Original post @ 7th Annual Second Life Home and Garden Expo.
Having worked with Nikki Mathieson, outgoing Event Chair of Relay For Life of Second Life for several years, I was uber excited and honored to have the opportunity to interview her. Join me as she looks back over the years and looks forward to the future while still being firmly planted in today.
Joonie Jatho: Hi Nikki. Thanks so much for sitting down with me today and chatting!
Nikki Mathieson: Hi Joonie! Well, thank YOU. You are one of my favorite interviewers. I have always loved reading your interviews with interesting people in SL, so this is an honor.
Joonie: Thank you so much. You’re just saying that so I’ll go easy on you! Tell me about your very first encounter with RFL of SL waaaay back in the beginning and why you became a part of it. Who introduced you to RFL in SL?
Nikki Mathieson: I am a Big Brother fan and before I came to Second Life, I would chat in a Big Brother online forum. Well, I didn’t chat much, actually, I lurked. But now and then I would offer a brief comment. I’ve never been a big chatter-er on sites; I lurk. Anyway, after Big Brother in ended in 2006, a group on the forum was looking for something else to do, something new and one of them said we could all create accounts and join that place called Second Life. Gradually they each began to do that and I decided to join them. One day I was in a clothing store and recognized the name of someone and introduced myself. She took me to the island parcel they all shared in SL, and we all became lifelong friends. Soon after, one of them discovered RFL of SL and we all decided to form a team and do it. I have always believed that everyone needs to choose a ‘cause’ and support it generously, not only with money, but more importantly, with their time. There had been other causes before RFL for me, so I was pretty eager to jump onboard. We were such a large group that we ended up forming two teams and I was the captain of one of them.
You went from that to becoming the Chairperson! Can you give us a progression of things…like a mini timeline? You’ve been involved in so many different capacities.
Nikki Mathieson: I was a team captain from 2007 through 2010. In 2008 and 2009, I sat on committee and organized the live music lineup at Relay weekend. In 2010, I mentored and sat on the committee as the person who organized the kickoff and wrap up ceremonies. In 2011, I was the Events Design Area Chair under MamaP Beerbaum’s leadership and in 2012, MamaP Beerbaum appointed me as one of her Event Co-Chairs. The RFL of SL staff partner, Stingray Raymaker, and MamaP asked me to sit as the 2013 Event Chair when MamaP’s term ended. It’s a two year term so here I am at the end of my second term.
Joonie: That’s amazing, Nikki. Did you start Home and Garden Expo or did you take it over from someone else?
Nikki Mathieson: I started it in 2008. I had the All-Stars team and was trying to come up with a way to make it easier to raise money for Relay like in one fell swoop, yanno?
Joonie: Sounds like a good plan. Why Home and Garden?
Nikki Mathieson: I had just gone through a home and garden expo in Real Life and thought I could do something like that in SL. Then I ran into Saffia Widdershins of Prim Perfect at Naughty Hair. I didn’t know many people and she was kind of new, too. A newbie asked for help and we both helped and started talking and she mentioned she was about to start a new magazine called Prim Perfect about homes and gardens. I said “wow… I’m going to start an expo about homes and gardens.” LOL. I didn’t see her after that until the second HGE.
Joonie: A match made in Heaven?
Nikki Mathieson: Yes. SL is a small world, after all.
Joonie: How did you get her involved?
Nikki Mathieson: She came to me for the second Expo and said that she had gotten Prim Perfect up and running and it was doing well and she thought the Expo would be perfect. They became sponsors that year and they’ve done it ever since.
Joonie: So you didn’t use sim sponsors at that time?
Nikki Mathieson: I have always used sim sponsors. For the first two or three years, I used rental sims from Linden Labs. I have always had to pay for sims. We had two the first year. The next year we had four. Then eight.
Joonie: So when you said you rented from Linden Labs, were you saying it’s different now?
Nikki Mathieson: They still have them. The rental sims are like 4000L per sim, per day or something and can only hold 20 people at a time. They’re on the mainland. I used those for the first three years and then started getting sims.
Joonie: So you went from 2 sims, to 4, and then 8?
Nikki Mathieson: Yes…and then 10 and then 14 sims, which was the most and was toooo big. I took it down after that.
Joonie: LOL. I remember that.
Nikki Mathieson: It was too much to cover. Even the bloggers were intimidated.
Joonie: That’s saying a lot. We don’t intimidate easily. LOL!
Nikki Mathieson: True! LOL! Nine or ten is max. Otherwise, it’s just too much to cover.
Joonie: What are some of the biggest challenges of putting on an Expo?
Nikki Mathieson: Hmmmm. Well, for the home expo it’s not like challenges, so much; it’s work. They are a very easy group of people to work with. The challenge is staying on top of it. Keeping traffic coming in can be a challenge, as you know.
Joonie: Yes. What are some things you do to increase traffic?
Nikki Mathieson: I use social media and try to get exhibitors to announce to their groups. And I use special events within the event like live music and other entertainment, that kind of thing.
Joonie: HGE 2014 is coming up SOON – Sept 16th! What are your hopes for this one and what would you tell the new team taking on this huge task?
Nikki Mathieson: Kat Alderson is the new coordinator. She’s been in SL and RL business for years. She’s very smart and good at what she does. I think what I would point to, though, is the “family” feel we’ve had at the Expos. Many of the exhibitors and I grew up together. We fondly looked forward to meeting every summer at the Home Expo and we’d chat in the group while we all set up exhibits and things in the Expo. We LOVE getting together, each year, and really kept the Expo pretty chill–relaxed and homey. As the Expo got larger, especially when it grew to 14 sims, it became more difficult to keep that “homey, relaxed” feel to it and in retrospect, I see the importance of keeping that always present. So, I would advise the new leads of the Home Expo to be careful to not make it ALL business, ALL the time and remember to enjoy it. There are some wonderful people who participate in that every year, and have from the beginning and they are truly a part of the Expo family. I think about them all with fondness. They will always have a special place in my memories.
I keep hearing the word “legacy” lately and it’s made me stop and think about the contributions I’ve made and I’m satisfied that I’ve left good things behind me. Home Expo is one of them.
Joonie: Nikki, you’ve done so much and you’ve been doing it for the majority of your time here.
Nikki Mathieson: I have done a lot. You worked with me, tho, so you know I don’t sit still very well. My brain just keeps on going and going! Hahahah!
Nikki Mathieson: Random (Random Padar Darrow) told me, after she became my co-chair and she knew that she MIGHT end up being chair, at some point, “I just wish I could hang out inside your brain, for a little while” hahahaha!
Joonie: Omg! What goes on in there? *peeks in* Eeeeps!
Nikki Mathieson: LMAO! I am a planner. That’s what I do!
Joonie: Yes, you are and yes, it is what you do. I think that’s why things run so smoothly.
Nikki Mathieson: I think, looking back, that I am a dreamer. SL gives me a great canvas to set up those dreams and find a way to make them great for others, too. Doing them alone isn’t fun.
Joonie: What was your dream in the beginning? Did it shift around a little bit after you started?
Nikki Mathieson: It grew. At first it was to create events that bring together creativity and give creators a platform to show off their work, which I was SOOO impressed by, and to make it so that a wonderful charity made something out of it, too. When I started, there weren’t any mega events except the Clothing Fair and it was in its second year, and Hair Fair started that year too, I think.
Joonie: Were you familiar with Relay For Life before SL?
Nikki Mathieson: I hadn’t truthfully had a whole lot of exposure to cancer loss. I mean I had friends who had cancer and had experienced some losses, but since I’ve been relaying, it’s all come a LOT closer. I have always… always… believed that everyone needs to serve in some way.
Joonie: Familiar in what way?
Nikki Mathieson: It has come closer now because my niece’s husband is dying. They got married and have a “Brady Bunch” family. He has full custody of his three kids and she has two from a previous marriage. Then they had a child together and he’s three now. Rodney is 32 and recently diagnosed with brain cancer. They don’t expect him to live more than another year. There’s nothing they can do.
Joonie: I’m so sorry, Nikki. I hate cancer so much.
Nikki Mathieson: Me too. Sooo soo much. And yet, more people are living now beyond a cancer diagnosis, so I’m also thankful.
Joonie: It’s true… thanks to research and Relay For Life.
Nikki Mathieson: The man who founded Relay For Life, Gordy Klatt, died not long ago. RFL has poured almost 5 billion dollars into research and has about 47 Nobel Prize winning scientists and researchers to account for many discoveries and successes.
Joonie: Five billion? That’s amazing! I wasn’t aware of that! Do you know how much RFL of SL has raised to date?
Nikki Mathieson: Well this year, we ended another season with a little more than $ 415,000 USD. We are very close to having raised 2.5 million dollars since we began in 2005. It was announced today that we are now in the top 20 of the largest relays in the world.
Joonie: No way! RFL of SL is one of the top 20 RFLs in the world?
Nikki Mathieson: Yep. This lil’ ol’ Cartoonland.
Joonie: Wow. That gets me a little teary-eyed.
Nikki Mathieson: See? That’s what a group of people on a mission can do. No matter the platform. And that’s the way I dream.
Nikki Mathieson: Yes. Use what you have to make it the best it can be. Don’t expect best right off. Expect to have to work for it and for it to always stay just out of reach ahead even, but reach for it because it may be someone else’s best and you played a big part in it, yanno? It’s all about the people.
Joonie: You must have seen a lot in your years as part of RFL in SL. As you look back, what are some of your best memories? Funniest memories? Most challenging?
Nikki Mathieson: There are so many. Some that were painful, too. I’ve made a LOT of friends. I’ve seen the BEST in people over and over and over. I’ve seen sadness, too. There are way too many memories to single out one. I’m so proud of what an amazing group of people have done in SL. I’m so proud of the American Cancer Society and what it does for families who endure the pain that cancer brings. I believe in the ACS, whole-heartedly, and plan to continue to support it, from a new level, as it continues to grow. Relay For Life has always been about fundraising. That’s why it was begun in 1985, to raise money for The Society. It’s the main fundraiser all year for the ACS. But, here in SL it’s become so much more than that. It’s like a brand. It has brought a LOT of people, from across the globe, together. It’s a family, it’s a magnificent support system, it’s opportunity, it’s successes and triumphs and accomplishments. It’s understanding, compassion and acceptance and you just don’t walk away from that.
Joonie: What would you like to see the future of RFL of SL bring us? Where would you like to see it go from here?
Nikki Mathieson: RFL of SL will continue to grow. We are in the top 20. It will bring people to SL…new people.
Joonie: So now, after all these years of serving, you’ve decided it’s time to take a step back. What does that mean for you?
Nikki Mathieson: I’m a busy girl in and out of SL. It means that I might get more things checked off my daily to-do list. LOL! That list that always grows and never gets completed. In real life, I track down (bail) bond jumpers. This is a family business and I plan to give it more attention. I’ve always just hunted the skippers and kept up the books and stuff, but I plan to get licensed now and branch out to add more counties to the areas we write bonds in and start writing them, myself.
I look forward to having more time to do the things I love in my RL. But, I managed to find time for them before [my RFL retirement], too. I think it’s important that we focus on keeping an active first life along with our second. I love to visit local farmers markets, trips to the zoo, the Renaissance Faire and other local attractions. I have a wonderful family and we’ve always enjoyed spending time together. My boys take me to the ballgames, nearly EVERY time they go. GO ROYALS! GO CHIEFS! I’m also on their Fantasy Leagues and plan to beat every one of them this year LOL! We like to go out together at least a few times a month just to be with family. Sometimes we’ll go pick up my mom and stepdad and all go to a local coffee house and the boys will get up on a stage there and sing (open mic). They’re all so talented. We have a blast.
Joonie: Does your RL family know what you do and are they supportive?
Nikki Mathieson: Yes, very much so although they are looking forward to me being available more often for them. LOL! The Home & Garden Expo/Breedables Fair kept me busy for the first half of every summer, the Christmas Expo/Breedables Fair and The Avi Choice Awards kept me busy during the holidays so, yeah, they’re proud but also ready for me to take a break! LOL! My mom, my sweet, sweet mom, thinks we (RFLers) are the most awesome people on the planet. She has me log her in for events and ceremonies sometimes and watches while I escort her around SL. She also keeps an eye on our website totals and donates via convio to RFL. One day she said, “I’m just going to email Oprah Winfrey and tell her what wonderful people are in that Second Life. I’m so proud of them.” LOL! We had just hit our 2 millionth dollar raised in SL.
Joonie: LOL! She sounds like a sweetheart. Are you looking forward to sitting back and enjoying Home and Garden Expo this year?
Nikki Mathieson: Umm…. Hmmm. I don’t plan to do that.
Joonie: No? No sitting back for you? LOL! What DO you plan on doing?
Nikki Mathieson: I don’t want to move on and away from them too quickly without looking behind me but I do keep on moving. There are many more things waiting for me to get going.
Joonie: Will you go to Home and Garden Expo this year?
Nikki Mathieson: I will absolutely. And I will probably have some of them in future events of mine, too.
Joonie: What are you looking forward to this year?
Nikki Mathieson: I look forward to a new, clean canvas and possibilities that are there because of what I’ve done up to now… because of the work I’ve already done. But for now it’s for me and for my crew and I will always support Relay. I want to build something for us now and welcome Relay into our home, instead of the other way around, if that makes sense. And who knows… maybe other charities now and then, too.
Joonie: It does make sense. Can you say a bit more about that?
Nikki Mathieson: My events have always been structured around RFL requirements and maximizing donations for Relay For Life, maximizing exposure and profit for the exhibitors beyond that. Now I have a blank canvas. My events can be structured around different needs, different requirements, different strategies. I can rez a kiosk or invite a singer to sing for RFL in those events and continue to show my support to Relay For Life, but do an event outside of that structure. It would be like having Relay come to visit us.
Joonie: So on smaller scale, but the same master mind?
Nikki Mathieson: LOL! Okay! Hahah! Yes, definitely a smaller scale. A smaller, wider scale.
Joonie: Less stress? Spill it, woman!
Nikki Mathieson: Stress will always come with a large event to a certain extent. That’s the nature of the biz. You know that!
Joonie: Yes but only because we care and want it to be successful.
Nikki Mathieson: Yes, that is so true. Not only for ourselves either.
Joonie: Right. Least of all, really.
Nikki Mathieson: Yes. So true. I want our exhibitors to love it.
Joonie: Would you like to share what your plans are going forward?
Nikki Mathieson: I can loosely. I’m still developing them but yes, I do have concrete things going. I am the founder of the Avi Choice Awards. I do plan to make that better. I plan to consult with experts in each category, coordinate expert panels in each category, and make it better. It is such a great opportunity for SL residents to honor their favorites. Under that, I have events planned where those awards will be held. There won’t be one huge, massive Avi Choice awards event, it will be split up. We’ll now have Avi Choice Awards for Fashion, SLife, and The Arts, each held at different times with events around each one of them. Three shows! Woooo! We also have an Avi Choice magazine in the works – Favorites in a Virtual World.
Joonie: What do you say to people who complain it’s a popularity contest?
Nikki Mathieson: Well, I say that since the awards are given by residents who take the opportunity to honor their favorites, they would be correct. That is all about popularity, isn’t it? But the designer has worked hard to garner that amount of popularity to grow a group that size. Who am I to complain about or judge that? The residents nominate, not me, and not my crew. And we limit voting to one ISP. If the designer, who is usually THRILLED to have been nominated, goes to their group and says, “I want this so much” and that designer has a group that can make that happen, more power to them. They worked hard to get there and anyone, ANYONE, can do that. In this wonderful canvas we all share, we can all make our dreams happen and grow something from literally nothing. I point to Relay For Life again. That’s $ 415,000 dollars one linden at a time. That’s a lot of lindens. Inworld we think 250L$ is more than what it really is. Do you know how big an average donation is in SL?
Joonie: The same as a pair of virtual shoes?
Nikki Mathieson : No. Like 50 lindens.
Joonie: OMG! No way!
Nikki Mathieson: Yes! We raise all that money PENNIES at a time. But you see, those are the people who do not whine or complain because someone is getting something they’re not or receiving recognition they’re not. They’re hustling and busting their butt and they’re making it happen. We all share the same world.
Joonie: It sounds like you see it as an opportunity to give back.
Nikki Mathieson: Yes, and to promote talent and creativity. I’m proud of Second Life. I’m really proud of it. We create it.
Joonie: Well, you’ve done some amazing things here, Nikki. You’ve taken it and used it for good.
Nikki Mathieson: LL was a great plan huh? Build it they will come…and build it for you. Hahaha!
Nikki Mathieson: Thank you for saying that. It is definitely the plan and always has been.
Joonie: What do you do in SL for fun when you aren’t organizing, brain storming, or delegating in that brain of yours?
Nikki Mathieson: I LOVE live music in SL. I manage Damian Carbenell, who does some super fun shows, so I get the opportunity to hang out, listen to great music and dance. I LOVE to dance in both lives. I also like to explore SL. I love the creativity and imagination here. I do have some projects in the works like we talked about. It’s what I DO. I am an event organize and I appreciate good entertainment. I appreciate that we all have times when we want to log in and just…smile and enjoy. Yep, I’m brainstorming on how I can offer ways to do that more.
Joonie: So what’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you in SL?
Nikki Mathieson: Ohmigosh! The hardest question of all!
Joonie: LOL! Have to keep you on your toes!
Nikki Mathieson: LOL! I have had so many times that I’m laughing so hard I’m in tears. I love my friends so much and working with people in events and sharing those moments, all stressed out beyond exhausted. You know what I’m talking about… in “that” zone and the littlest thing will just be sooo hilarious.
Joonie: Yes! LOL!
Nikki Mathieson: It’s like, “uh ohhhh… she broke.” Sting and MamaP… those two can do things or say things that make me laugh so hard I’m sick. No regrets, that’s for sure. Only good things.
Joonie: That’s awesome, Nikki. Soo once all is done, all the work, prep and stuff… once it’s all done and doors open, are you able to sit back and enjoy it or what happens then?
Nikki Mathieson: At events? Oh heck no! Hahahaha! You don’t stop until the doors close and the sims are gone.
Joonie: Too funny. And then you get drunk?
Nikki Mathieson: Well, then you rest a day and get to moving on to the next one. Have you noticed that everything takes longer in SL?
Jooine: Yes! And you can’t sit still! Okay, three words that would best describe you OTHER THAN workaholic.
Nikki Mathieson: Hahaha! But I’m not a workaholic, tho. It’s what I love.
Joonie: That makes all the difference.
Nikki Mathieson: Mhmm. I work for a job. Well, I love that, too, but it’s different. And that’s one of my words, I think. Compassionate. I love people; their weaknesses and insecurities and strengths… things that are unique to them. And as someone who works with people who are in need of bail, there’s always, always, a story there. Sometimes I have to make myself think hard, which can suck, but yeah, always a story.
Joonie: Is it scary?
Nikki Mathieson: Not scary for me because I just track them. It’s sometimes scary for my guys, tho. Always the same first line, “I went to court.”
Joonie: LOL! Any wild stories about that?
Nikki Mathieson: I sent them to a wedding to arrest the bride’s brother once. I was up until like 4 am trying and trying to track this guy. I just happened along a wedding registry online. It was his sister. After a bit more digging, I found the date. It was the next day! Sometimes you just get lucky.
Joonie: Or NOT!
Nikki Mathieson: Oh yeah! Lots of nots. LOL
Joonie: Okay, so compassionate is one. Two more words! And I totally agree with compassionate.
Nikki Mathieson: Fair.
Joonie: What does fair mean to you?
Nikki Mathieson: It means everything. It’s like a goal everyone should strive to reach. I work at it and I feel like I’m able to be there but it’s always a work in progress. Fair is having an open mind, being able to step outside yourself and your own wants to understand and want what’s right. Not right for you but just… plain… right. Fair is giving equal chances until it’s proven wrong. Fair is always positive. It’s not an easy thing to be sometimes.
Joonie: I love that, Nikki. J
Nikki Mathieson: My last word is Dreamer. Or maybe Believer. Maybe they’re the same thing. LOL.
Joonie: What does Nikki believe?
Nikki Mathieson: I believe that we’re all made from the same mold. We all have the same platform to live in, create in, form relationships in and I believe in good people. I believe that there are a lot of them. I believe in family. It’s all about the people, Joonie.
Joonie: I knew you would say that.
Nikki Mathieson: Even when you see someone creating drama on a blog or whatever they have a story, there are reasons. Well, you know me. We’ve spend a lot of time working together.
Joonie: Yes, we have. Years. Amazing, really.
Nikki Mathieson: Yep. Years, tears, and laughs. We’ve both grown, too. Right here in this Cartoonland. People who aren’t here have no idea.
Joonie: When you first rezzed in did you have any idea how your life would change?
Nikki Mathieson: No, not at all. It was at Christmastime. I was just blown away immediately by all the creativity. We’ve come a long way since then.
Joonie: Yes, we have. Nikki, thank you so much for spending time with me today. It’s been fun chatting and reminiscing with you.
Nikki Mathieson: You’re very welcome. You make people comfortable talking.
Joonie: That’s so I can pull out their secrets!
Nikki Mathieson: LOL! But you’re protective of them. That’s why you’re trusted.
Joonie: Thank you so much, Nikki.
Nikki Mathieson: Oh you’re so welcome!
And that’s how the interview ended…with Nikki making someone else feel good. I’m sure after the interview she went off to explore some other way to give back to the SL community she loves so much.
Visit http://slhomeandgardenexpo.com/2014/09/06/interview-with-nikki-mathieson-2013-and-2014-event-chair-rfl-of-sl/ for actual post date.