Comic Conquest: An Interview with ConQuest Journal

Photo courtesy of Shelley Harper
Shelley Harper. Portland Comic Con 2014.

Her business partner, Ted, was manning their t-shirt booth while she waited in line for a photo op. Most of her Comic Con memorabilia was stored in an Ikea box at home, filled with receipts and ticket stubs and photo ops that never went into anything other than a manila folder. Scrapbooking wasn’t her thing – she respected it, but didn’t think she could do it.

Post photo op, she walked past two tables: one selling leather-bound journals, one selling protective sleeve covers. They were the busiest booths that weekend. Idea struck. What about an easy-to-do scrapbook/journal?

“Even at the table I was really quick sketching what I thought the subject header would be and what we needed the journal to do. Like your schedule, your autographs, funny things on stage they say at panels and all of the business cards you collect,” she said.

Soon enough, that rough idea turned into a legitimate business plan and ConQuest Journal was formed. A craft manufacturer from Arkansas was contacted. A Kickstarter was funded. “We went through this stage about a year and a half ago where everybody was saying, ‘What a great idea’ but they weren’t buying it. We would go and we would sell less than 20 journals at a show.”

Cue Creation Entertainment. The journals – a cardboard prototype, if you will – were sold at a Supernatural event. Success.

Enter Tracy, who Shelley and Ted have partnered with before. Shelley told her, “We need something that’s bloodier and dirtier and cooler and I think you’re just the girl to do it.”

With Shelley’s creative mind and Tracy’s epic designs, they created a journal to best represent fandoms. “We made these inspired things that would speak to people and started going to more conventions and started really doing better. Finally, last year at Minneapolis, we took the Road So Far journals [for the first time] …and we sold out,” Shelley said.

Essentially, ConQuest journals are the ultimate convention memorabilia holder. With its Supernatural, Doctor Who, Star Trek and Walking Dead-themed journals, your full Con experience can be placed in a piece-of-cake journal that eliminates the difficulty of scrapbooking. In addition to the three-ring binder filled with pre-made pages and protector sleeves, accessories such as themed stickers and bags complete the full look.

It really came about in that perspective but it was also very organic because as I was working at the conventions I was experiencing them. I was getting photo ops, I was doing autographs, I was collecting things and that’s how I ended up with these boxes of memorabilia. I was partaking in things and that’s how it all came about. There’s this really missing market of fandom craft items and stationary and journaling and stuff like that that aren’t the very structured, license look that speak to the adult fan world. They’re the ones coming to conventions; they’re the ones buying and collecting this stuff.”

ConQuest can be seen at a multitude of Creation Entertainment events. “Creation events are so special to me and it’s unlike anything else. The wonderful, intimate experience that Creation provides for the fans – this is the perfect journal for that. It really speaks to that experience very well. They’ve been great and wonderful. I started working for them from a PR perspective back in the Twilight days so I’ve known them for eight years now and it’s like being with family to me.”

There was a weekend where Shelley was at WonderCon; a weekend where her and Ted almost went out of business. Felicia Day, who played Charlie on Supernatural, had a panel at the convention. Shelley used the Q&A portion of the panel to her advantage and asked Felicia what piece of advice she would give to small businesses who were trying to advance onto the next step. Felicia knows all about small businesses as she is one herself. Before Supernatural, she created her own web series and YouTube channel that she built from the ground up. She said to Shelley, “Find the puzzle pieces that fit your weaknesses.”

Shelley Harper. Chicago Supernatural Convention 2016.

Her puzzle pieces fit perfectly into that fandom’s experience.