Cassie Wanda: “Rising tide lifts all boats”

I think reminding ourselves that it’s temporary can be helpful — Even that is hard because back in March I thought I was pulling my kid out of school for a few weeks max — then maybe two months, and we’re sitting at over five months now with no end in sight. Today actually I sat down and just […]

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I think reminding ourselves that it’s temporary can be helpful — Even that is hard because back in March I thought I was pulling my kid out of school for a few weeks max — then maybe two months, and we’re sitting at over five months now with no end in sight. Today actually I sat down and just realized how much I missed taking my daughter to the library, zoo, and Universal Studios. I told her as much, and this four-year-old sat down next to me, patted my back and said, “it’s okay mommy, this isn’t forever.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.

As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing professional Fairy Godmother, Cassie Wanda.

In 2013, Glimmerwood made a magical impact in the cosplay community. As a Fairy Godmother, Cassie Wanda added a distinctive touch of whimsy to her costumes. Now, specializing in bespoke gowns made especially for you and your unique needs, Glimmerwood is known for adding special details that have caught the attention of a diverse and worldwide audience.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

In 2012–2013, I was working for a makeup company, and I wanted to start performing at princess parties. I was seeing all of these beautiful gowns, but they were a little out of my budget, so I decided to start trying to learn how to make them myself. I did a brief internship with Firefly Path and realized that it was something I wanted to do professionally after making a few gowns for myself. From there, I started sewing for friends and then word spread, and more and more people were interested in hiring me. It’s been a wonderful journey coming from a self-sufficient princess to Professional Fairy Godmother.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?

A couple of interesting stories. The first one, that I never really will ever forget, back in 2014 was, was when I was commissioned by Sanrio to make officially licensed Hello Kitty wedding gowns. There was a fashion installation put on by my friend Stephee of JapanLA. And it was really such an honor because I was paid to make two completely original designs, that were inspired by the absolutely iconic Hello Kitty. That was just really amazing, thousands of people got to see my gowns on display, and they were featured in online outlets and news sources. It was a really humbling and wonderful, wonderful experience.

The other one that comes to mind, was actually more recent. I was supposed to, (chuckle), thanks COVID, go to the California Mermaid Convention (MerCon) in Sacramento this year. However, like most things, COVID shuts it down. I was disappointed not to go as it was supposed to be my first convention as a vendor. Luckily, the MerCon decided to go digital so we could all still participate. I was able to find a way to do a virtual fashion show and change how I was planning on attending this convention, and I go to do it all from the comfort of my own home. It was a really wonderful experience. The virtual fashion show featured eight models of different sizes and backgrounds, I had five new designs to show. I tried a new method of selling sample gowns and it was all worth the stress — things are working out really well for my company right now, and it was a unique experience.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I think it’s very exciting right now that for the first time since I started sewing professionally, the majority of my commission list is original designs. I generally do cosplay garments, which are gowns based on characters from TV shows, movies, etc. Right now, my commission list is chock-full of stuff that came straight out of my brain and I’m thankful for that. It’s really validating as a designer to have people want you to make them something that is entirely YOU.

I’ve also been really lucky to have a couple of companies reach out for a collaboration. I think normally when you own a company that sells something, it can be difficult to work with other brands. While I do believe a “rising tide lifts all boats”, and as more people are interested in fantasy gowns, I’m more likely to be found by new clients. However, doing photoshoots or collaborations with other designers is sometimes hard to balance as we don’t want to be confused with each other. I think I’ve found a way around that and I’ve been working with new people in new fun ways. And I can’t really talk about any of it yet, but if you keep an eye on my social media, you’ll see it soon.

As for helping people? I think that there is never a wrong time to make yourself feel magical with a new spectacular gown. One of the things I love most about my audience and clientele is how diverse they all are. I get people of all ages, sizes, and backgrounds who want to wear my work — it’s really incredible to hear people say how they feel beautiful when they wear something I’ve made.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Do I only have to pick one person who helped me achieve success along the way? I have quite a few.

There’s obviously my husband to thank because, without his encouragement in the first year or two of our marriage, I wouldn’t have been able to focus on this full time. And he’s just been, like this cheerleader and secret accountant in the background. Every month or so we go over budget, and I check and see what I should focus on to be doing better. If I need extra time to work, he’s down to help however he can, and I’m just forever thankful for him.

I’d also not be where I was if my former boss, Doe Deere, hadn’t let me go (laughs) from the job that I was at when I started Glimmerwood full time. I was working for a makeup company, she saw that while I was working part-time sewing, she knew I wanted to do it full time. I didn’t feel prepared to jump in fully yet and she made it a lot easier for me, by taking away my place of work (chuckles). I actually talk to her quite often, she’s a good friend. And she said that, no other person thanks her every year on the anniversary of getting fired (laughs), for firing them. That’s kind of a fun little thing.

And again, I had mentioned earlier that I did an internship and JoEllen of Firefly Path was really kind in teaching me a lot of skills. I actually have a group text with other designers that we can chat about how to do certain things we need to brush up on or how to deal with difficult clients, etc.

And that’s just a few people right off the top of my head. I could go on, and I could go on, and I could go on, but I should probably stop.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?

Oh, COVID-19, you have really shaken quite a bit. Along with most working parents, we lost our daycare via preschool because of COVID, and that kind of shook my commission schedule. In my seven years of doing commissions, I had only missed a deadline twice, Unfortunately, the third one was because of COVID. Luckily my client ended up not needing to the gown as soon as she thought because of the virus and she was patient with me while I figured out how to balance everything.

I think the biggest family challenge was really that we lost the daycare. My daughter went to preschool three days a week and I was able to work by myself, but really focus with no one else in the house who needed anything, had questions, made a mess I needed to clean up after etc. Now, I don’t have that. I work when she’s napping, I work after she goes to bed, I try and set her up with a good craft and sneak away to answer some emails. I think the biggest secret to my success during this pandemic, is don’t sleep… Okay, that’s terrible advice, and not even true, because I do sleep (laughs).

It’s obviously been difficult for me; it’s been difficult for everybody. My husband, thankfully, still has his job and has been working from home and from the office off and on, so I have a little extra support while he’s here, sometimes kid will play “work” and set up a mini desk next to him and they’ll work quietly together. It’s just kind of all about balance right now. Everybody’s compromising. We’re taking less time to ourselves. We haven’t been on a date in who knows how long, but both our jobs are getting on, we’re healthy, and we’re lucky we all like each other (chuckles).

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

Addressing the challenges comes down to just a lot of communication with my partner and just being very creative. My husband has now taken on full kid duties once a week, so I get a full uninterrupted eight to ten hours to work nonstop. I give him some time the morning the next day, so he can get a bike ride in and feel refreshed and reenergized. We just take turns with everything. Like I said, I’m also staying up a lot later than I normally do. I have some very sleepy mornings with my daughter but nothing that some good Hooked on Phonics and playdoh can’t help out with.

Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?

Work-related challenges for me are really similar to the family, it’s just trying to find time for everything. I am a one-woman show. I answer the emails, I do the social media, I design, sew, photograph the gowns, I’m in touch with the clients, I do some side projects like sewing masks and photography, I do the budget and taxes, I do my shopping, packing and shipping, I do my organizing, my cleaning, designing and ordering business cards, I do everything for my business. Finding time for everything is really difficult. One of the challenges for work is just finding time and managing expectations.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

Realistically manage expectations of yourself and others. As soon as I realized that I didn’t know how COVID was going to affect me or my business, I went over my commission schedule and I doubled the allotted time for every gown that I had in place, so I wouldn’t be late on anything else, which caused me to be booked out quite far with less income. After a few weeks of working with this new balance, I was able to figure out what my pace actually was. But even then, I’m still struggling to keep up when people want a design sketch, or I need to get photos shot and edited for a group or collaborative project.

I kind of have this way of working where I set aside pockets of time for specific tasks. In the morning when my daughter’s having breakfast, I’ll answer my emails and catch up on simple computer work, for about an hour while I kind of wake up and greet the world. When she’s napping (or playing quietly in her room), I do any fabric cutting or machine sewing that I need to do. After she goes to bed, I do detail work on gowns or photo editing or sketching — this allows me to veg on the couch with my husband while we watch a movie together or chat. I just try and find a place for everything in, Every Monday I make a schedule and by Wednesday or Thursday I’m reviewing it to see if I’m keeping up and need to put anything on the backburner or get ahead of schedule anywhere else. Setting strict schedules and sticking to it as best I can, is very important for me keeping on top of my workload and handling my business in this weird time, or anytime really.

Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?

I’m lucky right now, my daughter is in preschool so any homeschooling education is extra. We’ve been working on reading or writing almost every day. We do a little bit of math or science a few times a week. We do art. Every day she goes to her room for about 2–3 hours. She can have a nap and if she doesn’t want a nap that day, that’s fine, but she still needs to stay in her room quietly so I can work. It’s all about scheduling for me. I have my time in the morning, I have my time during her nap, I have my time when she goes to bed and then I’m trying to focus on her in those in-between times.

If you have a partner, just communicate with them. “This is what I need Monday.” “Can you do this for me this Tuesday?” “What can I do to make your life easier?” “If you take over Saturday, I’ll give you a few free hours Sunday where you can be by yourself.” That’s how we are getting through this. But again, I have a huge advantage, where I’m not trying to do the virtual learning right now. Although, I have been having my daughter do video chats with friends and family, and she just turned four so that can usually eat up a good half hour and I can sneak away and get something done.

Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?

I don’t know that I’m the best person about asking how to stay serene, but how to stay sane (chuckles) while sheltering in place, I think a lot of it is reminding yourself to take time for yourself, and then following through. Especially if you have the opportunity to balance with a partner or someone else. Like I mentioned before, I make sure that my husband’s able to ride his bike at least once a week because that always helps center him. Setting aside that three or four hours is so beneficial to us both. Also, when he can give me time on the weekends to work, because it’s so silly, but work really does make me feel good.

Personally, I have taken up chalk art recently and absolutely love drawing with my daughter almost every morning. She enjoys it, but if I’m honest it’s kind of more for me (laughs).

I think communication is so important, I know I keep going back to that but if you communicate what you need instead of getting upset that the someone isn’t doing something for you, it just makes things a lot easier.

Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

Oh gosh, this is a really tough question. I don’t know that I have a magic five things. Hmm,

I think reminding ourselves that it’s temporary can be helpful — Even that is hard because back in March I thought I was pulling my kid out of school for a few weeks max — then maybe two months, and we’re sitting at over five months now with no end in sight. Today actually I sat down and just realized how much I missed taking my daughter to the library, zoo, and Universal Studios. I told her as much, and this four-year-old sat down next to me, patted my back and said, “it’s okay mommy, this isn’t forever.”

I also think being thankful for the health you do have it is important. Saying that seems awkward, border lining insensitive during a pandemic, but right now my family is mostly healthy and able to stay in touch between video chats or masked outdoor visits. We’ve gotten creative with blowing out birthday candles so as not to possibly infect cake for anyone. We try to laugh about it — and watching my sister use her hands to create wind to blow out her candle was pretty funny.

I don’t know if this is light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel specifically, but I think a lot of people are taking this time to try new things. I definitely don’t have extra time to learn new adult-level skills myself right now, but I’m using this time to teach kiddo how to bake, read, and write and taking up hobbies that might be targeted to a younger audience, but still fun for me. And, trying to learn to appreciate things more. We played Go Fish recently and there was something so nostalgic about it and I was so happy. I don’t know how these little things will continue when I have access to preschool again, so we’re trying to cherish these times now.

Gosh, I really don’t know that I could come up with five hopeful things. Frankly, this pandemic is a crappy situation and I don’t think that acknowledging that is a bad thing? We’re bombarded with so much news and it’s hard to see what’s real, people are scared and sometimes it’s okay to just say “this sucks and I’m going to eat some chocolate and take a bath.” But again, for most of us, this is a temporary thing and we’ll get through it.

From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

I think keeping in touch is really important with loved ones who are feeling anxious. I try and video chat with family as often as our schedule allows. We try and keep in touch with friends. I don’t do it every day, but I do try and reach out to friends occasionally, who I know have mentioned that they’re having a hard time or if I just miss them and I’m like, hey how you doing? How you’ve been? If I’m feeling emotionally stable enough, I’ll ask them if they need to get anything off their chest. If I’m not, I just drop a, “hi I’m thinking of you, hope you’re well.”

I think that one of the best things to help people who are feeling anxious and help yourself if you’re feeling anxious, is be aware of your emotional capacity. If someone is saying something to you and it’s overwhelming you, you need to be comfortable saying, you know I don’t think I can talk about this right now, can we come back to it later? Or if you’re going to drop some heavy news or thoughts on a friend, ask if they’re kind of in an emotional state where they can hear that. Again, back to communication. Keep in touch with people and be aware of and respect boundaries from each other.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I don’t know about a specific life lesson quote, but I will tell you that one of the life lessons I’ve learned, is get everything in writing. Whether you’re working with a client or friend, make sure that anything that agreed upon is in writing. Even if it’s a phone conversation and you both get really excited about something you plan to do. Sit down afterwards, write out an email, say, “hey I just want to summarize that this is what I’m planning on doing for you and this is what you’re going to do in exchange and these are the dates it’s going to be done by.“ Because, hooo boy, not having stuff in writing has bit me in the bump and having stuff in writing has really, really helped me when things go south.

How can our readers follow you online?

TikTok: @glimmerwood

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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