One Year Already? - Reflecting on Tribblemaking During COVID Times
On March 26, 2020, the first ever shipment of App-enabled Tribbles beamed into Science Division headquarters. Getting those Tribbles here was a glorious (Klingon reference intended) victory in the years-long uphill battle to make real Tribbles a reality. It wasn't the last challenge we would encounter, but it marked a huge milestone in this crazy fan journey.
We spent last April hurriedly packing and shipping hundreds of Tribbles to their new homes. At the time we were so focused on meeting our commitments to our customers that we didn't have the opportunity to sit back and reflect on just how massive that accomplishment was. Jay and I, two ordinary Star Trek fans, had created an app-enabled Tribble in our living room, gotten it licensed by CBS, raised (and borrowed) the funds to develop and product test sellable versions, and finally placed the order for actual Tribbles to be manufactured and shipped to us. When I actually pause to think about that, I'm not sure how we did it.
A local newspaper featured Science Division last spring, shortly after we began shipping Tribbles. Check out the name of the paper.
Getting the Tribbles here was difficult, to say the least. We faced manufacturing delays due to COVID-mandated shutdowns, and shortages on shipping carriers for the same reason. We ended up having to split the Tribble order into two separate shipments just to get a small number of Tribbles to us as quickly as possible so that we could honor commitments to our pre-sale customers. For us, this wasn't about running a business, it was about bringing something to other fans that we had created because we knew they would love it as much as we did. We had to make sure people got their Tribbles.
At the time, the song "High Hopes" by Panic! At the Disco was on the radio semi-constantly. It sort of became the anthem song for the Tribble project for me. I would turn it way up and will the Tribbles into being knowing that somehow we were going to find a way to make this happen. I'd arrive home from grad school classes and announce crazy things to Jay like, "I think we should make a Tribble Crafts video series to help people pass the time waiting for their Tribbles." We did just that.
A screenshot from the Tribble Cupcakes tutorial video posted in the spring of 2020.
We created patterns and recipes for Tribble scarves, cupcakes, pillows, Starfleet uniforms, and hammocks and posted them for fans to enjoy. You can view that playlist here, or via the Tribble Crafts link in the footer on our website. I think it was that experience that partially prepared us for the pivot (everyone's favorite term) from retailers to content creators when COVID-19 mandated that folks find a way to get together from home, instead of at conventions.
My day job had been as a lighting designer for theatre, dance, and events. Without live events to project manage, I decided to put my planning skills to work by trying my hand at organizing an online convention. That decision came partially out of the need to do something, and partially out of a deep sadness that Jay and I would not be returning to Vegas to celebrate Star Trek with all of the new and amazing friends we had made during the Tribble pre-sale process. We still cannot wait to see you all in person.
Jay and me with my mom and dad at our first (and only) ever Star Trek Las Vegas convention in 2019. We debuted the Tribbles there for pre-sale.
While 2020 was a year of worries and of heartache, it was also a year of meeting people online from around the world that we might never have otherwise had a chance to meet. It was the year that we hosted CONnected Community Con and the Vendor's Haul. It was the year that we began the Tribble Talks series, featuring fan-led discussions aimed at inspiring conversations about issues that are important to members of the Star Trek community. It was also the year that I somehow got to interview both Alexander Siddig (linked here) and Armin Shimmerman and Kitty Swink (linked here). And it was the year that my childhood hero, Nichelle Nichols, sent us a thank you video after receiving her very own Science Division Tribble (linked here). How the heck did all that happen?!
A screenshot from our Vendor's Haul panel with Armin Shimerman and Kitty Swink in November 2020.
This March there was no wild panic while we tried to figure out how to get the Tribbles here on time. There was no frantic fortnight of packing and shipping. There were just pleasant interactions with Star Trek fans excited about Tribbles. While I know that the journey is far from over, and that many tribble-ations still lie ahead as we search for ways to afford offering new colors and options to our incredible customers, my overall feeling is one of great optimism and joy. We did this. Our "High Hopes" were rewarded with this once in a lifetime experience, and we cannot thank you all enough for that.
So here's to another year of Tribblemaking!