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047 – Setting up your small business & painting miniatures with Andrea of Wolfwood Gaming

 

Today’s guest is Andrea Canerossi, the Managing Partner and Mini Painter for Wolfwood Gaming. She co-owns the company with her business partner, Deacon Wolfwood, who is their woodworker and resin artist. Wolfwood Gaming is still a pretty new company, but it was really interesting to hear about the their journey. Andrea and I talk about playing D&D with their kids and the foster community, painting minis, and so many business logistics. We talked about setting up a LLC, what happens when you don’t pay your taxes on a monthly basis as a small business, what she would’ve done differently if she were setting everything up again, and more. If you are in the beginning stages of setting up a small, product-based business, this episode is for you.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Time Stamps & Screenshots

  • 00:00:00 Introduction & Updates
  • 00:04:23 Andrea Introduction
  • 00:09:46 How Andrea got into painting miniatures professionally
  • 00:12:05 What is Wolfwood Gaming & working in a partnership
  • 00:17:00 Getting started with launching the business
  • 00:21:12 Design Process
  • 00:25:54 Inventory logistics
  • 00:30:32 What does a typical week look like?
  • 00:34:19 Product photos
  • 00:38:32 Figuring out taxes and legal logistics
  • 00:45:28 What has been the most challenging part?
  • 00:47:29 What has been the most rewarding part
  • 00:49:53 Where can people find you?
  • 00:51:07 Wrap-up

Find Andrea & Wolfwood Gaming at:

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Transcript

Courtney:

Hello & Welcome to Episode 47 of Roll Play Grow, the podcast for tabletop entrepreneurs, creators, and fans. I am Courtney Stover of Lightheart Adventures, and in this podcast, we talk to the creators behind the brands in the tabletop roleplay gaming space about who they are and how they are turning their passion for gaming into a career. 

Today’s guest is Andrea Canerossi, the Managing Partner and Mini Painter for Wolfwood Gaming. She co-owns the company with her business partner, Deacon Wolfwood, who is their woodworker and resin artist. Wolfwood Gaming is still a pretty new company, but it was really interesting to hear about the their journey. Andrea and I talk about playing D&D with their kids and the foster community, painting minis, and so many business logistics. We talked about setting up a LLC, what happens when you don’t pay your taxes on a monthly basis as a small business, what she would’ve done differently if she were setting everything up again, and more. If you are in the beginning stages of setting up a small, product-based business, this episode is for you.

Now for a fun update: guess what! I have a transcript of today’s episode over on the website. Providing transcripts is something that I’ve been really wanting to do since day one because accessibility is so incredibly important. I just couldn’t find a good software that I liked that was affordable and didn’t add a really long time to the whole process. I’m still not 100% set on what I found, as it is an additional monthly charge and does add a lot of time to the process so far, but it is super promising, as I can edit the audio while editing the transcript itself. I’m still working out the kinks, but I’m excited that I can offer a transcript for today’s episode. You can find it by going to https://lightheartadventures.com/rpg/episode47. Let me know what you think! 

On a personal note, after a very long and difficult year in 2021, I returned to a full time job last week. While yes, the dream is that one day I’d be able to truly work on Lightheart Adventures and this show full time, the reality is that Brenton and I have a lot of student loan debt, and Seattle is a ridiculously expensive part of the country. It has certainly been an adjustment trying to juggle this podcast, my upcoming pet accessory store launch (which yes, I swear is actually coming), my work with Warcraft Radio, my disabilities, life and a full time job all at the same time. But hey, we’ll get there. And, this is episode 47, which means in just a few more weeks, we’ll hit episode 50! That will be a special interview in which I will be the guest, and Brenton gets to try out his interviewing skills as he puts me on the spot, and I’m pretty sure we’ll talk about this juggle on the episode. If you want to add your questions for me to answer in this upcoming episode, you can check out my Patreon, where my supporters are able to add their questions for all of my upcoming guests. There’s a few more fun perks you’ll find there, so you can find me at Roll Play Grow on Patreon to find out more and maybe even help me cover the cost of this transcription service!

Another way you can support the show is by checking out our affiliate links, like the creator behind some of our favorite dice, Dice Envy. They offer gorgeous dice in a variety of materials, including wood, metal, stone, and resin. Go to lightheartadventures.com/ourfavoritetrinkets to learn more about these dice and some more of our favorite things. 

Alright, let’s go chat with Andrea.

Courtney: 

Today I am joined by the managing partner and mini painter for Wolfwood Gaming, Andrea Canerossi, Andrea, how are you today?

Andrea: 

Good morning. I’m doing well, Courtney, how are you?

Courtney: 

I’m great. You know, it is a pretty chill Friday morning. I’m just enjoying having some coffee and was playing with Bowser a little bit earlier. So that’s always fun. Bowser’s my dog.

Andrea: 

That’s awesome.

Courtney: 

Let us start things off, and I would love to know a little bit about you and how you got into gaming.

Andrea: 

Well, so I’ve been gaming, Courtney for about 15 ,years, actually. It was the first date of my now husband. He invited me to come play with him and his friends, handed me a character sheet and said, prepare to math. Which is not my favorite, but you know, we were playing a second edition game and yeah, I got hooked especially with the storytelling and I’ve been gaming ever since My husband and I have been fostering for about five years now. And we’ve been using it with our foster kids and the foster community. And it’s just become kind of like a lifestyle for us, and that’s kind of also how I got into mini painting as well. So that’s kinda my gaming story there is: fell in love with it as part of, you know, dating my husband, and now it’s something we do as a family.

Courtney: 

Okay. That is really cool, and I want to dig into using it with the foster children. How did that start?

Andrea: 

I’ll go ahead and say that I’ve got four kids now. Two are my biological children and we started gaming with them first. And then when we started fostering and we ended up adopting two of our fosters, thus bringing us to four kids: ages from seven to 12. So we are kind of the elementary school bus. You know, what we decided was that this was a way for our fosters to feel kind of part of the family. Cause it’s something we were already doing with our boys and it was also a way for them to pretend to be somebody else. They could be brave; they could be wizards; they could be super powerful, and for fosters, that’s, you know, they’re in a world where they’ve come from potentially some not great backgrounds, a lot of upheaval in their life. They’re very powerless. They’re told where to go and what to do and for them, this is a way for them to get into a world where they can cast fireball, and it was also a way for us to start seeing their personalities come out in their characters and get to know them. You know, we learn their favorite colors based off of what dice they wanted to use. We found out, like my daughter that we adopted she is a chaotic little Druid in a very small package and it was awesome to watch her get comfortable with herself and watch her wreak havoc across the battlefield, on the map and then turn around and bring that kind of same energy after a while to the house and playing with her siblings and getting comfortable with us. So, you know, for us, it’s been a way to get to know the kids, make them feel a part of something bigger. Cause they’re part of the party, and also make them feel like they belong and we’ve kept it up. And while we’re not fostering right now we’re really focused on two of our kids right now who are going through some health issues. It’s something that we do with the larger foster community and host games for other foster families as well.

Courtney: 

That is absolutely amazing. Like how often are you playing with your, I guess just your family versus how often are you doing the larger community?

Andrea: 

So I would say the larger community is hit or miss. We live in the south and so COVID numbers over the winter were heinously high. Right. So we didn’t do anything over the winter. A lot of times what we find is with kids coming in and out of households, there’s a lot of, of the COVID getting passed around, and so we didn’t do it over the winter. But before that, we would do them once, every couple of months for families that were interested. But with our family, we probably play two to three games a week. So my husband runs a game for the kids. I run a game for the kids and then our two older boys run a game and my husband and the rest of us come in and out as we have time and energy. So it’s cool to watch my 12 and 11 year old kind of, you know, stretch their wings and try to be the DM. It’s bonding time with Dad.

Courtney: 

That is super cool. Yeah, it makes sense that obviously COVID would have impacted how much you could do it on the larger scale. Well, I mean, honestly, I could keep asking questions about this for awhile, but you’ve mentioned that this was kind of how you also got into miniature painting. So I would love to dive into that. What’s the story behind the minis?

Andrea: 

Right. So I’ve been painting now for probably two years. I think, but anyway, it was right at the beginning of the pandemic, and I still was working for a global IT firm. I was in associate partner in charge of a hundred million dollar portfolio, 200 plus people department. And then all of a sudden, all four of my kids were home being remote schooled and everything, and it was super stressful and I needed an outlet and painting became it. It was the only way that I could kind of turn my brain off, you know? Cause when you’re focused on painting something so tiny, you can’t really think about anything else. After a while I started posting pictures of it to social media, you know, my Facebook page and my coworkers were like, oh my gosh, would you paint for us? And I was like, sure. And then it just kind of evolved from there into a “wow. Could I actually make money doing this?” Like not as much money as working at a full-time job, but could I make some money and yeah, so that kind of evolved to that and started the juices flowing on “maybe I could make this a side hustle,” and that’s kind of what led to Wolfwood Gaming as well. So that’s where I started.

Courtney: 

Yeah, I love so much when it starts as something that you just want to try it out and have fun. And then other people are like, whoa, that’s really cool. I want that.

Andrea: 

Yeah, it was definitely a shock to my system. The first time one of my coworkers was like, I will pay you to paint my minis. And I was like, really? Okay.

Courtney: 

How many minis did they want you to paint?

Andrea: 

Well, that one was actually a custom order. And he wanted me to, since I have a 3d printer scale up a big wonder woman miniature, he had found on my mini factory and paint it for his wife.

Courtney: 

Oh, cool!

Andrea: 

So it was. the biggest mini I’ve painted to date. And it was the very first one I painted for sale. So it was kind of like, okay, I don’t know if I’m ready to do that. But after that came a few of the normal 32 ones, and those were a lot more manageable.

Courtney: 

So tell me about, for any of our listeners that aren’t aware of your shop: what is Wolfwood Gaming? Like what all do y’all offer? And I guess let’s go into a little bit about your partnership.

Andrea: 

Okay, sounds good. So Wolfwood Gaming is a veteran and woman owned business. The veteran is my business partner and our creative director, Deacon Wolfwood, and then myself, Andrea as well. I manage the business from a business perspective, the social media and do the mini painting. And what we offer is quality affordable tabletop gear. And what do I mean by that? Well, we believe in accessibility, Deacon and I both have had long talks about this and we want everyone to be able to have something at their table that is special. And so we offer tabletop gear across a variety of price points, and that goes as low as like $8 all the way up to some of our more products as well. And the products that we offer are dice trays. What the dice trays are, they’re wooden framed. And we either have a cloth bottom that is padded for say, like gemstone dice, or we also have dice rolling surfaces in the trays that are super pretty, but they make that awesome click clack noise right? And then we have painted minis. We have dice bag charms, which can be put on key chains, purses, gaming bags, dice bags. So they can be customized to match either a character or a theme just to add a little bling to a bag and make it kind of like, oh, something small. They’re great for gifts: for you know, the DM or the entire group at the end of a campaign or at holidays. We also do different displays for dice. Deacon and I are unapologetic dice collectors. We love the little math rocks and what better way than to display them in dice display potions? I paint minis and create little scenes that dice can be added to. So all of that’s what we have in the shop right now, along with some you know, very inexpensive tabletop geared kind of printables as well, like a daily quest log, which is basically a to-do list.

Courtney: 

Y’all have such a cool variety. I really enjoyed kind of browsing through your Etsy store. How did y’all get connected? Like how did Wolfwood Gaming come to exist?

Andrea: 

So I was very blessed to work with Deacon at our old job. And then when our paths split from a job perspective, right at the beginning of the pandemic, we kept up the friendship and, you know, after a while it was kind of like, Hey, Deacon was like, I’ve got these trays that I’d like to sell. I’m like over here going well, people are paying me to paint minis. And so we decided to go into business together and really, truly the, the vision for it has evolved, thanks to, to Deacon. And then from a creative perspective, all the lines of offerings that we have in the shop. Those are, you know, Deacon’s ideas. And then behind that comes me with you know, my program management background from the IT company that I was working for, and so I manage all the finances and it’s a really good balance between Deacon and I to build this business. Which is great because being a small business owner is a lot of work.

Courtney: 

Yes, it is. So I guess I want to dive into a little bit more of how y’all decided how to, I mean, other than the, you’re the one that’s painting the managers and Deacon is trays. How did you decide how to split up the business responsibilites?

Andrea: 

We really try to lean into each other’s strengths, Courtney, and you know, if someone else is looking at doing a business, that’s kind of what I would recommend as well. Deacon is very outgoing, so he handles a lot of the local going out to shops and promoing things locally where we are here in Alabama, and then he handles a lot of the research as well into the creative side of things. He goes out and looks at what, what is the market interested in? I’ll get texts from it and it’ll be like, look at this cool thing. We could do something like this. And I’m like, okay. Yeah, you’re right, we could. And then you know, I’m used to managing large portfolios, revenue, profit, et cetera. So I, it just naturally fell to me to kind of handle that side of the business.

Courtney: 

Yeah, that makes sense. I’m a project manager, so even when I was kind of starting up with some of the Lightheart stuff, it was like, well, I know how to make a schedule and get people to follow through on things.

Andrea: 

Right, exactly. And that that’s basically, you know, we play to our strengths.

Courtney: 

What were the first steps? So you guys decided that, Hey, we could actually make a store together and make this work. What did you do then?

Andrea: 

We had to make it really official. We went ahead and decided to incorporate into an LLC. Limited liability company for those not familiar with the term. And that meant registering as an official business in partnership with the IRS and getting what’s known as an EIN number. and that number is, you know, specific to the business and used on all things like tax forms and stuff. And the idea behind that was to give Deacon and I some coverage as a company, so that if there were issues, you know, it protected both of us as individuals and our, our individual bank accounts. Which is one of the things that, you know, if somebody else were looking at doing a small business, I would recommend you can register your business for free with the IRS. Or you can get something like legal zoom to do all of it, and your startup costs, if you do that, will be probably anywhere between 250 to 500. At the time, you know, I had a 70 hour week job plus the kids, so I took the legal zoom route; Courtney, looking back if I could go back, I’d probably change that just to save on some startup costs, but that was the real push to go pass the inertia of just, we have this great idea to making it real. And then from there it was deciding, okay, what’s going to be our first line of stock? You know, are we going to just stay focused on dice trays and minis? Are we going to do something else? And then also what platform are we going to use to, to sell on? And so that was really the nucleus of, of starting that business back in December of 2020.

Courtney: 

Okay, what made you decide on Etsy?

Andrea: 

So we actually didn’t move to Etsy until August of last year, we try to run our own website based off of WooCommerce and a WordPress site. And Deacon is a UI web designer and he did a great job really designing a website that was unique and very much on brand for us. But unfortunately the backend, the commerce side of it, we just could not get those commerce plugins to work consistently. And it meant we were losing sales because people would go to checkout and then the checkout process would mess up. Usually with the shipping, it was always the shipping. And after a while, we started gaining a lot of traction on social media, but we weren’t translating that into sales. We decided to move over to Etsy. Just simply because it’s a known platform, it’s a known marketplace and it took the stress of managing those commerce pieces out of it. And from there we really saw, sales increase by leaps and bounds because people weren’t abandoning things in their cart. You know, they weren’t having issues with the website. Like it or not, Etsy was driving traffic to us. There were some hidden fees that we didn’t know about until afterwards, but, overall the move to Etsy was good for us. Now that we’re well-established, have almost a hundred sales in Etsy and they’re raising their fees, we are looking at expanding into a Shopify account, and actually running both Etsy and Shopify at the same time.

Courtney: 

That is interesting that you kind of have had to go back and forth. It’s very unfortunate that you’ve had those issues with the plugins right at the beginning, but I think that it does make a lot of sense to once you are like more comfortable and more established to have both an Etsy stop and a website where you’re not having to pay all of the Etsy fees, but you’re still able to get that Etsy traffic that isn’t coming from your normal social media.

Andrea: 

Exactly.

Courtney: 

Cool. So what I would love to dive into next is the, I guess, overall design process. So obviously you and Deacon are making different items, but is there any kind of collaboration on themes or how do you decide on what a new type of product offering is going to be

Andrea: 

So Deacon and I have a real problem with Pinterest. And we’re constantly sending things back and forth over Facebook messenger to each other, and it’s like, look at this, we could make this into something that’s game-related and, you know, it’s things like watching acrylic art paint videos, and the way that the colors are mixing is kinda like that would make a great resin dice tray to do something similar. I also have an entire board on Pinterest associated with character art, and that becomes the basis for a lot of the color schemes for my minis that I put up in the shop. And Deacon will send me other things as well, ideas, you know, and so back and forth, we’d go and have these kind of collaborative sessions. And then once we talk through the creative side of it, then we kind of turned to the business side. Okay. How much is it gonna take to make this; what’s kind of the profit margin we want to have? Right, because for Deacon in particular, this is one of his ways of bringing in an additional stream of income, and now that I’ve left my job, it’s mine as well. So this is how we pay the bills. So it’s like, how do we balance profit margin with also staying in line with our kind of creed, right? Affordable quality materials that you can have for your gaming space. And so that’s kind of where our creative process is, is let’s look at these colors, let’s look at these ideas. We don’t see this really on the market, but we can translate something else into that. And then is it a viable business product? I mean, we have shelved some ideas where we’re like the profit margin’s not gonna work Especially with Etsy fees, and it’s just not worth it to have something that’s only going to bring us a buck or two. So that’s kind of our process, Courtney.

Courtney: 

Yeah, that makes sense. I am also a huge Pinterest fan, so I appreciate that that helps give y’all some inspiration. So I guess I would love to know about the evolution of the products was kind of a follow-up to that. I know it started with miniatures and trays on Deacon’s part, but at what point did you decide to add other products?

Andrea: 

So we actually started adding new products, like the dice bag charms pretty quickly, when we realized that the more successful businesses in our space had a variety of price points. And so that’s where things like the dice bag charms came from. What we were seeing was people were selling dice bags, and some of those dice bags came with already attached dice bag charms, but we didn’t really see anywhere else on the market: removable ones, let alone customizable ones. And I’m one of those nerds who has Yeah, I’m one of those people. I have my own dice per character. And so each character has a dice bag. So I was like, well, I want to charm on each of those dice bags, maybe other people would, and it’s been a best seller, I would say, honestly, because of the price point, and it’s something that was new and it’s something that you can add to your purse or, you know, your key chain. They’re very versatile. And then from there we looked at okay: what are some of the more cheaper ways we could help other dice collectors, you know, have something special? And that’s where the dice potions came in because that’s the just plain glass bottles is how I display my dice in my studio– the ones that aren’t used for a specific character. And so Deacon had the great idea to add colored resin to match those. And it just took off from there. And that’s probably our second bestseller is our dice potions.

Courtney: 

That’s a really fun sounding journey. And I definitely think that with the days bag charms, that it makes sense that most people only offer that as already attached. And so I can see why that would be something that folks would be really interested in. I am curious about some of the logistics around inventory and knowing how much stuff to stock up on, especially when at the beginning, because obviously once you get more sales and you can see what’s popular and what makes sense to have a few more items on hand for, but what about when you first got started with the shop as a whole, versus even when you decide to bring in a new product that you haven’t offered before? What is your decision process on how much inventory to have on hand when you start?

Andrea: 

So that’s a really good question because I’m pretty sure we didn’t have a solid answer. What we did know was we needed to provide a variety of things. And so we really shot for having 5 to 10 of each item when we first opened. And so we probably had 7 to 10 minis, both player, character and monster minis, and then Deacon did a phenomenal job and he busted out like seven to 10 different size, different kind of dice trays. And that’s really kind of where we focused on was having a variety to get the widest appeal across the board to potential customers. And so that meant different colored trays, different sizes, different wood types, wood stains for the minis. It meant in different races. We had some Orcs, we had some Elves we’ve had humans, the different monster minis. as well. And also on the minis having different color schemes. One of the things that we really wanted Wolfwood Gaming to be known for, again, as an accessibility thing, is we believe everyone should be able to see themselves at the table. And so we really focused on from a mini perspective, having all different skin colors on the minis so that no matter what someone could look and say, I can see myself; I can see my character. You know, as a, as a person of color, I found a, mini that was painted for me. As someone who, you know, maybe was, Asian, they could see themselves on the table so that it, wasn’t just kind of like a homogenous inventory of, you know, the same kind of characters that all look the same, like mainstream art. So that was really what we focused on was having a variety of things, a variety of colors that would appeal. And since then, the best thing as small business can do is continue to add to inventory. So we’re adding anywhere between one to five things a week to our shop.

 

Courtney: 

Wow. Yeah. When you are painting, the minis, do you ever paint multiple in the same color scheme at a time, or is every single one individual?

Andrea: 

That is a really good question because the answer is yes and no. At any given point I’ve got four to seven minis in progress. And a lot of times they have similar colors because what I’m doing is putting on my palette: blues and greens and grays, complimentary colors, right? And then I cycle who I want to put those colors on, but in the end they don’t really look like a cohesive unit. I’m not painting the units like you see for Warmongers and things like that. I tend to go towards more trends of fantasy. So yes, some end up having similar colors, but they’re definitely not a unit. Like you’re not going to buy them and put them on the table and it’ll be like, they look exactly the same. Each mini is unique They just may have hints of the same colors. And also at the same time, to be honest, Courtney, I paint my, I paint minis for myself as well as for the store. So some of those colored minis don’t even end up in the store cause they’re for my personal collection.

Courtney: 

As they should. So I guess, talk to me about, what does a typical week look like for you these days, especially since you were able to leave your job, you’ve got four kids running around, running this Etsy store. the question that uh, always is an interesting one is how do you do your time management? How do you balance everything?

Andrea: 

So I have to admit I’m still learning that one. I’m only on my first week not working my crazy, you know, 60 to 70 hour job. I literally left my job last Friday. I loved my job. I just wanted to put that out. So if any of my former colleagues hear me talk about this, cause I’m going to blast this out on social media, right? I did love my job. I was in a place with my life and with my children’s health that I had to step away. So time management is still weird for me Right now, but typically what I would say is Mondays is a heavy social media day. I plan out the week for all of our posts, for where we can schedule posts, I get them scheduled. That probably takes me a couple of hours. I do that while handling my kids’ schoolwork. So while they’re doing their schoolwork, I’m sitting around the table with them on my laptop, you know, uploading and getting that scheduled. Every Wednesday, I’ve got set aside some time to do the books, because one thing that you find is taxes never go away, and so if you open up your shop as a normal, like small business, and, and it’s not just like you as an individual where you do your personal taxes; if it’s a, if it’s an entity, like an LLC or a corporation, an S-corp, what you find is you have to not only register with the national IRS and do annual taxes in your state and in your county, you have to register your business and every month do state and county taxes. And so my Wednesdays are spent balancing the book from week to week and then doing any taxes that we need to in the first two Wednesdays of the month, because most of the county and state taxes are due by like the 15th of the month, and the rest of the time is balancing between hopping on social media, interacting with potential customers, other small businesses, lifting them up in the community, because in order to sell in a community, you have to be part of a community, so we spend a lot of time doing that, doing research into new products. And then a couple times a month, we sit down and do search engine optimization. So we look at the analytics behind our shop: what keywords are working, what keywords are not working so that people find our stuff easier on Etsy, and we’ll do likewise when we set up Shopify. The rest of the time is whenever I can, and my kids aren’t being crazy and, you know, are being quiet: I will hop up into my studio in the back corner of my house and I will paint minis or make dice bag chains. And likewise Deacon does something similar. He manages around his workload and makes some really beautiful things with resin and wood when he’s got a spare moment. and so at any given point, we’ve got things, you know, kind of prototyping or halfway through being built or painted, and then the other part: taking pictures of the stock to put up in the shop. That’s usually a Saturday thing for me because that is probably the most time consuming piece is taking photos. And setting up nice kind of layouts that are appealing visually so that a customer will click on it. And I do that on Saturdays because I can throw my husband at the kids and say, go entertain them, please, and leave me alone.

Courtney: 

What tips have you learned to make that photography really stand out?

Andrea: 

So I’m going to gush, for a minute about this app on my phone that I literally just found three days ago and I’m kicking myself for not finding it sooner. It’s an app by Adobe, which is, you know, I know not everyone’s favorite. But the app is called Lightroom. It’s amazing. It really helps balance the shadows and colors in the photos. But prior to that you know, you can invest as much as you want in getting good photos or as little as you want. But what I would say to folks is you can take really good product photos on your phone, or with a CA or a regular camera, not one of those super expensive ones, but find a place in your house with good natural light. Most of our pictures are taken on nice sunny days. and I use I do use a big cloth light. box that I got for like 12 bucks on Amazon, just to diffuse that bright light a little bit. And then I’ve got scrapbook paper that I bought at michael’s for like 50 cents a piece that I use as the backdrops for most of everything: except the minis, the minis, I use a different setup. From there, it’s just adding complimentary things around the item, you know, the right color dice, and such to make it look interesting. and you kind of go from there. The big thing is Courtney is making sure that it’s a consistent look from product to product, to product so that when someone jumps onto your websites, jumps into your store, whether or your own website, you know, the consumer is seeing a similar background. And so there’s definitely a cohesive feel to it. And that’s really what we focus on when we take our photos is, is using the same backdrops, trying to use similar lighting so that people can see the same kind of thing from item to item, it really helps create a sense of brand. It creates a sense of quality, time and, and effort to showcase our work to its absolute best.

Courtney: 

Would you say that your process for your backdrops has changed over time?

Andrea: 

Yes, and no. We do use pretty much the same backdrop for the dice trays. In particular, we have a really nice big piece of scrap book paper. That’s this really pretty wooden background that the dice trays just really look nice against. But from a dice potion perspective; from a miniature perspective, we’ve definitely played around with the setups for those to continue to tweak how they look– just simply because, depending on the nature of the colors of the dice and the dice potion, or the colors on the mini. Sometimes the white background really washes them out and it’s hard to see like the glitter and the dice and the dice potion, or, you know, certain colors on the white background don’t look great on the mini, so we have to swap them out for a dark background. So we, we still play around with that, and Deacon says he’s a good balance for me. He tells me I’m a perfectionist. So you know, I’ll probably play around with it more than I should, which is why Saturday mornings are all photography. But, as a business, we just kind of keep trying, right. Neither of us are professional photographers, But, we’re trying.

Courtney: 

It’s always so interesting when you do start your own business, because you’re like, well, I’m really good at this thing, and I want to sell this thing or this service, and then: well, now I have to be an expert in literally every single part of running a business. Have fun!

Andrea: 

It is definitely a lot of work for sure. And we wear multiple hats and if it wasn’t for Deacon, I don’t think I would’ve ever started this business as a solo person. You know, like I said, it helps having a business partner because again, we balance each other.

Courtney: 

Yeah, absolutely. It is hard to go it alone. Okay. I’m going to ask something that may not be the most interesting topic, but it’s one that I don’t actually get to talk about a whole lot on the show, but you brought it up. So, I’m curious on, honestly, just the more legal and accounting logistics. Like how long did it take you to figure out a good rhythm for just getting everything set up with the taxes? So you say you do your taxes on Wednesday and you’re kind of keeping up with your books on a weekly basis that way. How long did it take you to figure all of that out?

Andrea: 

I will be honest. I still haven’t figured all of it out? So I’m actually getting an accountant for the business. Now that we’ve had a very, our very first full year, right? Cause we started December 15th, 2020. So the 2020 taxes were easy. Cause we were open for 15 days and sold one thing for seven bucks, so, you know, we didn’t really have much for taxes, but last year was definitely, we did well enough that we were almost break even with our original startup costs. I would say it took me about 90 days to really get a battle rhythm down and work through all the issues we had with the state with setting our business up in their systems. After that, and the associated penalties we had with those third, those over those three months of missing taxes, right? Because usually what happens is You have to file state and local taxes by a certain date. Otherwise there is a $50 late fee. Once you have a $50 late fee a couple of times you’re like, okay, I gotta get my act together. And so we worked through that appealed the late taxes, and since it was our first three months, the state actually waived those. Thank God. But yeah, As a business owner to kind of find that battle rhythm. and it’s just one of those things you have to keep up with your books. If you’re a small business owner you have to be looking at your books once a week. End of story. If you try to go back like at the end of the month or heaven forbid, months later, you’re going to be like what did I do? How, what was this expense for? I don’t remember what was this cost for? I don’t remember. And then those fees on the taxes, those add up and eat into your profit margin. And that’s no good as a small business owner. You know, the other thing is after talking with a friend, who’s an accountant who actually was like, Andrea, you need to go get an accountant: there are, you know, tax refunds and deductions that small businesses get that a lot of people don’t know. And so that’s what I’m hoping by using an accountant for our taxes, that we’ll have some good deductions since both of us– Deacon and I have dedicated space in our homes for the business– apparently that’s a deduction. I didn’t know that and the same for, we could deduct mileage driving over post office to off orders. So, you know those are the kinds of things as a small business that we’re working on and trying to get our hands wrapped the, the normal battle rhythm and paying for those state and local taxes and things probably about three months to really get the books going well. And, that, that might be the norm or not. I don’t know, but for us at the time, that was really where we kind of started.

Courtney: 

So if you were to start over again, what would you do differently?

Andrea: 

Well, I would probably, if I could go back and tell my old self, I would have taken the time to search around for local resources for small businesses, because about the six months into the business about mid-summer, I found that our local small business administration office actually offered workshops specifically designed for businesses that are minority owned. So for women owned businesses, veteran owned businesses. They actually provide free resources, and I wish I had known that because I would’ve gone to a couple of the workshops right up front before we even launched the business. And I think too, we could have avoided some of our startup costs because some of those workshops that the SBA was offering along with another nonprofit that’s local to our area, they were offering things like how to create a branding package. So I could have learned how to create our logos instead of paying, you know, 50 bucks for somebody to do it, or how to go ahead and file your business with the IRS. And that would have saved us startup costs cause I just went to legal zoom and was like, please do it for me because I’m overwhelmed. So if I were to start over, those are the kinds of things that I wish I had done: was get better educated before we jumped in feet first, just because I think that would have saved us some startup costs right up front, which honestly, for a small business, they, they add up quick. So that, that’s probably the biggest thing. That, and I wish we had figured out a way to start on Etsy first. Start on Etsy and then create another site that manages the inventory between the two. I think that would have probably been a good thing as well. That would have meant that we had more revenue coming in sooner and that could have helped kind of balance out those, those opening costs: Especially when I forgot to file state and local taxes, and we ended up with those, penalties.

Courtney: 

That’s really good advice. I honestly hadn’t ever thought about there being local or yeah. Something that could offer workshops on. Yeah. Here’s how to start a small business. That is a really cool thing, that I am going to be looking into now.

Andrea: 

Well, the other thing is Courtney, our small business admin here in where we are, they actually offer grants to small businesses when they’re starting. You have to go through a process, and for us, we wouldn’t have qualified. For what the SBA wants to do there. They’re trying to give grants to small businesses that are starting, that are, you know, the kind that have to have offices and things like that. Each SBA in the different regions, they offer different grants. So it’s also something to look at, for other people who may be looking at, Hey, maybe I could get a hundred bucks to cover something. Some of the grants. are actually pretty big. They’re like $1,500. So that could be of equipment that’s needed that’s not coming out of the business. So those are, those are things that I’ve learned over the last year as I’ve, I’ve gotten more and more involved in the local community and talk to other small business owners, like for example, our local comic book shop, they worked with the SBA to get a grant when they were first opening several years ago. And that helped defray some costs.

Courtney: 

That is awesome. So those of you listening, if you are wanting to start up a business, make sure you look into your local resources. There’s some amazing stuff out there. I do want to make sure that we have some time to go over some of my questions that I love to ask in every interview, which hopefully, you know these are coming if, since you’ve listened to a few episodes, but when you look back over the last couple of years of getting this shop going and just all the ways that it has grown and evolved since then, what would you say has been the most challenging part?

Andrea: 

That’s really hard question. I’ve been thinking about this one, Courtney, knowing you’re going to ask me this question and I want to say, I think the hardest thing has been managing burnout. Because simply speaking, like we talked about earlier, you’ve got all these hats on, right? You’re an accountant, you’re the face of the business and this and that, and even with the fact that there’s two of us deacon and I, we have to caution each other regularly because we have our, both have our health challenges, right? Like I have fibromyalgia and he has arthritis and we have to make sure that we don’t beat our bodies up too bad, doing what we love. And so managing that, knowing that when we aren’t doing business stuff is kind of like, are we missing out? Are we missing sales? Because we’re not out there pushing, or we’re not out there making new product and not feeling guilty when we rest. That is probably the hardest thing because as they say right, it’s all about the hustle. Well, the hustle can kill you and burn you out bad, if you don’t manage it well. And I would say probably the hardest thing is managing that.

Courtney: 

Yeah, that can absolutely be a challenge for sure. And you like, you want to make sure that you’re still enjoying what you’re doing, but some days, you’re not necessarily going to feel like it, but you still have to, and it’s hard to keep that motivation going and protect yourself.

Andrea: 

Exactly.

Courtney: 

Well, let’s flip it around then. What would you say has been the most rewarding part?

Andrea: 

That one was an easy one. It has been meeting other small business and all their small makers, because my favorite part of the social media piece, isn’t promoting our stuff. It is promoting other people’s stuff, and interacting with the community and meeting cool people, such as yourself and your husband and what you guys are doing, and some of the other small businesses and makers that you’ve interviewed for the podcast, you know, and just in general, the tabletop gaming community on social media. Yes, there’s some definite pockets of dissension. There is a lot of really amazing people out there. And just getting to see what they’re doing, getting to see what they’re making, getting to meet them and see what inspires this business overall and the fun part. And the other fun part too, is the best part about the businesses when somebody leaves a review and it’s a positive review And it’s like, that gives you all the warm fuzzies that somebody thought that your work was not only good enough to buy, but then they absolutely loved it when they’re holding it in their hand. So I would say that’s been the best part about the last year is meeting all these people in this amazing community. And then also just receiving all that, that feedback, knowing that we’re hitting the mark right on being an affordable quality tabletop gaming gear shop that’s really designed to allow everyone to see themselves at the table.

Courtney: 

That is always so special. And I definitely agree about getting to meet so many cool people within this little corner that we have found, but also reviews are so important to your small business owners. So, Hey, when you go buy something from Andrea’s, shop, leave her a review, tell her how awesome it is.

Andrea: 

Yeah, it Definitely makes our day, and for Deacon and I, we both had a pretty rough year, last year. The reviews were what got us through. That’s what kept us going. That’s what’s kept our doors open, was knowing that people loved it enough, that they would take the time to turn around and come back and say, I love it. It’s amazing. I can’t wait to use it. So yeah. It was definitely a good mental health boost when other people say nice things.

Courtney: 

Definitely. Andrea. This has been a really good conversation. Thank you for letting me nerd out into the more logistics, businessy things. It’s been some good topics, but if people want to find you and Deacon and your shop, where should they go?

Andrea: 

So the shop itself is WolfwoodGaming.com. And then you can find us on most of the social media platforms. So Twitter is at Wolfwood Gaming, or if you want to do the miniatures, you can find me Andrea at of dice and minis. And then we’re also on Instagram at Wolfwood Gaming and Facebook Wolfwood Gaming. So all of that, if you go to WolfwoodGaming.com and scroll to the bottom, the links are all there. And if you’re on Twitter, our link tree is there as well with all of the links, but we’re pretty active across all of those platforms, like I said, And we just hope to see people connecting with us there.

Courtney: 

Awesome. Yeah, I will include links, to those in the show notes, but thank you again for coming on today. This has been a great conversation.

Andrea: 

Well, Courtney, thanks so much. This was really exciting for us. This is our first time that we’ve ever been featured on anything this cool. So thanks so much for your time and thanks for reaching out and hope you and everyone listening has a great rest of the week.

Thanks for dropping by! We would love to know who would like us to interview, so please drop a comment here on the blog, on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Discord to let us know who your favorite creators are! If you’d like access to more maps and content, including downloadable PDFs of our adventures, check out our Maps Patreon or Podcast Patreon. We’re able to do what we do because of all our amazing Patrons!

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