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Meet the Maker – Beth of Wilde Designs: geeky greatness & fandom fun!

I am excited to kick off the week showcasing one of my favorite geeky girls & fandom makers, Beth of Wilde Designs! On top of creating a huge variety of goodies for all sorts of fandoms, Beth also have a really cool blog that geeks of all genres will enjoy, from cosplay galleries to fandom facts, her blog is one of my favorites to read!

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First up, tell readers all about yourself! Hobbies, location, interests, any degrees or job history that may help them relate to you if you want.

I’m a graphic designer both by education (I have a BFA from Texas Woman’s University) and by profession since that’s my day job. It also figures heavily into the things I make in my shop since I love to have a healthy dose of shirts and posters and other hand-designed goods along with the handmade. It’s all visual art to me, and it’s all fun in different ways.

I’m also a through and through Texan. I’ve lived her all my life except for a couple of years in Ohio. It’s a strange dichotomy in some ways because I’m pretty liberal, but I still really love my home state. I’m glad that I grew up here and that I’m getting to raise my son Pike (he’s six now!) here as well. We live in Denton, so we’ve got great local businesses and a lot of people interested in moving the community forward. It’s a beautiful thing.

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dragon scale earrings for GoT fans

When did you first begin creating jewelry and art?

I was too young when I started drawing and stringing beads onto whatever I could get my hands on to be entirely sure. I’ve always had a bit of the entrepreneurial bug. When I was around nine, I started calling my “company” Liz (short for my full name, Elizabeth) and selling super random items to my family. By high school I had refined things a little, and I sold stretchy bracelets in our team colors – under the table, of course, since we weren’t allowed to do that in school. I even made jewelry and buttons for Los Bastardos, the Rocky Horror Picture Show shadowcast my husband was on when we met. Eventually I realized that  not only was making and selling things something I could do but that I had already been doing it. That took some of the terror out of starting Wilde Designs.

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What initiated your interest in fandoms?

Part nature, part nurture. I grew up watching Star Wars and Star Trek, and I wanted to be a paleontologist when I grew up. When my best friend and I played, we pretended. Basically, I’ve always been an imaginative geek who loves enthusing about her geeky stuff with others. The advent of the internet in our household (we got our first taste of that as I was starting high school) opened up whole new worlds for me.

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You make a wide range of geeky goods – when did you first begin to combine your love of fandoms and your creativity?

I always have in art. If you look at my sketches and projects from high school, Xena pops up quite a few times. Then I started writing fan fiction, and it was officially part of my writing. I realized eventually that I could do the same thing with the jewelry I made. It seems incredibly obvious in retrospect, but the idea of sharing my passions in that way didn’t strike me for years. I never really stopped to consider how many other people were just as excited about all my dorky passions as me.

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What is your favorite fandom/video game?

While I love gaming, I’m not a hardcore gamer girl. My sister probably takes the cake for gaming in our family. That said? When I have the time, I love to play World of Warcraft, Sims, and my friends recently talked me into purchasing Dream Daddy. Yes, I know, but it really is adorable. As for fandoms in general, I remain forever loyal to Star Wars and Xena, plus I’m adding new things all the time like Doctor Who (I didn’t start watching until “new” Who, though I’ve since watched a lot of the classics), Marvel (especially the cinematic universe, and especially Avengers and X-Men), and horror of many flavors and types, plus a healthy dose of fantasy and scifi in general.

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What are your thoughts on the new female Doctor?

I’ve put some real thought into it. Part of me is a purist and wonders if it’s being done arbitrarily just to do it. Most of me hopes that it really has been done because they cast for the very best person in the world for the job (which is how I think EVERYTHING should be hired for) and she’s it. I honestly won’t know how I feel about it or her until I see her on screen. I judge the Doctors as I get to know them not by their age or gender, so time will tell. Hearing all the hate that is based not on her ability or performance and only on her gender makes me really, really want her to be amazing.

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There is a huge community around geeky goodness – as a maker, how do you tap into that & build connections? (maybe use this as an opportunity to plug the geek girl pen pals or comic cons?)

Conventions are my absolute favorite way to grow my connections – admittedly, not just as a seller, but as a person. I love cons. I attended my first one for X-Files when I was around 11, and I’ve been going as often as I’m able ever since. Now when I go, I’m often selling, which is a whole new world. Talking to customers in person has been, even for an introvert like me, a really great experience overall. We chat, we geek out over things, and sometimes they buy something. I also get the chance to meet new sellers who are into the same things. Getting advice from other people in the con circuit has been an invaluable help to me not just for convention selling but for my business in general. I have a truly fantastic network of people behind me – and a lot of them are total geeks! Through one of my oldest geeky friends, Halo, I even ended up being on the planning committee for the Women of Wonder Con, which has been challenging and rewarding and a totally new thing for me.

​Do you make all your own cosplay costumes?​

No. I’m a gatherer. I thrive on finding the pieces I need on Amazon or in thrift shops or finding a great deal on a pre-made piece that will work perfectly. I often create the accessories from scratch, however. I have a particular fondness for making things out of foam and duct tape.

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​What/who has been your favorite thing to cosplay as? ​

Black Widow was my first “big” cosplay. I had done Dr. Horrible before, but I didn’t sweat the details quite as much as I did for Black Widow. I went all out for that one, and I even lost weight to feel more comfortable in the costume. Even though I’ve put together some fabulous new cosplays since then, I think she’ll always have the biggest place in my heart both because it was such a big undertaking for me to get the confidence to portray her and because the reception I got was overall so positive.

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Do you have any advice or tips for makers who want to begin selling at cons?

While we all want to hide behind our booths and not look up sometimes, it’s important to connect with people. Say hi, chat with them, and make a connection. Even if it doesn’t lead to a sale immediately, it might long-term, and it will definitely make you and the customer happier. The second thing that’s key is making use of the people around you. Talk to other sellers, look at their goods. If you love their display, say so. Ask questions and exchange cards. When you need a quick break to go to the bathroom later in the day and you’ve already been talking comics with the person next to you, it’s a lot easier to ask them to keep an eye on your goods.

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​Your entire family is in on the geeky-love – what is your son’s favorite video games/TV shows?

My son can’t get enough Overwatch and World of Warcraft right now. He’s also a big Minecraft fan. Our whole family watches Steven Universe and Adventure Time together – we even cosplayed as Rose Quartz, Greg Universe, and Stevonnie earlier this year. I’m so glad he’s got the geek bug too so we can all have fun with it together!

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​And a serious question to wrap up this interview – Star Trek or Star Wars?

Both. Star Trek (the original series) came first for me, but in the end I probably have a deeper obsession with Star Wars.

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Isn’t Beth & her geeky gang so fun?! You can visit Beth’s shop here, and be sure to follow her on Instagram & Facebook because she is constantly posting fun geeky games, conversation starters and of course peeks at new products!

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3 Ways to Market your Online Shop – Offline

I work directly with a lot of makers, and often they are struggling to get their online shop found. They make Facebook pages, Instagram accounts, start blogs, and even join eleventy million groups for entrepreneurs, buying and selling, and all things crafty – but they still struggle to drive traffic to their online store.

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Some of the most impactful things I have done to grow Lu & Ed online has nothing to do with wi-fi, computers, or social media. Those things were done outside of my home, away from my laptop & face to face with other humans – and I want to share some ways you can leverage offline marketing to grow your online shop, too!

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Vendor Events

Craft shows, exhibitor events, markets, pop up shops, even weekly farmer’s markets – setting up shop for local in-person sales is a HUGE way to grow your brand in an affordable way while generating revenue.

There is typically a cost involved with setting up – the booth fee or vendor fee. Keep in mind, the higher the price, while intimidating, typically means the event is better promoted, in a good venue with lots of traffic, and brings in higher quality wares which means established sellers with wide audiences are most likely the vendors. The better the vendors, the better the event, so a higher cost is typically a really good thing and should not deter you from trying an event.

In order for in-person events to be successful, you need to have a visually appealing display, which can also involve costs to get props to properly display your wares, but these are tax deductible and you will use them for DOZENS of events so the ROI is very high on them! But before you head to IKEA and whip out the check book, keep in mind: Most displays for craft shows can be found at thrift stores or garage sales for very cheap, often less than $10, and can be spiffied right up with a coat of paint that matches your brand colors & given a new life as your display. My entire display cost less than $30! My table cloths are colorful sheets I found for less than $1 each, my tables were gifts from family, the shutters and shelves and racks all cost less than $5 total. So I cannot recommend visiting various thrift shops locally to find pieces to tie into your displays!

Ready to learn more about events? Read my article 20 Tips for Craft Shows to get more info on what you can do to make an event a success, including scouting events, building your display and what to take with you on the day of the event!

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Get Involved in your Community

Join your local small business association, join a local moms group, teach a class at your local library or community center, join a yoga class, go to a weekly event a venue near you hosts. Get out of your house, get offline and go meet real people in your area.

I cannot stress enough the importance of being active locally to grow your online business. I’m in no way advocating telling everyone you meet about your business – please, don’t.

I’m advocating creating meaningful connections within your community. Get active. Meet people. Make authentic connections with other humans. Find people you relate to & get to know them – strike up conversations with people at the coffee house, volunteer at the animal shelter, join a class at your local college doing something you love, go to yoga in the park,. Find something you love to do, and connect with other people who love to do that as well.

For instance, I started a moms group here. I am also a member of a local home school group for my son. This has been an invaluable resource for me. Connecting with moms gives me a sense of belonging, helps me decompress when my online shop stuff stress me out – but also, spending time with people who happen to be my target audience has brought me numerous sales & even a wholesale opportunity from play date acquaintances and word of mouth! In any group setting the “what do you do” question comes up – and if you have perfected your elevator pitch, that is when you can create ties within the community that will revibrate points of contact back to you.

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The Spider Web Affect

Think of community involvement like a spiderweb. You are at the center of it, and every connection you make is a string that works to the outer circle. All of the connecting strings are people that they know, that knows someone else, that knows someone else. Every string you create, the bigger your web gets. Every time you pluck a string (initialize discussion about your online shop, products or what you do with a connection) the entire web connected to that string vibrates. It creates a ripple effect, with more and more people learning about your online shop & what you do through word of mouth and referrals.

Word of mouth is still considered one of the most valuable forms of marketing, and you can tap into that goldmine by becoming active in your local community & making authentic connections with other humans. This is not about telling people about your business. This is about creating a real connection, maybe even making friends, referring people to the connections you make, and strengthening community ties! A rising tide lifts all ships, and all that!

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Teach or Volunteer

One of the best ways to get your business out there is to share it! Here are some examples of how to use your trade skills to grow your online business while generating revenue or donating your time:

Jewelry makers: teach a simple workshop teaching Girl Scouts or home school children to make bracelets. Send the finished works home in bags with a coupon for your shop!

Potters: have a thumb print ornament making work shop. Have your other items out on display and let people know that they are available for purchase, or say maybe if they make a purchase they can make a second ornament for free. Get creative!

Toy makers: host an art hour for children at your local library. Put together goodie bags for the moms with your business info & a coupon, perhaps a small sample.

Artists: offer a wine & painting/creating session for women, and have an art print sale going during the event!

Fiber arts: offer basic skill classes at your local community center, and have finished products available for sale. In everyone’s kits, include promotional materials for your shops.

Clothing: put together a “party” at a local venue where people can shop your goods, try them on, and receive a swag bag with jewelry, gift cards, etc in it from local or other handmade businesses. Make it a fancy, exclusive event like those legging parties (you know the ones!) with food, fun & best of all, YOUR clothing! This would be a great way to collaborate with other local businesses to borrow their venue – maybe a jewelry boutique or a winery would be willing to let you host a party at their establishment and market it to their customer base.

Homework: set goals today!

Don’t put it off! Set some goals today – make a list of things you think you would like to do to grow your business offline. Then research ways to make those a reality, and start making some phone calls, turning in show applications or signing up for local events!

I would love to hear from you in the comments – how do you feel about growing your online business offline? Does it make your uncomfortable, or is it something that you are excited to try? If you already are active offline, share how in the comments, too!

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St. Patrick’s Day Giveaway Winner’s Announced!

Happy Sunny-day friends! I hope you all have had a great week and a restful weekend so fine. First thing this morning, I dove into drawing names for the huge, awesome, rainbow giveaway – hooray! I was so excited to draw names and see who won!! This giveaway has been my favorite yet and I loved all the prizes so much, so I know all the contestants must be just as excited to see who won what!

Without further ado, here is the prizes & their winners! I have contacted all sponsors, so if you are a winner, be sure to keep an eye on your email inbox for an email from the maker of your prize to collect shipping info! 🙂

Erika Watkins

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Rainbow Mega Monster by Lu & Ed 

Tara Peterson

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Leprechaun Hair Clip or Headband (winner’s choice!) by Elle Bee Accessories

April Proveaux

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Green Baby Shoes by By Mindy

Tiffany

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Child Size Rainbow Clouche Hat by Knits for Love

Kashmir Campbell

Do something AWESOME today mug & 4 pack of cards by Big Hugs, Little Envelopes

Valerie Moore

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Monster Garland by Lisa’s Little Monsters

Heather Kallinger

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Custom Family Names Rainbow Heart by Selena Ashley Design

Holly Cothran

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St. Patrick’s Day Hair Clips by Three Little Snowflakes

Sarah Piccari

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Rainbow Adult Hat by Melli’s Yarn Works

Jessica McIlvenny

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Unicorn Pretend Play Mask by De Boop Shop 

PJ Halliwill

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Majestic AF mug by Rainy Day Geekery

Reina Trumpet

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Green St Patrick’s Day Monster by Pink Sprinkles Plush

Elizabeth Bloomquist

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Rainbow Stacking Toy by Outside Everywhere

Woohoo! Congratulations to all the winners! Yay! You guys are some lucky duckies and won some amazing prizes!

If you didn’t win this round – no worries!

You can still shop the sponsor’s online stores (all are linked under their pictures!) & I have another big giveaway (AND sale!!!!) coming up for my 7 year Envyversary in April! Can you believe it has been SEVEN years since I launched my online shop? It’s been a crazy, amazing, wildly wonderful ride, and I couldn’t have done it without you guys! So stay tuned for the huge 7 year celebration! Mucho smoocho!