🔥Crypto Fireside #31 — Interviews with crypto people.
🔥Hello! Who are you, and what do you do?
QV: Hello friends. I go by Qu33n Vic70ria or Queenie. I’m a waitress by night and pretending to be an entrepreneur by day. Last April I became interested in cryptocurrencies when Max Igan mentioned Pirate Chain and I began my quest to get some ARRR. A few short months, and a boatload of memes later, I started an online store where I sell crypto merch. It’s mostly Pirate Chain related, but I have been expanding into other popular coins as well. With a background in printing and customer service, it seemed like a good fit, so I went for it.
I chose the name Red Pill Products because of the alternative views held by myself and many other crypto enthusiasts, and it’s broad enough to allow for expansion into other types of merchandise down the road. I use Shopify along with print on demand apps to feature my designs and graphics on items like t-shirts, hoodies, hats, stickers etc. My main focus is Pirate Chain because that is my favorite project and the place where it all began.
My memes “ARRR” morphing into merch…
🔥What’s your backstory, and how did Red Pill Products come about?
QV: I worked in printing for many years after learning graphic design at ROP. Then I went through my meme phase, (I’m still going through it) and made an FB meme group and all that. I rarely go on FB anymore except for the shop’s page because I got banned so often that I started self-censoring. Anyway, it took me quite some time to be able to acquire any ARRR during which I continued to research and found and joined their Discord server. There I was happy to discover a bunch of people talking conspiracy theories, flat earth, shit-posting, sharing stories, and data and ARRR. But best of all there were loads of awesome memes. I felt like I had found my tribe. I got busy making some ARRRt and soon, some connections with the Crew.
About the middle of last year, as I was happily going about learning the ways of ARRR, a breakaway Discord group was formed with the intent of promoting Pirate Chain in coordination. I was already creating content and was just happy to be included. So a bunch of us aped on to BitClout to shill ARRR in mass. I didn’t really didn’t understand the finer points of that project (still don’t) but I jumped right in and started creating and buying NFTs on that platform. I even threw some change at it without doing any research beforehand. Something I would come to regret. A LOT.
When I did get around to looking into it, I came across a lot of FUD. A LOT. I learned that Clout was not listed on any exchanges and the only way to sell was OTC. I got a really bad feeling about it. That kind of gut feeling that cannot be ignored. Then a more experienced friend told me that they had pulled their investment out of BitClout because it was shady. This confirmed my suspicions and I panicked. I wanted out and I wanted out NOW. I made a kind of a spectacle of myself but managed to trade all my Clout for ARRR with people I knew and trusted.
The sense of relief was immense and immediate. I had planned to not even use the platform anymore but another person who also jumped ship sent me a bit of Clout before they bailed because I had invested in them. (You need the Clout to do anything on the platform) Also, now that there was nothing at stake, I figured I could still drop a shill now and then. I think they changed the name to Diamond App or some shit. Sometimes I actually do remember to drop a meme or promo there.
But all of this left a bad taste in my mouth and got me thinking about how NFTs are really just zeros and ones at the most basic level. I had heard in a meeting that Pirate Chain Devs not only allowed but encouraged pirates to use the logos to create merchandise. I knew of a couple of mateys who had started online shops and thought to myself if they could do it, so could I. The seed that became Red Pill Products was planted at that moment. I was already spending countless hours making memes just to give them away for free anyway. So, I reasoned, why not spend that time doing something a bit more practical. At least stickers and t-shirts actually exist in the physical world, unlike NFTs.
🔥Describe the process of launching or preparing to launch Red Pill Products.
QV: Once I decided that the dopamine I got when someone shared or complimented my work was nice but not enough, I wasted no time getting started on my new endeavour. I was aware of Shopify already, and being a bit of a script kitty, I skipped the tutorials and started setting up shop. I made a lot of mistakes at first but I had a few good original designs and that is really the most important thing. I didn’t really have a plan other than to do it. The first iteration was pretty bad and obviously DIY. I didn’t do any SEO or market research. There was no official launch, more like a soft opening. I put the art on the stuff, the stuff on the website, and told a few people about it. Some of them bought something and everyone encouraged me. The Pirate community is very supportive, some mateys even make me emojis, GIFs, and other things like that.
A cool thing about print on demand is that you don’t have to buy a bunch of products and hope that they sell. You only pay when an item is ordered, so there isn’t much of an investment required to start out. The only expenses are what Shopify charges, a domain, and advertising. I got the .xyz domain for just a few dollars and I don’t pay for advertising. I do it myself. When I get an order, the customer pays me, then I pay the supplier, and they print and ship the product. A drawback of this is that it’s rather expensive and the margins are pretty thin. Even charging what seems like a relatively high price, the profit might just be a couple of dollars depending on the item.
I have come to think of it like band merch that you overpay for at a concert. If someone loves ARRR and likes my art (and can afford it) they will buy it. I understand that not everyone will, no matter how much they believe in the project or how good the designs are, and I’m fine with that. I have been fortunate to be able to pay my fees each month and be in the black, if just barely. I’m always on the lookout for better sources and will switch suppliers if I find a lower price so that I am able to pass that savings along.
🔥Take us through your daily process of what it is that you do.
QV: I don’t really plan what I am going to do on a given day unless it’s something I started and need to finish. I’ll open the dashboard and check the socials while having coffee. If I have any orders, I will send them to production. If not, I will work on switching the products to a new vendor I found recently. It’s a lot of work, changing suppliers, almost like starting over, but it affords me the chance to fix all the mistakes I made at the beginning. I like to create all the new listings for a group, like hoodies for example, and switch them out all at once. I have a system now where I make sure I do all the little things that need to be done. This is quite tedious so to avoid boredom I will change it up after a while and create some content for the socials or work on some art. That is my favorite part, the creative process, and I usually have my best ideas late at night.
As is typical of me, when I got the idea to open a web store, I just jumped right in and started doing it without a plan or doing much research. I started watching some “how-to” videos after the fact, but really only follow the technical advice. When it comes to layout and design I go with my instinct. I completely redesigned the site using a different template around the first of the year. I’m actually still working on making everything match across the site. Things like all the product images being the same size and all the descriptions being formatted the same. That’s something I did not consider when I started. I was all over the place and there are a lot of product pages that still need attention. Also, I am going back and doing the SEO that I didn’t even know about before.
I do everything myself from concept to managing the store socials and everything in between. There is a lot more to it than I expected when I started. Setting up the shipping rates for example was much more complicated and difficult than I expected, or it needs to be for that matter. SEO is a never-ending work in progress where there is always room for improvement. I’m fortunate to have people around who will give me honest constructive criticism and point out areas that could be improved. This is invaluable to me and I really appreciate it. If not for them, I may not even know there is a problem. I have too many ideas and jump from one thing to another in a whirlwind of activity trying to find a balance between the fun stuff and the actual work. And often I get distracted and drop everything to make a meme. Like I did just now…👇🏻
🔥What has worked to attract and retain users or customers?
QV: Uhh…Good question…👇🏻
According to the tutorials, targeted FB ads are the way to go, but I haven’t paid for any advertising yet. I may at some point, but right now, I am spending as little as possible. I do my own marketing if you could call it that, on social media. I have Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook pages for the shop where I post new products, sales, promotions, and of course, memes. Twitter is my favorite as it has the most activity and feedback is almost instant. I also love to collaborate with other merchants and creators for cross-promotion. I feel that is a win/win approach to take. I always promote my fellow pirates’ projects whenever I can, and in return, they do the same for me. Most recently I did a giveaway of Criptty NFT t-shirts for early adopters of that project. Criptty Discord server: https://discord.gg/PGtxd59vJT. I have the shop listed on ARRRmada.com and Iacceptcrypto.io which are directories of merchants who accept cryptocurrency as payment. Worth checking out if you have a crypto-friendly business. Because I rely on word-of-mouth product reviews play a big part in providing social proof. I use an app to collect and post the reviews to social media and it helps to prove that it’s a legit shop and not some rip-off or scam site. I haven’t really found a formula for a successful DIY campaign yet; it’s been hit or miss so far.
I’ve considered using one of those promoters who do retweets for a fee but so far have not pulled the trigger on that. I get plenty of likes, comments, and retweets from my friends in the community as it is. They are really great about that so I don’t feel the need to spend money unnecessarily at this time.
Another reason I stick with my DIY model is that the site is still a work in progress. I’m hesitant to drive traffic there until I feel it is up to par. I’m still chipping away at things like SEO and having continuity. When I get to a point where I have all that squared away, I will consider doing some type of paid campaign, but not before. I am learning this business model as I go, and there are many important details I need to revisit and correct. Amazingly, I have achieved a degree of moderate success despite these shortcomings. There are only so many hours in the day that I am able to work on it so I have learned to be patient with myself. “All good things in all good time” is my motto.
🔥A lot of what you sell has a focus on Privacy and Anonymity coins, tell us about that.
QV: When I arrived on the scene last April, I didn’t know jack about cryptocurrencies. All I knew was that I wanted some ARRR. It was a pretty steep learning curve for me and I made all the n00b mistakes. But slowly I began to understand more. Learning the lingo and acronyms was a big part of that. From the Pirate community, I learned what other coins and projects people were interested in and began looking into those as well. I got into WOW for a bit and made a few memes for suchwow.xyz. I taught myself to mine on an old gaming laptop. First WOW and then later some Dero. It was not profitable but that wasn’t the point. The point was, that as an old Gen X dog, I could learn new tricks. I stopped doing it after I received the first payout, my point having been made.
It takes me a little longer for me to grasp some concepts than it would someone half my age. While I may need something explained more than once, I do get it eventually. I had to watch the “how to mine” video several times, pausing and replaying the difficult parts over and over. And that was after reading a couple of articles. When I finally got it and it was running properly, I was so proud of myself. It may not seem like a big deal to some, but for me, it was a breakthrough moment where I realized I could do anything I put my mind to. Low hash rate notwithstanding, I was doing it, and I’d figured it out on my own.
When I decided to expand to other coins besides Pirate Chain, I knew that I had to include the big ones such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin etc. and not just personal favorites and friend’s projects. Privacy is an important and desirable feature of many of my pet projects. And I believe that it will become even more so as time goes on. Of course, I am biased and my knowledge is limited, but I feel fortunate to have cut my crypto teeth in such a cohesive and helpful community. The support and encouragement I have received have been incredible. There was always someone willing to answer my questions or even lead me by the hand through something I was struggling with. So yeah, I am inclined to have similar preferences as my crew who schooled me.
🔥How are you doing today, and what does the future look like? Let’s talk numbers!
QV: Well, it’s coming along. As I mentioned it’s a side project that I created on a whim. Of course, I want it to be successful but I am in no hurry. There is still so much I have to learn. It’s really just a glorified hobby at this point. The part that I can’t stress enough is how much I enjoy it. How rewarding it is in ways that have nothing to do with profit. The dopamine rush from a sale is so much better than likes and shares of a meme. It’s an even better form of validation than mere likes could ever be. And if I make a few bucks… bonus. The only time memes ever paid was when I placed in a contest on Twitter and received some ARRR for being “judge’s favorite.” That was pretty awesome. And also, an isolated incident.
At the time I am writing this I have had 33 orders in total. Five people have ordered more than once and a couple of people have ordered as many as 5 or 6 items at a time. Those are the orders that let me know that I am doing something right and inspire me to continue.
Honestly, at this point, I sort of feel like I’m just playing at being a business in the way that we used to play “house” as children. But I do sense potential there and will continue to hone it in and make it legit. I like being in a position to help others by promoting their projects. Somehow it carries more weight to post as a merchant. I was asked to speak about it at the weekly meeting once, and that was fun even though I was quite nervous.
Here’s a link to a recording of the meeting if you’re interested.
I grossed around $1700 last year (starting in September) but the net is another story. The expenses, fees, and taxes add up. Everyone takes their cut. Between Shopify, PayPal, and the setup fees on some items, it can really cut into profits. With the slim margins, it’s a fine line between making it worth my while and being so expensive that no one can afford it. Luckily, I enjoy every minute I spend working on the store because if you broke it down to hourly, it would be pennies. I am not discouraged though and have wasted plenty of time on less worthy activities in the past. So, even if I never become successful, I will still consider it time well spent. The new experiences I am having and the skills I am learning fall into that category of things that money cannot buy.
🔥Through launching Red Pill Products, what is something you have learned that surprised you?
QV: I have learned so much already, but I have a long way to go before I will feel confident about it. While the designs are a key factor, there is a lot more to it than that. It seems like Shopify could simplify some things for the users, but that they purposely do not, so that they can get us to “hire a professional.” Well, that is something I absolutely refuse to do. I may have not done everything exactly right, but little by little I am going back and fixing it. There are things the how-to videos and tutorials never mention; on purpose, it would seem. So, there are factors to consider that one only discovers on their own. But when a lesson is learned in that way it is ingrained and not repeated.
I guess what surprised me most is how much fun it is. Even the harder bits that I struggle with, have the reward of eventually being conquered. At one point, I was pushing myself too hard and trying to do too much. I was getting burnout and feeling frustration rather than joy. One day I closed the laptop with several open tabs and apps running and didn’t open it again for almost three weeks. I took a break from everything I did on the computer and spent some time doing real-world things. I did peek in at Discord and Twitter from my phone here and there, but very not often. During this time, I considered shutting it down. I was overwhelmed with the aspects I had not given priority to out of ignorance. I was weighing the pros and cons and coming up with a deficit…
…when I was ready to open my laptop again, I did so to an order from a return customer. That was all the incentive I needed and was back at it within the day. But I am kinder to myself now and take my time with it. I don’t let myself become overwhelmed by the amount of work to be done, but rather I consider how far I have come. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a successful e-commerce business. Especially when the founder and sole proprietor only had half of the needed skills and knowledge at the onset. I’ll do it in my own time and my own way. Like with everything else, getting there is half the fun, and sometimes it’s about the journey.
🔥Mistakes were made. What were they and what did you do?
QV: Not just this project, but my whole life, is a series of mistakes held together by (mostly) good intentions. But to keep it on point, the biggest mistake I made was not doing enough research before starting. It is a hard lesson for me that I am still learning. The fact that I didn’t do anything so bad that it can’t be fixed, is beside the point. It just would have been better to do it right in the first place. I would be able to move on to the next phase instead of doing damage control. Also, I didn’t have a business plan or even a real understanding of what launching a startup would entail. I still don’t TBH. But I do have a much better grasp of it than I did and believe myself capable of meeting whatever challenges I encounter.
Learning is a lifelong process that I embrace today much more than I did in my younger days. I welcome the opportunity to broaden my horizons and to continue to evolve and grow as a person. Some lessons can only be learned first-hand through experience and cannot be taught. As a teen and young adult, I would not have listened anyway. Like most people at that age, I thought I knew everything and those parental units and authority figures were idiots. How time mellows and changes us is truly amazing. Only the confidence that comes with maturity and experience made it possible for me to embark on this path at all. It seems I had just enough skills and knowledge to make it something that I could do.
While market research and demographics would have been good to have, the one thing I wish I had taken into account, that I didn’t, is doing detailed bookkeeping. I didn’t do any at all. I never got that far in my thinking about it as a real business. And this is one of those things they don’t mention during the set-up process. It’s definitely the worst mistake I have made, so far. I’ve been doing my own taxes for quite a while and I am stymied this year. I am going to have to take what reports I can generate and seek the advice of a professional. I’m actually glad that it’s not very much money to have to consider. What a valuable lesson this is for me to learn.
🔥What have been the most influential things in your life that affected your project? This can include books, podcasts, or people?
QV: My father was a huge influence on me even though he passed away when I was a teenager. The lessons he taught me in childhood have stuck with me all these years. He was an engineer in the aerospace industry even though he did not have a college degree. What he did have was a combination of on-the-job experience, required knowledge, and job-specific classes and/or training under his belt. In other words, he was perfectly capable of doing the job even without the degree. He was very intelligent and a little off in the way that very smart people tend to be. Even though he had hoped for a boy, he loved me dearly and always told me “It is your heavenly and your earthly Fathers’ pleasure to give you the keys to the kingdom.” By which he meant knowledge and a healthy respect for learning.
I didn’t always appreciate his lessons, but they have served me well over the years in various ways. Vocabulary for instance is the key to mastering a new topic of interest. Which proved true when I was learning about cryptocurrency. There is more to it than definitions of words, but it is a very good place to start. He was also a strong believer in mind over matter. Especially in the context of “energy flows where attention goes.” Basically, to be mindful of your goals so as not to sabotage your efforts. The older I get, the more I appreciate the wisdom my father imparted to me as a child. I spent the better part of my life squandering my gifts and avoiding living up to my potential. So, it’s rather special to have finally found a niche for myself at last.
Only time will tell if I make a success of it or not, but I think it’s a good fit for me and could become my main gig in time. I will learn what is required and acquire the skills needed to be successful. Ignorance can be overcome with some effort and a will to do so. Now it’s up to me to take this opportunity and make it the career I never really had before. I have a good feeling about it. It took me a long time to find my path, but better late than never.
🔥Do you have any advice for other creators, entrepreneurs, or developers who want to get started or are just beginning?
QV: Make up your mind to do it. Your intent will signal the universe to set up the path for you. Do your research and have a plan, but don’t be afraid to deviate from it if/when better ideas come along.
Above all, believe in yourself and your ability to do whatever it is. The mind is powerful and it creates your reality. Nothing exists that wasn’t thought of first. Hold in your mind a picture of what success looks like to you and then take the steps to make it a reality. Learn from mistakes and don’t be too hard on yourself. Give freely of your knowledge and skills to others and you will receive it back three-fold.
Incidentally, me just doing my thing, has inspired others in my circles to undertake creative projects of their own. It gives me great pleasure to know that I had a positive influence on someone. That I would impact others in such a way, had not occurred to me.
I realize now that we are all influencing each other in a myriad of ways and it is up to us what sort of energy we radiate. To inspire others in a positive direction as a byproduct of personal growth is a bonus I did not expect and I cherish it above mere monetary gain.
🔥Where do you see the blockchain, cryptocurrency and decentralization space going in the next 5 to 10 years?
QV: I’m no expert (understatement), but I think that privacy coins will become even more desirable as time goes on. Current events have caused a lot of people to wake up to the fact that the version of reality we are presented with is false. While I can’t speak as to how this will play out, taking steps to ensure personal financial security seems like a practical thing to do. And as more people realize this, they will do just that. I believe it bodes well for crypto in general and privacy coins specifically. Current market trends seem to reflect that this is the case.
🔥Where can we go to learn more?
QV: Website: Red Pill Products — we’re currently offering a 15% discount — just use discount code “CRYPTOFIRESIDE”.
Twitter: @RedPillProducts | RPP
Blog: Qu33n Vic70ria
(very neglected ATM)
Thank you for this opportunity to talk about myself and my store. I enjoyed it and it made me think about things in ways that I hadn’t before.
🔥Thank you, Queenie!
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