We had the good fortune of connecting with Ashley Mika and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ashley, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I wanted to do things on my terms. That’s a very basic response, but it’s true! I always wanted to become a writer, but life had other plans. Later on, I was able to write for a blog and I got a taste of what I’ve always wanted to do. In the end, it had its rewarding moments, but ultimately I was writing for someone else’s dream that didn’t align with mine. I stopped being as happy and fell into a dark place because of it.
I write primarily for a nerdy audience. What I’ve noticed is that nerd culture doesn’t always talk about all the intersections that we have. We don’t always talk about sex (including sex work) and nerd culture. We don’t always talk about how nerd spaces aren’t always accessible to people with disabilities. Yes, let’s talk about the latest anime or Marvel/DC movie but we can also talk about the social issues in our space as well. Let’s not always talk about mainstream culture, we can talk about the small creators within our community, They deserve some light too!
When I realized that’s what I was becoming more passionate about, I decided maybe it was time to figure out my own brand and make it happen.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I got to where I was by hitting rock bottom emotionally. By the end of 2018, a lot of things came to a crashing halt if you will. Emotionally, things were bad bad. After essentially crying about it, I had this dream where everything I wanted to do in terms of my writing and blog fell into place. I was happy, my friends were happy, and I was able to take care of those who helped me. That was my kick in the butt to focus on how to create NerdyBebop and make something of it.
NerdyBebop is a blog dedicated to “Seeing the human behind the nerd.” I want to make sure that whenever I cover a story about an anime or movie, I talk about it from a place of empathy. I want to help people see the humanity behind the nerdy things we enjoy. I want to connect with people and help them see that there is more ways to consume things in nerd space than through just an able bodied lens. In such a niche space, there is room for everyone at the table and we all need to be able to reach each other. It’s no fun if not everyone can enjoy nerd culture because of an -ism. My goal is to leave the nerd spaces I enjoy a little bit better than how I came in.
Nothing about creating a brand is easy. Even the name because you have to make sure no one else is using it or where it pops up on a Google search. It’s maddening, but rewarding when you clear some hurdles. It’s fun when you’ve worked with an artist to create a logo that represents who you are (Thanks Anna and Andy!) It’s amazing when you can look a website you created get traction or an article you wrote going viral. It doesn’t always happen, but it’s satisfying. It reminds me that I’m doing something right after a lot of hiccups.
There is also the battle I have with imposter syndrome. It gets very easy to compare yourself to others and second guess yourself. For me personally, that slowed me down a lot. It took a break and some self-reflecting to remember that everyone has their own journey and path.
We all get to where we want and need to go at our own pace. You’re not competing with the world or other people in your industry, you’re competing with yourself. Always show up for yourself. You have time.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Being from the DMV (DC-MD-VA), there are a lot of places to show off. I would start in DC. There is so much in DC to visit, especially if you enjoy brain candy. I’m a nerd and I love learning, so we would definitely hit up all of the Smithsonian museums. My personal favorite is the Natural History Museum because I love that kind of science. There are a few interesting anthropology exhibits in there (My degree is in biological anthropology) that I would love to show someone. If it’s not super obvious, but I find humans and human origins interesting. The National Museum of African American History and Culture is also a must. That museum tells the Black/African American story so well, it moved me. Everyone should see that museum at least once.
If you’re a book lover, you HAVE to see the Library of Congress. The Jefferson Building is the main building, if you will, and it’s so beautiful. The main reading room is a very scenic place. There is a feeling I get when being in there. It feels rich with history and feels like important research and discovery happens there. Honestly, you could request a graphic novel and read it in there. I think that’s pretty awesome. From the marbling and painting, visually the Jefferson Building (Library of Congress) is something you can’t miss.
In the DMV, there is a variety of food so you almost hit every culture if you really wanted to. My favorite thing to do is to go to Korean BBQs and hot pot spots. The best places I’ve been have been in Virginia. If you want good seafood, there are places in DC near the Wharf and spots on Baltimore, MD. We have Lady M in Tyson’s Corner, VA for sweets and boba spots all over. The best part is you can access all of this just by public transit. Since it is public transit, there are moments but you really don’t need a car.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would dedicate my shoutout to Maki and Anna.
To Maki, you were always an inspiration to me in many ways. I was able to grow as a person and a brand owner because of you. The reassurance, the support and love helped me find my footing and remain grounded in what I wanted to do. Thank you for always being honest with me. Thank you for always being transparent in your journey because it helped me see that I was on the right track.
To Anna, you’ve been my best friend for years and we’ve always been there for each other every step of the way. You always believed in what I wanted to do even when I almost forgot to believe in myself. Thank you for helping my brand find it’s visuals and for listening to me talk about NerdyBebop until 3am.
Maleficent cosplay (Black/green) Photographer AshB Collage of Art: Artist credit to Anna/Middnite and Jawara Blake Purple dress: Photographer Dancing Squirrel Photography Silver haired Elf: Photographer HeadAboveHeart