We had the good fortune of connecting with Sharmane Fury and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sharmane, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I have a few small businesses at the moment, ManeHustle Media Podcast Network, Masks By Mane, and Gulf Coast Cosmos Comicbook Co.
Starting with ManeHustle Media, I wanted to create a community space that would focus on and elevate POC-created content in the podcasting arena because in 2018 it felt like there weren’t many options for us in podcasting. I have a very “for us, by us, about us” mentality and while podcasting can be a difficult space to blow up in, it does allow individuals to create a platform and in my case grow different communities out of discussions of race, sexuality, and gender identities.
I created the Militantly Mixed podcast because as a Multiracial person I didn’t have a community of other Mixed people that I wasn’t related to to commiserate with, talk about issues related to racial identity, and feel less alone. It took a couple of years but I was truly able to build a community and a found-family that continue to support the show, me and each other which is way beyond my original dream for the show. Black Radical Queer was created and hosted by Jhavia Nicole on the network for very similar reasons, when we originally talked about me producing it, I hadn’t been as vocal about my Queerness as I was about my Mixedness but producing Jhavia’s show over the years inspired to me to be more vocal and now the intersection of my race and queer identities are more strongly linked than when we started. BLERDcoMIXed, which I co-host with my childhood homie Shawnbay Jones aka BlerdVision, is also a community space for blerds (Black-nerds) to geek out in and finally openly talk about things that made us feel “less Black” when we were growing up. For every show on the network a similar phenomenon of community, mental health/emotional medicine, and overwhelming support exist… which really truly was the mission for ManeHustle Media when I began. We have a couple shows either on hiatus or pre-production pending financing right now, but they are also in line with that “for us, by us, about us” community-based mission.
Masks By Mane, was born out of my personal anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic. I needed to do something constructive that would be helpful to others but I was too afraid to be on the front lines or assisting people in-person to be honest. But I had this minor skill in sewing and thought I could start making masks for donations. I chose fabrics that represent my cultural heritages and my geekery then friends/family started to ask me to sell them. I felt weird at first but then I would sell a few and their friends would ask where to get them and the next thing I knew I had the domain www.MasksByMane.com and was selling masks. I started donating a portion of the proceeds to various charities that supported predominately Black and Brown COVID relief funds and the rest for saving up for my move to Houston this summer. I’ll be winding down Masks By Mane in June to focus more on the next BIG chapter of my life but it truly has helped me process my anxiety about the virus and gave me a way to raise money to help people. I don’t think I would have gotten through the pandemic quite the same if I hadn’t done this.
And finally the next BIG chapter… I will be moving to Houston this summer to open the brick-and-mortar shop for the comic book shop I co-own with my friend Byron Canady called Gulf Coast Cosmos. When I was a little Mixed Black-Japanese kid growing up in Long Beach, hiding that I was a comic book geek from my friends, I would dream of there being a neighborhood comic book shop where Black and Brown kids like me would hang out and not feel embarrassed or too nerdy in. As the BLERDcoMIXed podcast grew and I met other Black and Brown nerds, the desire to be the owner of such a space became stronger. I got to talking with Byron, a friend that I had met in business school years ago, about my dream and he was already in the process of building a similar business concept in Houston! So we decided to partner together to create Gulf Coast Cosmos Comicbook Co. which launched online in August 2020 due to daRona www.GulfCoastCosmos.com. I decided to stay another year in L.A. while we built up our online presence while we waited out the pandemic. Now that vaccinations are becoming available and it seems that there is light at the end of the tunnel for going back outside, I will be moving to Houston this summer to finally open the brick-and-mortar shop. But like ManeHustle Media and all the podcasts, GCC is a business that has community at the center of the mission. Creating a space for everyone but in particular one that Black and Brown folx can see themselves centered and elevated in. We do this “For the Comics. For the Culture.”
Every project or business I create, I do so with the desire to create community-safe spaces.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
As an employee, I had typically had the experience of growing quickly in any company but then something external to me would get in the way of my going further. Things like out-of-state moves for my partner’s career, the international owners shutting down the U.S. branch of my favorite job to date, a terrible experience at a company that grew too big too fast and many people lost job security. I would get on a path and feel like I could see my future and then BOOM back to square one. And I just got tired of chasing success through making others rich off my experience.
I wanted to really start focusing on making my own way. I believe anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit has to try a few things on before they find the thing that fits. I always had a side hustle, no matter how secure or well paying my day job was, I had a side hustle. I tried many things in the hopes that one day I could afford to be my own boss. But things didn’t click into place until I stopped trying to “make money” and started trying to make myself happy. I wanted to love what I do and hoped I could get by doing it as well. When I started podcasting, I learned I could have a side hustle that made me happy and I could make a little money doing it as well. Podcasting has opened up so many opportunities for me to speak publicly on the topics of race, queerness, and even comic books. I have spoken at PFLAG chapters, Sierra College, UCLA, UC Berkeley, on TV and podcast panels, and it resonates because I enjoy these subjects and I am happiest when I get to focus on community. I also believe I have so much support from my audience for my non-podcasting endeavors because I am my true self on my shows and they get to hear my excitement and enthusiasm and they want to help me succeed. This taught me that it was possible to be successful if you “be yourself,” that I could build companies out of things I loved to do or wanted to do. I learned I didn’t have to try to conform to any perceived notions of what I should do. And it wasn’t a waste developing skills in the corporate world all those years just to step away from it to start building my own non-corporate style business because that was an invaluable education on how to run or not run my businesses.
Now as I transition into going full-time with Gulf Coast Cosmos this summer, and finding a way to roll my podcasting/entertainment work into the business model for the shop, I am happier. What I would want the world to know about my story is also what I use as a slogan on Militantly Mixed, but it can be altered to apply to anything. I tell my multiracial audience every show to BE YOUR MIXED ASS SELF!!! That means whatever you’re Mixed with, you can claim or not claim as you are the most comfortable. That you don’t have to answer to what other people’s ideas for or about you are. You declare it for yourself. How that applies to things outside of my podcast is to BE YOUR WHOLE ASS SELF, for me I had to look at myself and say soooo you are a comic book geek that also loves to talk about race and sexuality all the time. And sometimes you can’t talk about one without the other, so I started podcasting to exercise those passions. Then I said, but I don’t want to punch a clock and only get to do this on the weekends or after work so I found a way to build that into a career that I control for myself and I am so much happier now that I can do that. I want that for others too and if these things I created offer happiness to others too, then I know I am on the right track.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Honestly, because of the pandemic, I haven’t been able to enjoy this city at all in a year and I am sad I will be leaving L.A before everything starts to open back up. So I would almost like to take myself out to all the things I love about L.A. right now as I’m sure we all wish.
First of all, you don’t come to L.A. to not basically live on the beach. So I would spend every day at the beach for a couple of hours a day. Swimming, breathing in that salt air and getting some sun is so good for our mental health. Then we’d have to eat our way through the town at either in my neck of the woods Sawtelle for Ramen at literally any of the amazing spots Tatsu (though I prefer the one on Melrose), Tsujita or Killer Noodle, or go to Little Ethiopia, again a street filled with amazing spots to eat but Messob is a favorite. Have to wind down the evening by going to a comedy show. The comedy scene here in L.A. is tough but I think it builds the best comedians. Plus, you can just accidentally see some of the biggest names in comedy any night of the week just cause they want to test out new material. Before the pandemic, I’d go to the Improv or the Comedy Store a few nights a week. I’m really going to miss getting to do that, well I guess I have really missed it for the past year.
These are the three major reasons why I love living in L.A… the beach, the food, the comedy, so that is what visitors get from me when they come to town.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I don’t think I can narrow it down to just one because there are many people that come through and support me, mentor me, and lift me up. But since we are talking businesses, I have to acknowledge Jhavia Nicole (Black Radical Queer Podcast) & Shawnbay Jones aka BlerdVision (BLERDcoMIXed Podcast), my PODnahs in podcasting. Without these two ManeHustle Media would be a pipe dream. Their work on the shows and the fact that we all three have a similar belief in creating “for us, by us, about us” spaces continues to motivate me to keep pushing until ManeHustle Media becomes the biggest podcasting space for POC created content possible. I also have to acknowledge my business partner and friend Byron Canady for working with me to turn the dream of owning a neighborhood comic book shop with a mission to lift up Black and Brown comic book geeks and nerds is one of the biggest things to ever happen in my life. More than that I am able to fold in my podcasting into my comic book work through the shop and that comes with having a business partner that has the same sense of community and creativity. So these three people deserve so much credit for what they have contributed to my life. I couldn’t do any of this without them.
Instagram: @GCComics/ @MasksByMane / @MilitantlyMixed / @BLERDcoMIXed
Twitter: @GCComics/ @MixedGirlMane / @MilitantlyMixed / @BLERDcoMIXed
Cara Zozula,Sharmane Fury, Michel Lim, Lee Uehara