I recorded a podcast and seem to have lost it amongst a plethora of recordings that I haven’t had a chance to sit down and edit. The premise was that I would have an episode to speak about me (which I both hate and am not good at). The idea behind it was to allow folks to know who is behind Nerdgazzum and to, I suppose, inspire more confidence in the sense that there is no anonymity or clear accountability behind the face of the business.
As I hate talking about myself in a serious manner, I don’t really know how to start so I guess I shall begin by telling you that my name is Craig Stewart. I was born in Edinburgh in 1984 and currently live in South Wales (for almost 10 years at the time of writing this).
I work in a call centre in customer services full time (12 hour shifts practically) and started Nerdgazzum in February of 2014 as a means of breaking free from the tedium that has set in after (at the time) 8 years of working there. As of this April, it’ll be 9 years.
On top of working full time, I also have 3 daughters – at the time of starting the business I had 2 with one on the way.
I always wanted to do something I enjoyed – my previous jobs have lost their novelty at a certain point and so I moved on to pastures new but, working for others soon became my issue and working for myself is the dream. I read Kevin Smith’s “Tough Sh*t” – yes, I’ve blogged and posted on social media about this before – and it inspired me to do something I want to do; something I’m interested in.
I inadvertently started on my path when I subscribed to Nerdblock — a monthly subscription of mystery goodies – and had some items I wasn’t particularly interested in and sold them on eBay. The biggest sells were 2 Funko POP!s – Invisible Bilbo Baggins and Jabba The Hutt…these sold for way more than I expected and my ‘eureka’ moment hit me. I soon set off on a journey that I didn’t think would amount to anything – I e-mailed companies and chased up leads to figure out how I’d start.
At the time, there were to be 3 of us involved. Myself and 2 of my colleagues but due to events in their personal lives (one was expecting a baby and the other was having issues that I need not mention here). So, it was either a case of sink or swim. Let the seminal idea go or stick with it.
I stuck with it and, with a small investment from each of us (£13 each) I started the website – this had been done prior to the decision to go it alone. With another £80 I started off with 6 Funko POP!s (Harley Quinn with Mallet figures). It was a struggle, mainly selling to friends and eventually friends of friends. But, by securing some San Diego Comic Con 2014 items, it pretty much set me on course for a more successful venture.
It’s been tough, and it still is – as time goes on, managing a website that displays almost 1500 items and trying to maintain it whilst holding down a full-time job and just general family life and domestic chores there have been times that I have been close to jacking it all in. At one stage, I came so close it wasn’t even an idle threat.
But, despite how hard I found making my mark and getting people to hear of my site and trust me enough to spend their hard earned cash on me, an unknown in an ever growing market, I carried on – to which I am glad as it’s the only thing that got me through the darkest part of my life and the hardest part of 2014.
In May, I discovered my Mum had been diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in the January just gone. The cancer was untreatable and it was basically months that she was given. In June, I took the family up as we always do each year, to visit and spend time with my family as well as celebrate my 30th birthday (June 16th). My Mum’s birthday is the day after mine.
In August, it turns out she had been admitted into hospital into the Margaret Kerr Unit (palliative care). At this time, my partner was heavily pregnant and our third addition to the family was expected on 2 September, but on the run up it seemed like she may arrive sooner.
I had a tough decision to make – do I go and see my mum one last time and leave my family behind to possibly miss the birth of my daughter (or worse, not be there if any issues arose). In the end, we all went up. That was the toughest decision of my life but I am glad I did it. I dropped them off at my Mum’s house and got them settled (this was around 1am by the time we arrived). By 1:30 I was at the hospital to meet my sister and I stayed up all night (well, morning).
I won’t give a blow by blow account of my time there but, the following night, I stayed with my Mum on my own in the hospital to give my sister a break and my Mum, throughout the night and the wee hours, opened her eyes which she had never done before. She showed signs of strength that she hadn’t demonstrated since being admitted; trying to move and re-position herself in the bed as well as wanting a drink. In my mind, I wanted to believe that my presence was giving her some form of strength and a bit of fight back. Maybe my Mum would come back? Immediately as that thought occurred, my senses kicked in and told me not to be stupid. She was not being fed nor watered, she was on a drip of painkillers and nothing else.
On August 29th, about an hour into my shift in work, I had the fateful call that my Mum had passed away. The following week, after my daughter was born and had come home, I hit the road to Scotland. Alone. I recorded a solo podcast on the road which was a shoddy rant at a few things.
To say 2014 was challenging is to say that Batman is a little bitch. But, by the time my Mum had passed, I felt I had come so far that to give it all up would be criminal. My father passed away earlier in the year, but as I hadn’t spoken to him since I was 12, his passing didn’t affect me all that much. But the fact that both of my parents were now gone, it made me question my own mortality.
I know children should survive their parents – it’s the natural order, after all – but I would have traded places if I could. But I couldn’t, and all I could and can do is do my Mum proud and not quit. I normally choose the path of least resistance. At the first sign of difficulty I usually quit – a videogame mentality, hit a hard part, save it and maybe come back later. Or, quit and put something else on, haha!
But, as I always believed, things that are worth doing are never easy. If they were, everyone would be doing it. And so, I carry on and at this stage I feel like I’ve accomplished something. There’s still a lot to do and it’s only going to get tougher before it gets easier, but I’m not getting any younger and I need to focus on this.
I’ve had some criticisms and some shitty e-mails and comments from people. Yes, sometimes I may take a while to update folks on their orders or or maybe take a while to update my store with date changes and what-not. But, for those that keep coming back – they know they can drop me an e-mail or Facebook message and double check. Considering how hectic life is generally, no one can deny that I am pretty damned diligent in my responses – if they’re not straight away they’re mostly not far off it. Some may take longer as I may be in work and can’t use my phone unless I’m on break. Or I may take some time to look into something.
But how many retailers will reply to a private message at 3am? Or message you straight back and have a laugh and joke with you?
A lot of people seem to think, and have called me a liar when I have said to the contrary, that Nerdgazzum is a big business. It’s not a limited company. It’s not a buzzing hive of employees all working together as one. It’s just me. And considering that I have no business experience prior (except Business Studies and Accounting & Finance in high school) and the fact that this is my pet project as a dream to get me out of my day job and into this as my career, I haven’t done that bad (I’d like to think).
Anyway, I need to get back to number crunching as I’m amassing a HUGE order (including the much anticipated Gold Smaug figures and a few other figures of sheer awesomeness).
I wanted to take the time to let folks know who is behind the name, what drives me and that, after all, I am one mere mortal trying to fight it out amidst the bigger names and companies with buying power and remaining pretty damned competitive while I’m at it.
Remember, if you have any doubts about something on the store (item availability etc) just drop me a message on the Facebook page or send a Tweet or even an e-mail.
Have a good ‘un!