Self-Proclaimed Geek Melissa Baptiste Accessorizes The Fashionable Fanatic
Pop culture geeks who’ve ever been on the hunt for a chic accessory know there’s not much beyond Hot Topic’s spinning racks. It’s a scarcity that’s reduced me to putting laces in my hair. So when I met Melissa Baptiste early in 2014, her printed headbands quickly caught my attention. As our friendship grew, I learned the designer sells accessories through her Etsy shop Cool Geek Madness.
In the year since Baptiste created her brand, she’s changed jobs and expanded her accessories collection to include jewelry. In the midst of a promotion, she’s also designing a standalone web store. We caught up about her inspiration and what its like to juggle a new role with a growing hustle.
MadameNoire: How did you become interested in designing your own line of accessories?
Melissa Baptiste: I’ve always been interested in working with my hands, making things. Growing up I’ve always been interested in arts & crafts, so it was kind of easy for me to progress from working with clothes.
MN: Are you a geek?
MB: Yes. I realize there’s so many different kinds of geeks and nerds. I’m more of a geek than a nerd. Geek is more of a pop culture — the books, the shows — and I think I’m average in smartness. Nerds are more intellectual. I’m a big fan of Doctor Who and I like sci-fi — the weird, quirky stuff.
MN: How did you come up with the name Cool Geek Madness?
MB: I don’t know, it just kind of came to me. Originally I wanted the name Nerd “R” Us, but that was taken. I wanted something that’s kind of funky but at the same time it could be everyday, but it jumbled different aspects of the pop culture. That’s where the “Madness” came from, and the “Cool” is kind of style. You want something that will make you look cool.
MN: What is the motif for your line?
MB: Usually it kind of incorporates aspects of what “geek” or “nerd” mean. It’s math, science, pop culture, books — just different aspects of that.
MN: Why did you decide to do bow ties?
MB: I just wanted to create a brand that was comfortable for both men and women. I noticed when it comes to bow ties, there isn’t really something that represents the geekiness in a person. They were just regular patterns, so I saw there was a need for that.
MN: Why did you add jewelry to CGM?
MB: I was concentrating so much on the male, I had to start creating more for the female. So I started with the headbands. Now I’m starting hand stamping with the necklaces with quotes or names from books and shows.
MN: How did working at Brooklyn Charm influence that decision?
MB: That’s where I learned how to hand stamp. From there the possibilities were endless. I was like, “Oh my, God, there’s so much I can do with that.” I started buying up the tools necessary to start making it on my own.
MN: What led to your promotion?
MB: When I work at a job, I’m the kind of person that likes to know everything. I like to learn everything, so when I’ve worked there for a while I know all the answers right off the bat. That’s the type of person I am. I think one of the reasons I got promoted is because I know how to solve problems. In a lot of ways I was thinking of the job as my own company.
MN: How is working full-time and juggling a business?
MB: It’s kind of crazy but I find the time and energy. Sometimes when I come home I just want to sleep but I know I have to work on an order. I don’t even think about it — I just start working on it a little at a time so I can get it to the customer on time and efficiently and still be able to get some rest for tomorrow.
MN: What the website process been like?
MB: Oh my, God, it’s crazy. Putting it together is one thing but I want to make sure everything runs smoothly before I really put it out. But it’s not so hard because I’m not doing it through SquareSpace. I’m actually putting it together myself through WordPress.
MN: What have you learned in the year that you’ve been running CGM?
MB: I can’t really say I want to do anything over because everything is a process. It can’t always be perfect. Nothing can be perfect, all you can do is progress. I’m just hoping that I learn from my mistakes.