CO.STARTERS Grad Spotlight: Kristi Woody

Like many of her friends, Kristi Woody grew up watching Disney movies (her favorite is The Great Mouse Detective). But she didn’t really fall in love with Disney until she visited Walt Disney World with her husband on their honeymoon.

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“I had gone to Disneyland a few times growing up,” she said. “And I liked it; we had a lot of fun there. But then my husband and I went to Disney World in Florida for the first time together, and we’ve just kept going back more times every year. It’s just kind of like our thing together.”

Woody, a professional photographer, started a Disney-focused Instagram account to share photos from her trips to the parks.

“I realized there are a lot of people who are really crazy about Disney,” she said. “Especially the parks; it’s like a subculture, so I’ve gotten really deep into that.”

She also had connections with an organization in Orlando called “Give Kids the World,” which is an eighty-four-acre, nonprofit resort that provides week-long, cost-free vacations to children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.

After taking a screen printing workshop at theCO, Woody had an idea: to make and sell Disney-inspired shirts to raise money for the organization.

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“I thought, ‘I’ll combine my desire to have this hobby with fundraising and just do it as kind of a creative endeavor,’” she said, “because I do photography as my job, which is a creative job, but [making t-shirts] is something creative outside of photography.”

Woody does not consider it a business; she thinks of it as a hobby, but one that draws in enough money to sustain itself.

To avoid copyright infringement, her designs tend to veer away from images of more contemporary characters. Typically, she uses phrases, characters that have passed into public domain, and designs that can be linked to Disney culture. For example, one of her designs features the phrase “this way to the magic” below the two-finger point that cast members use.

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“There are a lot of shops that sell things that are very obviously derivative of a specific Disney character or movie, and they’re fine, Disney doesn’t really go after them, but I still don’t really feel comfortable [with that],” she said. “It’s more fun to come up with your own thing.”

Woody is grateful to theCO for providing a space where she can pursue her hobby within a supportive and creative community.

“It’s the kind of thing where I could set it up in my house, but it would be a huge investment up front, whereas at theCO, I can pay a monthly membership and keep doing it,” she explained. “And also have people here, so I can ask questions, talk to people and have human interaction, which is great.”

In addition to learning how to run a business through the CO.STARTERS program, theCO has also helped her grow her photography business in unexpected ways.

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“Even if you’re not doing something now that uses the various tools that theCO has to offer, think of the ways you could use those tools,” she suggested. “Like I’ve got my wedding photo business, and I’m using the laser to engrave people’s names on a 5”x5” wood box for their first anniversary, which is something I don’t have to have, but it’s available to me, so I’m using it. It’s an extra thing that I can offer in my business that I wouldn’t have without theCO.”

Follow Woody on Instagram @waltkristiworld or check out her Etsy shop: http://kristimcmurry.etsy.com.