Today I am SUPER excited to introduce the very first instalment of Living YOUR Creative’s feature – Coffee with Creatives – where I profile amazingly creative people and the amazingly creative things they do! Today, I’d like to introduce you to Lara. Lara is an old colleague and friend of mine who opened up her Etsy shop, Level Up Nerd Apparel (LUNA), filled with crocheted goods & patterns for nerds at heart, in October of 2012. When I came across her shop, I immediately knew I wanted to profile her. Check our her goodies below – I LOVE her stuff! Ok, I could go on, but let’s hear more from Lara herself!
Ok, let’s set the stage. You and I are sitting down for coffee. What are you drinking?
I would order a chai tea latte, since I don’t like coffee. After getting a pretentious eyebrow raise from the barista, who informs me that this establishment only serves fair-trade, shade-grown, bird-friendly coffee, I order the least coffee-y drink that still qualifies as coffee, a caramel mocha frappuccino with extra whipped cream. (This is one of many reasons I love Lara!)
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
I’m a grad student, doing a PhD in Zoology and Wildlife Conservation. I’m researching how to freeze ovaries from wild species and how it affects the development of the eggs afterwards. When I’m not doing that, I can usually be found crocheting in front of Netflix, watching something extremely nerdy more often than not (you can’t watch Firefly too many times).
How did you come start your Etsy shop?
I taught myself to crochet about 5 years ago because I was looking to pick up a new hobby, and one hook seemed easier to deal with than two needles. Two years ago, after I crocheted a viking helmet beanie for my boyfriend, his friend suggested I start selling them. I really didn’t think people would be interested in my products, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try – I could always guilt trip my friends and family into buying a couple of things. Because of my geeky side, I wanted to create a nerdy line of accessories, something different from the boring beanies and scarves your grandma would make. Thus, Level Up Nerd Apparel was created. I opened my Etsy shop in late October 2012, which was so much easier and stress-free than I would have ever thought it could be. I immediately got a couple of orders, then got swamped over the holiday season – I had no idea that so many strangers would be willing to buy my products! I decided this was definitely an adventure worth pursuing, and haven’t looked back since.
What do you love about having your own online business?
I love the flexibility my shop gives me. I can have as many or as few products as I wish, adjust the prices to my needs, and set my processing time to what works for me and my work load. I’ve also learned so much about business and commerce just from experience; I take great pride in the fact that I’ve created a successful business all on my own.
What is the hardest thing about it?
Other than dealing with taxes? Ironically, one of my biggest challenges is to not make my shop too big or successful. If I dedicated myself 100% to LUNA, I think I might be able to make it a viable full-time job within a year or two. However, I have a great academic career as well that I’m not interested in giving up at the moment, so finding the right balance between my research and my shop can be difficult at times, as well as slowly expanding my product line without creating too much demand that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with.
What is one piece of advice you wish someone had given you before starting your shop?
To be prepared for a resounding success! That first peak season really took me by surprise, I would have prepared myself differently if I had even expected to have a steady stream of orders. Also, proper bookkeeping can be a life saver – I’m still getting used to that!
Where do you see LUNA heading in the future?
Who knows! I’m currently working on expanding my collection to include more mittens and scarves, as well as other tv/video game/comic book universes. It might be something I will always do on the side, or it might become a full-time job. All I know is, you haven’t seen the last of Level Up Nerd Apparel!
Living YOUR Creative is all about inspiring people to be creative. What does it mean to you to ‘Live YOUR Creative?’
Living MY Creative is waking up in the middle of the night and fumbling to find a pen and paper to write down a genius idea for a nerdy accessory. It’s spending hours unravelling your newly finished crochet project because you know you can make it better and more detailed. Sometimes, it’s pulling out that half-finished project from the bottom of your work-in-progress pile, because you will NOT to be defeated by a stupid mitten that refuses to look like you imagined it in your mind. But most importantly, it’s the look on your friend’s face when you show them you have created a hat that looks exactly like their favorite character.