Every so often, the paths of passion and hobby cross to make a really cool career. For Cathy Cogar, of Bridgeport, W.Va., those happened to be candle making and her love of geeky fandoms.
Cathy always enjoyed candle making and picked up the hobby in high school, just for fun. However, as she got older and college then graduate school took over her life, she didn’t have the time or space to devote to it anymore.
“One day in early 2012, I remember sitting at my desk while having a random conversation with my husband when I had a passing thought about combining my geeky interests with my old candle making hobby. There weren’t any other exclusively geeky candle companies out there at that time (that I knew of), so I had no idea if there was a market for what I wanted to create. Nevertheless, the plans for Bubble and Geek were hatched that day,” Cathy said.
Cathy quickly went to work building her inventory and refining her process while still working full time in data analytics. She created an Etsy shop in 2012 and then her candles were soon featured on a popular geek and gaming website.
“This led to an influx of sales, and I realized then that I was on to something. It validated my ideas, and after that I started taking things more seriously as a business, and not just a hobby,” she said.
Cathy’s first sale was on Etsy, and she continued to exclusively sell on Etsy during her first year of business as she continued to grow. Since then, she’s been able to diversify where she sells, but still recognizes the platform as instrumental in her early success.
As Bubble and Geek gets bigger and better, Cathy is becoming aware of how living in West Virginia affects her ability to grow.
“Living in a rural area limits options for selling in person due to the lower population, which is my primary reason for focusing on an online retail business model. However, the lower cost of living means that I can afford to have space in my house for use as a studio and inventory storage. I think there are going to be tradeoffs for any particular business location,” she said.
One of those tradeoffs for the better includes her ability to make something really unique in West Virginia – a place not necessarily known for its hip or trendy products.
“I have a small symbol on all of my products that indicates they are handmade in Bridgeport, W.Va. In general, I think many people living in W.Va aren’t really used to seeing products made in their home state. Because of this, when people from my community find out that my products are handmade locally, they tend to get really excited,” she said. “This is especially true when it happens in an online forum, like Instagram. I’ve had so many cases of local people finding my products randomly online and exclaiming things like, ‘OMG! You’re from W.Va. too!’ You can really sense the pride that people have to see something coming from their state.”
Cathy works hard to create products that she’s proud of and her inspiration comes from everywhere. She finds ideas while reading or watching TV and movies. If the character or location is something she really loves, she will create a scent in their honor. However, she said that it’s been known to work the other way around too. Occasionally, she will get a scent sample and tries to work it into a theme that he customers would enjoy.
Truly enjoying her work, Cathy has found a new love lately for adding soap to her inventory.
“Although the process of soap making is a bit more technically challenging than the other products, I make due to the chemical reactions involved, it is extremely rewarding. I love the artistic process of planning out the soap design and then seeing how it turns out after it’s cut and cured,” she said.
In the business that she is in, there is no doubt that Cathy loves her inner geek. However, picking her favorite fandom was a little difficult.
“I really like the Parks and Rec fandom because the characters are so cheerful and quirky that you can’t help but have a laugh with fellow fans about it. I also really like the Buffy the Vampire Slayer fandom because there’s something special about something that has persisted so long with fans that love it just as much as they did on Day One. I’ve liked spooky stories since I was a kid, and Buffy combined those with the most wonderful sense of humor in a way that I really enjoy(ed). I’m also a big fan of Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones/ASOIAF, Lord of the Rings and Outlander. I know, it probably sounds like I am just listing off the Bubble and Geek product themes, but it’s definitely no coincidence that I create around what I love,” she said.
As Cathy moves forward with Bubble and Geek, she is able to attend more of the fandom conventions and connect with different people from all over.
“I am hoping that these in-person events will gradually help to expand my customer base. I am also more focused than ever on my social media strategy, which is a strong sales driver for my business,” she said.
For those who absolutely need a Leslie Knope candle – or need to know what the inside of Newt’s briefcase smells like, orders can be place through the Bubble and Geek website.