We at Team Manticore LLC aim to be a little frightening, a little adorable, and all unique. Our business encompasses all of our creative projects, and given the wide variety of things we do, people are often surprised that the business is just us, Rob and Rowyn.
Rowyn has been selling her art at conventions since she was 12 years old, gathering quite the following with her dark humor and colorful art style. She has worked as a freelance illustrator, and as a commissioned artist as well.
Rob’s creative projects required him to be very involved in the business side of things, acting as accountant and business manager to his bands, the last of which being a rock quartet known as “Junkyard Luxury”. He also posted comics online which he was doodling at his day job as a way to stay sane.
When we first met, we were both pursuing a variety of projects as individuals. Rowyn was finishing her web-comic of 13 years, and moving onto a more dramatic graphic novel project while sewing cat-shaped plushies. Rob was moving away from his previous music groups to focus more on his comics and artwork. As we worked together, we decided to form a single business to help us share both resources and credit (as well as cut the amount of paperwork in half). One year after forming Team Manticore LLC, Rob and Rowyn did a little more paperwork and married each other with a retro-future post-apocalyptic wedding party on Lake George.
You may find us at your local convention if you live on the northern east coast of the United States. We attend events from Maine to Virginia from our home base in Upstate New York. If you are elsewhere or just prefer to stay inside, our website is https://teammanticore.com/
Since forming Team Manticore LLC, the plushies have become our most popular products and now include not only cats; but also bats, sharks, dragons, rabbits, manticores, mutants, three-eyed aliens, flying eyeballs, potatoes, and cat-thulu itself. Several years ago, we began to donate 20% of plush sales to worthy causes and have been able to raise hundreds of dollars to support charities such as Bat World Sanctuary, National Center for Transgender Equality, Pollinator Partnership, Humane Society, and more.
While we do not recommend our handmade plushies for very small children, we do make them irresistibly soft so that they can be a source of comfort for older kids, college students, and those already within the confines of adulthood. We find it extremely fulfilling to both bring joy to the people who cherish our plushies, and help fund the organizations making the world even slightly better.
We also collected the comics both Rob and Rowyn had previously drawn, and began publishing collections in book form. “Deddrie, the Cornsbrook Killer,” Rowyn’s long-running pun-filled comic about a serial killer and his friends, was collected together and reformatted into a single very large book. Similarly, Rob’s non-sequitur comic “Unmedicated” began to be released in two year volumes, the fourth and final of which will be released in 2023. Rowyn also finished the previously mentioned dramatic graphic novel in three parts as “Oh Hell, Donna!” which is the story of a group of alt-rock dead girls saving the world from a cult. Earlier this year (2022) Rowyn released her first novel, “Moth”, which is a diesel-punk noire about a private detective finding parallels between the murder of a young aristocrat, and his own younger sister’s death many years previous. All of these are now available in physical and digital formats from our own website or wherever books are sold.
Through Team Manticore LLC we have also designed games. In “Between Deep Blues” one to four players can sail on an endless ocean and find destruction or salvation. “Dark and Lonely Stars” is another game for one to four players where you are the crew of the only starship that will ever explore the universe, and you have only one chance to send a message back to Earth about what you find. Both of these games are currently available in a Pay-What-You-Want model through Team Manticore’s Itch.io website as testing and formatting is completed. Our first card game “Thieves Don’t Share” is a competition to be the player left holding the treasure, and will be available in August of 2022. There are a number of other games, both tabletop and video games, being discussed and designed, so watch for those to be announced in the future.
As a small business, it’s extremely challenging to break through the noise and reach new people to even let them know that we exist. Online marketing is flooded and it’s very easy to be pushed out by larger corporations. In addition, most people view any ad negatively; an interruption of the thing they wanted to see. There are large portions of people who might like who we are and what we do who have ad-blockers or just ignore such things. It is also difficult to keep up with the ever-changing algorithms being used by the major online platforms. We hope to be able to employ a social media manager soon to help us navigate these issues. In the meantime, we release behind-the-scenes and instructional videos on our YouTube channel for those who are interested in learning more about us. This and all of our other social media accounts are listed on our linktree page at https://linktr.ee/team_manticore
The reverse side of this is the opportunity provided by the internet that we could potentially have a fan and a customer that is anyone, anywhere in the world. We have shipped merchandise to multiple countries spanning three continents, making our two-person operation an international business in an exciting way that wouldn’t have been possible even a few decades ago.
Another thing small business owners have to be cautious of is costs. Many storefronts and services obfuscate total costs so you must keep track of the total costs including your own time, shipping, selling fees, service subscriptions, and taxes all by yourself. Luckily, with his background including some programming, Rob was able to create a bespoke program that tracks all of these, plus our calendar of events and project deadlines.
As a creative person, you have to learn to prioritize and delegate. You will inevitably have too many ideas to do everything, so you have to actively choose to only work on the best ideas and make sure you follow through to completion. There is also the chance that, once finished, what you created won’t be up to your standards. So you may have to not release that thing, at least not until you figure out what is missing and fix it. Or, accept that it isn’t perfect, send it out into the world, and move on to the next thing. You control the pace, though we would recommend having a basic schedule to keep yourself on track.
In our business we have the luxury of a creative partner so we can pass things back and forth until we are both super excited about it. There is plenty to keep us both busy through writing, artwork, formatting, and promoting!
Your schedule should also include self-care. When running your own business, it can quickly take over all of your time if you let it. Be sure to set hours where you can recharge your battery. Take a walk, read a book, garden. You don’t want to burn out doing what you love, and you certainly don’t want to fall out of love with your artistic projects.
There is also an exhilarating sense of freedom when you own and run your own business. If we want to learn a new craft for a line of products, we can! The only persons who can stop us are ourselves, and we make sure both of us are fully invested in the things we are creating. I think that love and passion to make things and learn things and get better shines through everything that we do, and that may be why so many people have positive feelings about our business. We are doing what we love, and also trying to give back to our customers, our communities, and the world. It’s what we always dreamed of being able to do.