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.
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.
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 extraordinaire, Jordan, the creator of the amazing Jordandene fashion line, Kathleen, author of the upcoming bookThe Fangirl Life, Mari 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.