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AMA: I'm John, the founder of Geekify - a workshop, mad scientist's lab, and company dedicated to bringing great ideas to life. We just launched a Last Unicorn Kickstarter, too! Hit me with your questions!

Geekify Inc
Oct 12, 2017

(Note: bear was summarily eaten after the photo was taken. He felt no pain though)

Five and a half years ago, I founded Geekify Inc, a company dedicated to bringing new and interesting projects to life. We specialize in making unique replicas, tablet and eReader covers, costumes, geek toys and shwag, and lately, have been working with a variety of companies building their merchandise lines. Originally an Etsy store, we've since worked with ThinkGeek, Topatoco, the Tinker's Pack and Patrick Rothfuss, Espionage Cosmetics, the creators of The Last Unicorn, movie studios, and a handful of game development companies to expand and grow their offerings.

Our workshop is home to musical Tesla coils, jars of ferrofluid, sewing machines, laser cutters, 3D printers, vinyl plotters, CNC routers, and more. Our staffers are free range and cruelty-free, and spend their days frolicking and making cool stuff. 

We just launched a Kickstarter campaign for The Last Unicorn to do a tarot deck, headed by a team of amazing artists, and we have a ton more cool stuff in the pipeline - keychains, plushes, scarves, accessories, mugs, posters, and more!

Our websites and social media:

http://www.geekifyinc.com

https://www.facebook.com/GeekifyInc/

https://geekifyinc.tumblr.com/

https://twitter.com/GeekifyInc

https://www.instagram.com/geekifyinc/

And of course, the Kickstarter link:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/geekifyinc/the-last-unicorn-tarot-and-oracle-deck

Looking forward to your questions!

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Conversation (41)

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Thank you all for your questions! We're happy to field any other ones you've got, either here or by direct message. We love meeting fans and fellow creators, so drop us a line any time, and help geekify the planet!

Oct 12, 7:59PM EDT0

Because you've gone to all these awesome conventions, you must have seen a lot of cool costumes. 

What is your favorite female cosplay costume? Inquiring minds want to know.

Oct 12, 4:58PM EDT0

Oh man, too many to count! Ladies are really good at the cosplay scene. This was the friend who got me into cosplay, the legendary Christina Estrada.

Aside from that one, there've been way too many to count. We've seen Princess Zeldas, Asukas from Evangelion, Mary Poppins, Harley Quinns, Khaleesis...so many, across such a huge spectrum. With 15-30 conventions a year, you see everything a little bit of everything, and a lot of some things.

At WonderCon I think it was, I saw a stunning Moana! We've seen tons of Reys from Star Wars, a few Morticia Adams, the full range of Disney Princesses (and a kickass Ursula too). I love love love seeing the unique and super rare cosplays that people haven't done before, or for things that are really obscure that only a few people will get. I really loved seeing Unity from Rick and Morty, and I always have a soft spot in my heart for fem Sheps from Mass Effect.

**Super secret company Easter Egg - if you ever come to our booth dressed in a Portal costume of any kind, we give you a 3D printed companion cube. **

We often post convention pictures on our Facebook page 

https://www.facebook.com/GeekifyInc/

if you want to see some of the amazing costumes we've seen!

Last edited @ Oct 12, 5:30PM EDT.
Oct 12, 5:27PM EDT0

I'm so proud of you, Johannes! Can we get a pic of you riding the last unicorn into the sunset? With her consent given, of course?

Oct 12, 4:25PM EDT0

Eh, close enough!

Oct 12, 4:31PM EDT1

Where do you get that Gummy Bear?

I want ONE !! LOL 

I'm doing a Kickstarter campaign too. Here is 

And one question how do you manage your time? And your Team Activities?

I'm using Zoho projects to Schedule the activities, but sometimes people don't understand me. 

Oct 12, 3:24PM EDT0

I got it at Vat19 , after seeing perhaps the coolest music video ever!

https://www.vat19.com/video/26-pound-party-gummy-bear

A friend had never celebrated a birthday before when he was growing up, so for his 25th birthday we rented out the roof of a bar in Denver and I brought in a Party Bear.

That's a neat campaign! I really love the art styles you guys use on your images and videos!

Productivity Tools:

I really am not as organized as I should or could be, but more tools mean more things to check, and further detract from time. I hear people using Slack and Asana, but mostly I/we stick to the Google suite. We use Google Hangouts, Google Drive / Docs, Google Calendar, and a few other tools. Managing time can be difficult because sometimes when you dig into a project, you find all these other preliminary chickens that have to come before the egg, so an employee might need a particular art design cut on the vinyl plotter or laser cutter, which means resizing the files, but that means double checking the dimensions against the original, which leads to learning that there are variations in the device types which means I have to confirm the model with the customer, which means an email and a wait for a response before I can even do a particular task. Most of the past year, we've been aiming to streamline things considerably, with more or less better results. Identifying bottlenecks and pain points is key for optimizing production!

My life is a flurry of sticky notes and text files. Is it scalable?...probably not. But it works for now, till my team someday tells me it doesn't any more.

Last edited @ Oct 12, 4:17PM EDT.
Oct 12, 4:12PM EDT1

Can you give me 5 reasons as to why you choose crowdfunding to launch your product?

Oct 10, 1:03AM EDT0

Good question!

1) Community building - We now have 1,100 backers and that's a lot of potential feedback and sources of new ideas. As a projects workshop, we love getting new inspiration and knowing what the fans want, so we now have access to over a thousand passionate fans that want to participate and collaborate.

2) Funding - This is always a pretty big component, and usually a key reason why most people choose to go with crowdfunding. Selling things on pre-order or even soliciting donations can give you a huge boost for a project you are super passionate about but potentially resource-strapped because of. Lessening that financial burden and freeing you up to do what you do best - create! - goes a long way to helping improve your project and get it out there into the world. 

3) Gauging Interest -Nothing validates an idea like successful sales. You can really assess just how much the market likes your idea with a crowdfunding campaign, when people are putting their money where their mouths are, especially on a sight-unseen kind of basis. It's a kind of market research that costs very little, and potentially yields a lot of useful data for you.

4) Accountability - Admittedly, we start a *lot* of projects and some of them take a long time to complete. It's easy to lose focus, or to get sidetracked by more interesting or engaging projects. Having a crowdfunding campaign, we're putting our name and reputation on the line, and keeping our backers up to date means that we have to make sure we're really on our A-game for sticking to our production goals and timelines. 

5) Prestige - We weren't expecting so much success from this project, and we've had people reaching out from all kinds of places - blogs, podcasts, retailers, and even the creator himself offering to lend his support. We can now say as a company that we have had a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised over $100,000 , and that can look really good when approaching new clients or when starting new projects in the future. Plus, we feel like total badasses for it!

Oct 11, 6:13PM EDT0

How do you market your ideas and where?

Oct 9, 9:54PM EDT0

Word of mouth usually does wonders for us. We get out to conventions all over the country - Comic Con, Wizard World, Anime Expo, WonderCon, Fan Expo, and a number of others (we're still wanting and waiting to get into DragonCon, if anyone has any connections!). Our booth is pretty unique both in terms of offerings, and that most of what we do are pre-orders and custom commissions. People go nuts for our stuff when they see it, and we get all kinds of neat custom requests.

Aside from that, we usually do a pretty good job with SEO, as well as running ads with Facebook and Google, and occasionally through Project Wonderful to get some traction with webcomics. We do some blogs, and we've got our social media with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but we don't really do a ton of marketing in the sense of "buy now, save a lot, here's our new products!"...and we probably should. Most of the time, we let the internet discover our new stuff without having to be too vocal with it. 

Oct 10, 12:18AM EDT0

Are you all kids at heart and what is your professional background?

Oct 9, 5:09AM EDT0

Pretty much! 

I studied English and Computer Science at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and worked in IT for a handful of years at a print shop, VMWare, IBM, and Imation. I've always liked pursuing new hobbies on the side, so I made a career of it. I worked for three and a half years at a full-time job while I managed and ran things from my desk nearby, with my staff filling orders, and me dashing in during lunch breaks and after hours to do anything onsite I could do. 

The rest of our staff has a mixed background. Cody grew up in haunted houses and loves monsters and the creepy (she would be an Addams if she could). Kat is an Olympic level shooter and regularly takes leaves to go shoot rifles and shotguns in competitions all over the country. Ania (our latest recruit) is a craftsy gal we poached from Michaels and who loves running D&D campaigns and listening to the McElroy Brothers, and Mike does a lot of automation, programming, 3D work, and database administration for a few other clients too. So long as the job is getting done, we're pretty casual. Even our landlord is a very chill guy, and drops by to chat with us regularly and tell us stories.

Oct 10, 12:23AM EDT0

What advice would you give to anyone else looking to create their first crowdfunding project?

Oct 6, 11:49PM EDT0

I answered a similar question down below, but here's something for the first-timers - hope for the best, and prepare for the worst. 

Crowdfunding is an incredibly rough scene sometimes. You will probably fail to successfully complete your first campaign, or maybe even your first several, just based on some possible rookie mistakes, asking too much, maybe not the right time or place, or how you present your Kickstarter.

Kickstarter backers nowadays want a lot of transparency, they want high production value in their campaigns, and they want everything to the letter of what you explicitly stated. They can be very quick to call campaigns that are behind schedule (which most are) as liars, and cheats, and scams. Keep that line of communication open and be as transparent as you possibly can. If you're successful, give yourself more time to fulfill things than you think you need, by a wide margin. There's an excellent article here on some of the numbers:

https://www.kickstarter.com/fulfillment

The best world scenario is not always making 10,000% more than you ask for, either! Glowforge is an excellent example of a product and project that raised vast sums of money, but because they were accustomed to being a small company, not a large one, had all kinds of growing pains and headaches in scaling. You can be a victim of your own success, and more money can mean more problems. Already in our campaign, we're having a few people fussing at us because of a few mistakes we made but can't fix in the campaign. Be aware that you are now effectively handling customer support for whatever number of people are backing your project, for both better *and* worse. Don't be afraid to seek help, if you wind up in this kind of position; keeping community goodwill can be far more valuable than whatever you spend in time and resources with having outside people assist in fulfillment. 

Have fun with it! Have a thick skin, understand that Kickstarter can sometimes validate your ideas in the marketplace (but even if your campaign fails, it might not be the idea itself that had issues), and just see it as another way of testing your limits, your goals, and refining some of your processes and projects. There are a lot of ways to become disenchanted with, disgruntled by, or frustrated because of crowdfunding, but remember that you're creating something new, and ideas and projects aren't born in a vacuum. Embrace that community spirit!

Oct 10, 12:41AM EDT0

Can you share a link to your facebook, twitter, website please?

Oct 6, 7:59AM EDT0
Oct 6, 12:42PM EDT0

Is crowdfunding just about money or are there other benefits?

Oct 6, 6:20AM EDT0

Crowdfunding is a great way to get donations, pre-orders, and pledges, but for u, we really enjoy getting to know the community. Since we are a company of geeks, making things for geeks, we really like to know our audience and stay in touch, and build those connections. We're always looking for new projects to work on, and having fans tell us the things they want to see helps us determine what we'll make next. The Kickstarter we're launching is partly to sell products, and partly to let the fans know that we're here to stay and have lots of amazing things coming down the pipeline. Sometimes it can lead to new collaborations and projects too!

Oct 6, 12:41PM EDT0

What was the biggest hurdle that you had to overcome so far and how did you solve it and what did you learn from it?

Oct 6, 6:04AM EDT0

I've got two answers for this one:

Client -facing: Don't bite off more than you can chew! If you promise your client something, you'd better be sure you can deliver it. Always try to exceed expectations, but make sure to set reasonable expectations to begin with. There's always that potential for client hell where the project just keeps devolving and nobody is happy, or you wind up in a situation where you have to do and deliver the impossible. Those can really take their toll. 

Internal: Be very careful in the people you accept into your work place as hires. In an environment such as ours, personality clashes can be deadly (well, metaphorically). We try to foster creativity and collaboration, and toxic people and negative emotions can really hamper the creative spirit, which kills our inspiration, lessens our drive, and takes away the magic. We've had a lot of people in our studio over the years, and juggling personalities and skill sets can be difficult. 

Last edited @ Oct 11, 6:20PM EDT.
Oct 11, 6:20PM EDT0

What important lesson have you learnt from using crowdfunding so far?

Oct 6, 5:02AM EDT0

There's a *lot* that can go wrong. From mismanaging your campaign, putting in the wrong information, handling user comments and feedback wrong (we've witnessed flame wars start on other companies' Kickstarters in the past), to development and budget overruns, and finally to actually producing and fulfilling the preorders. There's just so many little details and you have to be really good at a lot of things (or get good quickly)! People think that Kickstarter is just handing you a boat load of cash, and sometimes it is, but the responsibilities that come with it are vast (if you're a responsible, ethical company, and if the opinions of your customers and clients keeps you up at night). 

Oct 6, 8:34PM EDT0

Can you please link to your kickstarter campaign and social media? So we can follow you. Also, I love love love the last unicorn! Your job sounds amazing. Is it always fun or do you face a lot of challenges? What's been your biggest challenge so far? 

Oct 5, 3:36PM EDT0

Totally thought we already had, but it must not have preserved them when I hit save. Done now - thank you for letting me know!

Running Geekify has been *incredibly* challenging, and incredibly rewarding. I get to run a workshop that makes cool things happen, and that creative payoff is always incredible. As a bootstrapped company, we've built everything up one sale at a time, and money has always been tight. Cashflow is sometimes hard - in the summer months, our online sales tend to die down a bit, so we started doing conventions all over the country (Comic Con, Fan Expo, Anime Expo, WonderCon, and the like), and that's been a challenge of its own - usually it's just me running the booth over a long weekend, interacting with some 60,000 people in a three day period! During the holiday season, we do half of our annual sales between Nov 8th and Jan 12.  Since a lot of what we do is custom and made to order, that's a lot of making to pack into a very short period of time. Just persevering over the last few years has been the hardest thing, but we've finally gotten to the point where basic survival isn't at stake every month.

Oct 5, 4:09PM EDT0

What are your back-up plans if your crowdfunding campaign fails?

Oct 5, 3:00PM EDT0

We're currently at 840% funding, so that's not an issue (woohoo!). Crowdfunding is always a hit and miss, so now the challenge is going to be to accommodate the stretch goals we made, and to do them in a way that enhances the project and makes it from gorgeous to glorious!

Oct 5, 4:12PM EDT0

I guess your working climate is very open and fun, do you sometimes have problems focusing?

Oct 5, 8:12AM EDT0

Sometimes! At any given time, we have a lot of irons in the fire. Since we're a fairly small workshop, we each wear a lot of hats. A typical day for me might be running cutouts on the vinyl plotter of the heat transfer overlays we use, painting and sealing parts, running jobs on the laser cutter, shipping orders, overseeing prototypes, and then working on a variety of personal projects or things that need my attention. So overall, yes! We burn through checklists and sticky notes at a pretty quick pace :). 

Oct 5, 12:27PM EDT0

What initially inspired you to start a business like this?

Oct 5, 4:07AM EDT0

I'm a serial entrepreneur, and Geekify is actually my 5th (though most involved and most sustained) venture, I was going to BlizzCon 2011 with friends and had been inspired to make a costume by a friend who is an amazing cosplayer. She taught me some basic leatherworking and then I went to town building my costume. I made it to the semi-finals, but man looking back it was awful!

Afterwards, I had a bunch of extra leather, and some basic know-how. I had just launched an Etsy store and wasn't' sure what to do with it, so I was actively hunting for new projects, and the first of the Kindle covers I made went viral and got 50,000 hits in two weeks, so  I rolled up my sleeves and started filling orders, all the while working in IT on the side. I had to hire a few people off Craigslist, and to get out of the house I was living in (the roommate wasn't keen on the stains and leather dyes we were using getting all over her carpet), and we just kept evolving from there! The goal has always been to have the tools to create anything, but sometimes we've been limited in what we can afford, and what our customers tend to want to buy. Sometimes things we make don't do as well as we'd expect (like our Dice Boards), and sometimes they really take off!

Last edited @ Oct 6, 12:15AM EDT.
Oct 5, 4:18PM EDT0

Hi John, Geekify seems like a great place for creative professionals :)

How do you hire people to fit into your work cutlure?

Oct 3, 1:35PM EDT0

Well-worded Craigslist ads! Seriously.

Learning some of the ins and outs of what works and what doesn't in our environment has been a challenge. Artistic people can be temperamental, and adapting that appreciation for aesthetics to production can be interesting - making a beautiful object once is one thing; making it multiple times and keeping it consistent is something else. Finding people who can handle constructive criticism is key, since sometimes you can make the same thing ten times with the same processes, and they'll each turn out slightly differently. Having a critical eye for potential pitfalls in making and designing, and knowing that we goof up sometimes is all part of it, and sometimes we're our own worst critics. It helps a lot having people who love learning new things and aren't afraid to think critically about what we're doing, since sometimes we come up with processes and they need to be refined or evolve over time. 

Things we look for:

-Creative spirit

-Easy-going

-Self-motivated and willing to handle new challenges

-An eye for detail and efficiency

-Consistency

 -Trustworthy (our employees set their own schedules)

-Appreciation of geek culture-Love of learning 

At the end of the day, we're a great place to work, and a fun place to work, but the casual atmosphere means we might have a little *too* much fun, so it's more up to each individual to bring their A-games of professionalism and not slack. Everyone does a pretty good job of getting what needs to be done, done.

Last edited @ Oct 5, 4:30PM EDT.
Oct 5, 4:30PM EDT0

Is the population you are targeting to donate the same as the target group you want to buy your products?

Oct 3, 1:17PM EDT0

Yes indeed! The campaign is actually geared towards doing pre-orders for the products we'll be making, and while the audience is a little bit niche, it is mighty! Many of the fans have reached out to express their gratitude and delight that their fellow passionate fans are bringing new merchandise to life for The Last Unicorn, and filling a hole in their lives they didn't even know existed.

Oct 5, 4:33PM EDT0

Can you give some advice to people interested in launching their own crowdfunding campaigns?

Oct 3, 12:44PM EDT0

Advertise, plenty and often. Talk yourself up, promote yourself, find those key influencers and badger them to promote you as much as they are willing to. Most campaigns fail because there's not enough visibility (evne if the idea is sound), so the single best thing you can do for your campaign is hit the ground running with a huge burst of signal boost from people who are willing to help spread the word. The first week, you'll see a lot of traffic, and then things will taper off dramatically, before there's usually some renewed interest at the end. 

Don't be afraid to hit up friends and family to promote it, and take to social media. Facebook ads are a good, cheap way to get a little more visibility as well, since you can target exactly the kinds of people you want to contribute to your campaign. And cross-promote! Look up similar or synergetic campaigns and post to, with, and for each other. You never know where your actual contributors will come from, so just get the word out there as much as you can!

Oct 5, 4:41PM EDT0

What inspired to do this project?

Oct 3, 4:12AM EDT0

I've always been a fan of The Last Unicorn. As I told Peter S. Beagle when I met him on the movie tour years ago, I can't remember a time in my life before seeing it; I would watch it over and over as a child. 

One of our artists, the extremely talented Adrianne Tamar Arachne , who had previously done our Firefly Last Supper, had mentioned to me her love of The Last Unicorn. She's also a professional card reader, and that started the wheels turning in my head a few years ago. When we got the licensing for The Last Unicorn, it seemed a natural (though incredibly involved) use of the concept, the artwork, and Adrianne's talent, so I approached her about tackling this one. She loved the idea immediately, but knew that 78 cards was a colossal undertaking, so we started looking for fellow artists that could match the style we had in mind for it. It's going to be a long road to completion, but each step has been incredibly rewarding. 

Oct 5, 4:58PM EDT0

Your job sounds like a lot of fun! Does it ever get monotonous?

Oct 2, 9:39PM EDT0

Never! Each day I've got a completely different and new set of tasks to do - sometimes it's crafting armor sets, sometimes it's designing things in Illustrator to put on the laser cutter, sometimes it's hunting for clients, and sometimes it's surfing on Pinterest for inspirations. More often than not, it's all of the above, in the same day. If anything, there's never enough time. Our amazing friends and allies at Espionage Cosmetics ask me when I sleep, and the answer is NEVER! Muhahaha.

There are certainly a lot of tasks that I find tedious. The administration of the business is one aspect I've never loved. Doing all of the HR, the business filings, the taxes, all that jazz - I'd much rather be creating. So monotonous, no, but tedious, certainly! Fortunately, the amazing staff I've got take a good chunk of some of the daily or routine tasks off my plate so I can dream up new ways for us to do the things we love most.

Last edited @ Oct 6, 1:00AM EDT.
Oct 5, 5:14PM EDT0
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