When I started this blog, I was (and still am) endlessly in awe of other people who, like me, seek inspiration from food, design and travel. Those are the three pillars of Feast + West, and I love to discover anyone who also stands by those three pillars. So when I first met Amanda Fisher of EDIA, Inc. — the makers of The Great N.C. BBQ Map and The Great N.C. Beer Map — I knew we were kindred spirits. I’m lucky that Amanda also lives in Charlotte, so we’ve had endless conversations about food, design and travel, usually over a cocktail or a beer.
I’m so excited to let her tell you more about herself in today’s Q&A — Amanda and her partner Paul dreamed up something that literally didn’t exist before and turned it into their career. If you seek inspiration from travel, want to take a major leap for a crazy idea or have ever wondered what it’s like to run a successful Kickstarter campaign, this interview is for you. // susannah
1. How would you describe EDIA, Inc.?
EDIA is a two-person, map-making team comprised of myself and Paul Bright, my partner in both life and business. Our focus is on niche maps that turn the everyday into an adventure. We’re the creators of The Great NC BBQ Map and, most recently, The Great NC Beer Map. They’re infographic printed road maps that combine the convenience of a map with the depth of a guidebook.
2. What were you doing before EDIA, Inc.? What inspired you to change paths?
I was grant-writing, part-time, for a non-profit and running my own business at the same time, which was a line of redesigned vintage clothing and housewares. I had gotten a bit burned out on what I was doing and felt like something was missing. I’ve always had such a love for travel and adventure and wanted to find a way to incorporate that more into my life and to bring that to other people, as well. And I’ve always been a story-teller of sorts, and though I felt like I was doing that with my line of clothing by reworking pieces from the past, I wanted to begin doing that in a more literal way.
One day, I was sitting surrounded by a pile of travel guides with even more websites pulled up on my laptop, planning a trip to Florida and frustrated by the amount of time I had to spend compiling information from different sources and mapping it all out. I had checked out some of Jane and Michael Stern’s Roadfood books as part of my research, and I picked up their memoir, Two for the Road, by mistake. I started reading it that night, and something clicked. It was a feeling of “I can do this!” In that moment, I realized that I could make travel guides that told stories and that because of how much I used those types of resources, I had a unique perspective that really allowed me to see what was missing and what could be done.
3. When ideas are scarce, where do you turn for creative inspiration?
I turn to traveling and adventuring. I find that letting my eyes and mind focus on new things helps me to open back up again when things start feeling stiff. Travel and adventure shakes all that back up again. Sometimes I really need to get away and go far and find something really different. But most often, I can find adventure in my own city or within a hour drive. All that’s needed is just a change in perspective, and I’ve found that you really can get that anywhere.
Click through to read the rest of this Q&A with Amanda Fisher of EDIA Maps!
4. Describe your workspace.
We have a home office that I work in, and I love having a space devoted to our work that’s both in our home but that also feels separate. It has a long desk for working by the window (I see so many birds in the holly tree right outside!), another desk that’s a vintage kitchen hutch that we use for shipping supplies, a large shelf with products and more supplies, and an old school desk that we use for storing notebooks and sketchpads. Aside from all the necessaries, the room is sprinkled with travel momentos, maps, and guides that inspire us. For me, it’s important to be surrounded by objects I connect to and to store things in interesting containers that spark joy. Also, I think the ideas and work flow more freely when they’re not bouncing off clutter, so I like to keep the space tidy.
5. What have been your biggest successes and challenges for EDIA, Inc.?
Both our maps were funded through Kickstarter, and taking that approach was both exhilarating and exhausting. For our first campaign, especially — which was the launch of our business — I don’t think we’ve ever worked so hard in our lives. We had to get people to trust that we could accomplish what we were promising: making a printed road map of all the BBQ restaurants in NC, which was clearly a massive undertaking. It was something that had never been done before but that was clearly missing from our state’s BBQ guides. No one had even found all the BBQ restaurants in the state, so everyone knew we had our work cut out for us. North Carolinians are seriously passionate about BBQ and we had to get it right and prove to people that we could, without having any work to show as an example. We worked incredibly hard to build that trust and spread the word so we could get the funding to move forward. We did, and it was the hardest and most rewarding 30 days of our lives!
6. What are your dreams for EDIA, Inc.?
The first dream is for Paul to be able to quit his 8-5 and come on full-time too. I’ve been at this full-time for over a year now, but to have him be able to fully join me in the work would be incredibly fulfilling to us both (not to mention a huge help in us bounding forward!)
Longterm, we have ideas about ways that the business can change and grow. We’d love to get other people involved with making maps — find others who are passionate about particular topics and make it possible for them to research and develop those ideas. We like to think of EDIA as a map publishing company, and we hope to grow more into that concept. That prospect is very exciting for us!
7. Who do you look up to?
I look up to other people doing similar things and doing them well, while making a life out of it. I already mentioned Jane and Michael Stern, but I also love what the team at Wildsam is doing, telling stories through place in their travel guides of cities around the US. They have a very authentic and intentional approach and create beautiful, layered guides.
8. Where and how do you love to spend your time off?
I like a mix of a familiar home life and discovering things I’ve never done or seen before. I have an ongoing Wednesday lunch/play date with a friend, who works as a stay-at-home mom. It’s a great way for us both to break up our week, get out and interact. Sometimes we get lunch, coffee, or dessert, and other times, we explore something in Charlotte we haven’t done before.
Weekends are a mix of traveling and adventuring, like I mentioned earlier, and relaxing at home. I love taking a Saturday to explore a small town that’s close to home — Waxhaw, Albemarle, Pittsboro, Matthews, and Belmont are some favorites. And there are so many I still haven’t visited!
For vacations, we tend to travel further, and a lot of times that involves hiking and backpacking. We love the West and how varied the landscapes are there. I’m also pretty deep into the world of travel hacking, so that provides some great opportunities. In the last year, we’ve spent time in Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, California, New York, and Guatemala, and we have a few other things on the horizon we’re working on.
9. What resources do you recommend to someone whose dream job is your job?
I don’t know that I have one obvious resource, but my advice would be to seek out people who know more than you do and to surround yourself with messages that inspire you. That can be through a book, a website, watching a lot of TED Talks (which I do!), reaching out to someone to have a lunch or an email chat. I truly believe you can create whatever job and life you want if you just dare to imagine it. Surround yourself with things that make you feel courageous enough to dare!
10. If you weren’t running EDIA, Inc., what would be your dream job?
I’d really love to spend about a month at a time doing different vocations to get an idea of what those lives are like — bartending, beekeeping, working on a sheep farm. Most of the jobs are probably things I idealize, and I know they’re all harder and grittier than I imagine. I like finding ways of understanding what other lifestyles are like, and that would be the ultimate.