lot of Cons and selling out of things. However, one of the most common questions I get is “do you have an Etsy or a website?” so I can safely say that it’s key to have an online presence. If you are just going to go the online route realize you’re going to have to market the snot out of your stuff and keep it constantly updated. You also need to decide if your price point matches better with fairs and festivals, art shows or online stores. If you are a quilter, and you want to sell quilts, many fairs, festivals, and even online etsy-type platforms are going to frustrate you since quilts often represent thousands of hours of work. While you can grouse extensively about the fact that people don’t want to pay what that work is worth, that won’t sell quilts. So, post a few high-end quilts, and make it clear that you can do wonderful work by commission to match fabrics, design scheme’s etcetera. Offer design services and consultations to further build the value. However, these will likely never sell. What will sell, are item that you can make for 10-50 dollars. These smaller pieces can showcase your stuff and make more people getting your work in their hands. I love and adore my Katwise sweater gauntlets. They were in the 20 dollar range. Someday, I will be able to buy one of her epic sweaters that run for upwards of 300. You have to know what your market will tolerate.
Now, for those just into crafting for the fun of it!
If you just want to get into a craft for fun, thank you! Too many of us are monetizing our hobbies. This adds stress, which is exactly the opposite of what a hobby should be! So don’t feel awful if you just do something that other people think is a waste of time.
To get into a new crafting hobby, you have, be okay with sucking! Buy cheap materials for you to mess up beyond recognition. Pinterest can be fun to gawk at, but if it makes you feel inadequate, shut it down. Take an introductory class if you can (I know I learn better by in-person class rather than through YouTube), or find a friend who can teach you. Then, practice. I got a lot of my skills by sitting in front of the TV watching Star Trek reruns and practicing wire wrapping.
That said, a lot of geeks hate not doing something for some productive reason. If that’s you, consider a charitable outlet for your output. You can donate products to all sorts of organizations who would love to have your work to give to their clients, or use to raise funds!
For both groups, remember, this stuff is supposed to be fun. You might not always like doing the same thing. Give yourself permission to stop doing it, or do to something else. If a craft or hobby starts eating your life, step away from Pinterest and just read a book.
Author: Carolyn Noe
Carolyn is the Founder & Executive Director of Super Heroines, Etc. She is a recent transplant to Cincinnati and lives with her husband and her dog. She regularly nerds out about Parks & Rec, Firefly, and Pride & Prejudice.