Every June Allie and I celebrate LGBTQ+ pride season both personally and professionally. We feel grateful to be a part of such a diverse and inclusive community that represents a vast array of people and identities. We also feel strongly that LGBTQ+ Pride offers visibility and representation for our marginalized community and supports systematic change towards equality. If you want to learn more about the origin or meaning of LGBTQ+ pride please visit: this site.
Personally, Pride season means opportunities to cultivate connections and community. We love all of the spaces and events that come up for our community during pride season. Over the years we have attended pride parades, festivals, movie screenings, picnics, educational workshops, and more. These types of events offer safe spaces for our community to congregate together around our common connections and offer a validating experience. LGBTQ+ folks are so often erased or invisible in many spaces, being made to feel ashamed or embarrassed, but during pride season, we come together to celebrate our unique and varied identities and experiences under the LGBTQ+ spectrum.
The lack of safety and visibility is what inspired us to start our business. Wander Free and Queer was born out of the desire to make the outdoors feel more LGBTQ+ friendly. When we began traveling in our RV, we noticed that it was challenging to connect with other LGBTQ+ travelers, and we wanted to make a virtual space that served as a way for people to connect, find resources for travel and RV life, as well as a venue to sell our crochet goods that bring visibility to the community.
We often call Pride season our Queer Christmas! Our business booms in May and June, with Etsy orders and in-person markets and fairs! This also means that our small space in the RV gets transformed into a small business hub. Our dinette becomes a shipping station, full of mailers and thank you notes. Our living room cabinets get packed with yarn and supplies, while our shed gets organized and reorganized repeatedly to house our products. This year we also rented a 5×5 storage space in a temperature-controlled building to store our t-shirts!
Last year, we purchased a small number of t-shirts to sell with our logo by @tanjabartistry on them. We had no idea these would be so popular. This year, we began strategizing in January on how to place and store a larger order. In March, we purchased bins and researched how to fold and roll shirts to best save space and store them! Just a month later we purchased 500 t-shirts. When the boxes arrived, they filled our entire small living room space. We have spent hours sorting, rolling, and labeling sizes to get our t-shirts organized and brought to our storage unit. We keep a small amount on hand for Etsy orders, but most of our shirts will go with us to Seattle and Portland Pride events to sell in person.
Some of our other merchandise items have become popular, but are easier to store because of their small size, like our Wander Free and Queer keychains. These cute acrylic keychains are very durable and offer a subtle pride vibe to hang on your car, truck, van, or RV keys! We both have one on our keyrings. We also make a crocheted rainbow keychain which is a bit larger and brighter for those that love a big and bold keyring accessory. These items, like many of our other items, are great for small spaces and travelers alike. We aim to offer things that represent our wanderer hearts as well as our queer identities.
Being in our RV and traveling around the country has inspired most of our products, including our small rainbow pouches, rainbow heart garlands, and our rainbow car charms. We love knowing that our items are often ordered by other travelers and RVers to bring visibility to their home on wheels. We often have to remind ourselves that every order we send out finds its way to someone who knows and loves our LGBTQ+ community.
Even though we are running our dream small business, there are challenges to doing this in an RV. The winter in Oregon proved to be too much for several of our storage bays full of yarn. Even with a dehumidifier and DampRid bins, we opened our bays on more than one occasion to find water having seeped in, or moisture having molded our skeins of yarn. The rainy PNW winters are no joke! We also have to be mindful of what and how much of anything we order, making sure to have a storage location in the RV picked out before we bring anything new in. Slowly, but surely, our yarn and products have crept into cabinets that once held books or clothes, and we have had to spend days pulling everything out and reorganizing.
Beyond the space and weather, we work together to try to maintain a work/life balance in our small space. It can be challenging to try to take time off when our business is open 24/7 online, and markets are always popping up and available for us to sell at. We have become selective and more self-aware of our time and energy over the years, which we often attribute as a skill we honed when learning to live and travel in our RV.
We are more prepared for this pride season than we ever have been. Each of our items has been fine-tuned and perfected before going up for sale. We have been crocheting since January to make enough products to bring to larger pride events here in the PNW. We know what we can handle, but we also have an engaged and supportive local community that helps us with what we can’t handle on our own. Things feel like they are falling into place personally and professionally this pride season. You can shop our Etsy shop here.
Even though we are often excited and empowered during pride season, we know that our LGBTQ+ community experiences discrimination and violence regularly, which is the real meaning behind why pride season was born. We need both our LGBTQ+ community and our allies to come together to effect change. Wander Free and Queer works to fight for equality and freedom through being visible and offering support and resources to our community. we do this by shopping from other local LGBTQ+ businesses, we donate funds to organizations working with marginalized communities, and we offer support to those who need an open ear or supportive shoulder to rely on. These are small acts within a larger battle to have our LGBTQ+ voices heard.
Read more from Allie & Danella: