SL Profile: Lissa Maertens “Don’t worry about your traffic numbers and don’t use bots!”

May 6th, 2009  |  Published in SL Entrepreneur Magazine, SL Entrepreneur Profiles  |  4 Comments

by Sigmund Leominster

You don’t just have a meeting with Lissa Maertens; you have an experience. Words like ‘driven,’ ‘hyper’ and ‘manic’ spring to mind – and can it be coincidental that there’s only one tiny letter between manic and maniac? Perhaps her effusiveness is simply a symptom of her whirlwind lifestyle which is centered on creating new couture. And that in order to make the most effective use of her time she has to do everything at three times the normal rate of living. Or maybe Lissa’s Second Life® runs twice as fast as her real one.

Lissa Maertens, Second Life Entrpreneur in front of her Second Life store.

(Lissa Maertens, Second Life Entrepreneur, in front of her Second Life store.)

Whatever it is that pushes her, it’s been doing it for almost two years now – and that’s a long time for a business to survive in the Second Life economy. By any definition, Lissa has that spirit of entrepreneurship that is necessary to start – and maintain – a business.

Tell me a little about the history of your store, Cattiva e Cattivo.

“I started designing about 18 months ago as a small escort shop. Hmm, wait, that sounds weird! I opened a shop that catered to escorts called Courtesans. I called it that because so many people were calling the high-class prostitutes in Second Life ‘escorts.’ I didn’t figure a shop named Escorts would do that well anyway. However, in retrospect, I think I may have been wrong about that and quite frankly, had I named the shop Escorts my search ranking would probably be a hell of a lot higher. Well, perhaps that or ‘penis!’

“I soon realized that I enjoyed making men’s clothing as well as escort clothing and didn’t feel like the name reflected that. So I thought about naming it Courtesans and Gigolos. And again, in retrospect, that may have gotten me a much higher search ranking. But I decided to rename the business Cattiva e Cattivo (from the Italian for “wicked”) because I enjoy wicked things.”

After an incident in which you were accused of content theft, you met up with designer Simone Stern, which then turned out to be the next phase of your life as a designer in Second Life.

“Yes. Someone had implied to Simone that I had copied her designs. So, I did what any other self-respecting designer would do and offered her my Photoshop® files. She said not to bother but would I give her a call. So I did and we chatted for a good couple of hours about the state of thievery in SL and how it has made designers into a bunch of paranoid ninnies. I said I really hadn’t had much experience with having stuff ripped off because I wasn’t famous or anything.

“During that phone call, Simone asked me to design under her label for Simone! and Style Starts Here. I agreed on the spot and began working on a new line of evening gowns. So I spent about six months with Simone. I will say that it was some of the best time I have spent in SL. Simone is not only a great designer – but she is just overall a wonderful human being. I value my friendship with her and truly think the world of her. She’s one of the most ‘real’ people in SL that you’ll ever meet.”

And what lead to that partnership coming to an end?

“Well, I’m six months into my tenure with Simone, enjoying every moment of it and designing more than I have ever designed, but wouldn’t you know it – Real Life decides to step in and throw me for a loop. There are a lot of things I just don’t want to go into. However, I will say that it hasn’t been fun and it has caused me to re-evaluate a lot of things, including how much time I’m able to dedicate to Second Life. So, with that in mind, I talked with Simone and we both decided that it would be best to start up Cattiva e Cattivo again. Basically, I needed to be able to take time away and by running my own store, I could set my own schedule. I could release when I wanted and invest as much or as little time into the store as I wanted.

“Those of you who own your own design store may be asking yourself, ‘Why on earth would you re-open your own store if you want to cut down on work?’ I admit that running Cattiva e Cattivo is a lot of work, but I just feel more relaxed about it and honestly, I look at it and I realize that I actually missed having my own identity. Cattiva e Cattivo is just who I am as an SL resident. I love helping my customers and having them know that I am the one who is designing the clothing they wear.”

Now that Cattiva e Cattivo is back up and running, what do you think will constitute noticeable differences from how you did things before your hiatus?

“I think that before I didn’t realize some of the detail things about the clothing business. Making sure seams line up correctly, making sure that everything is on multiple layers, and charging a fair price. The final thing that I bring to the new Cattiva e Cattivo is a higher level of quality. My shading is a lot better now. I don’t think I’m being too egotistical when I say this, but I truly believe that my shading is better than a lot of the designers in SL. And honestly, the texturing is so much the key to good quality. I really take a lot of time when I’m designing to make sure that my textures are top-notch. I want to fool people. I enjoy shadows and folds that look as real as possible. I enjoy the challenge of wrapping a texture around a sculpted object and making it look as real as I possibly can.

“The other thing that will be different that I’m working on right now is finding some big name designers to work with who don’t do clothing per se. I’ve started to do some collaborative work with Melanie Zhao of Zhao shoes. I’m currently looking for a hair maker and perhaps a jewelry maker and accessory maker. It’d be nice to have a top scripter as well, but that’s probably phase two. It’s not so much that I want to offer everything, but I want to offer the best of everything. I guess if I can’t find anyone I’ll have to learn to do all that myself. I’ve stayed away from hair, but I’m so damn picky about hair. I’m really finicky about the textures on hair and honestly there aren’t that many that are very good. I joke with people that if I did hair, I’d end up putting the other hair makers out of business. I jokingly thought that about shoes, too, but hey, I did some shoes and I love them and the people who have bought them love them. But I haven’t put any shoemakers out of business yet. LOL.”

Lissa Maertens, Second Life Entrpreneur in front of her Second Life store.

So does your fashion design business pay your real life bills or does it help maintain a Second Life lifestyle?

Does my fashion design pay my bills? Not yet. I’d be lying if I said things weren’t beginning to truly move in that direction. It’s where I want them to go. Anyone who comes into SL and creates things to sell, but then says, ‘Oh, I don’t do it for the money’ is either (a) bad at what they do and isn’t making any money at it or (b) lying. Yes, there are people who are doing some amazing things in SL for free. Maybe I’m just too callous, but I think those people are either RL rich, RL educators, or just dumb. People ask me, since I’m from the US, whether I’m a Republican or Democrat and I say to them, ‘I’m a capitalist with a capital $!’ Things that are created in SL ultimately acquire a value. That value may be negligible or it may be an item that is highly coveted and therefore something that has high value. In a free market society, people make money off of those items and there’s nothing wrong with that. I very much want Cattiva e Cattivo to be a vehicle that can provide me with an RL vehicle. Heh. It’d be nice if it paid some bills as well. So I’m hopeful.

Lissa Maertens, Second Life Entrpreneur in front of her Second Life store.

“Does it pay for my SL lifestyle? Hmm, great question. I guess if you could call it a ‘lifestyle,’ then yes, it does. I once bought a prim yacht for $10000 Lindens. I didn’t need it, but I thought it was cool. Then I kicked myself for having bought something that I didn’t need. I’m pretty low maintenance, so my lifestyle is basically expenditures on uploads. For example, I once spent $50,000 Lindens on uploads in one month. That was before I found out about SL Clothing Previewer (SLCP). Yay! Now my upload expenditures are fairly limited – mostly a couple of uploads for clothing items, some for vendor posters.

“Now, if there was an SLCP for sculpts, that would be awesome. I don’t own any big houses or such like. I do have some beach front property that I’m currently renting for one of my main stores. Though I think that store will be going away soon. Or maybe I’ll keep it. As long as it pays for itself, that’s all I care about. So, yes, my SL lifestyle is supported.”

So if someone wanted to set up in business in SL, what advice would you offer?

a) Do quality work. Get out, do some tutorials and learn to create. Put your mind to work. I’m honestly tired of seeing shit work that gets passed off as good design and I don’t care if that statement pisses some designers off. Yeah, y’all know I’m talking about you. Maybe if you’d produce something decent once in awhile instead of releasing pretentious poorly designed crapola that you charge way too damn much for I wouldn’t have to call you out on it.

b) Be customer-centric. Don’t hide from your customers. Work out in the open. People will be curious as to what you are doing. They’ll ask you questions about your process and in the meantime, as you answer their questions, you’ll build a relationships with those people. In the end – even though this is a virtual environment – the people behind the avatars are real and they want to interact just like anyone else does and if you’re open to that, you’ll build a very loyal customer base. What I like about what I do is that I have repeat customers.

c) Don’t worry about getting your traffic numbers up, and for God’s sake, don’t use bots. If you follow point (a) and do quality work, people will find you. The traffic will happen.

d) Encourage word of mouth. Be a bit pushy. Ask people to put your store in their picks. Ask people to tell their friends. Don’t be afraid to give something away and if you screw up, make it right. Respond to notecards and IMs as quickly as you can. Do something nice for someone randomly. I guarantee you will have a customer that will come back and they’ll bring their friends or tell their groups.

e) Create a group and invite people to it every single day. I don’t care if someone only bought my demo shoe for $0L. If she’s part of a transaction on my transaction history, she’s getting an invite.

f) Read Maddox DuPont’s wonderful article on running an SL business. There are so many more things about running an SL business and Maddox truly covers a lot of them. I think at some point I may take his article and build from it the things I’ve learned in SL over the last 18 months.

Key Points
•    Quality is critical
•    Focus on customers
•    Promote in as many different ways as possible
•    Consider collaboration

Cattiva e Cattivo blog:
Cattiva e Cattivo store:


  1. watcher castaignede says:

    May 7th, 2009at 10:14 am(#)

    hmm, interesting and thoughtful article especially to a starting designer learning the trade – however its a pity if you use the SURL to the store you get thrown out by a security orb…

  2. admin says:

    May 7th, 2009at 10:41 am(#)

    Hi Watcher,

    Thanks so much for the feedback. I have changed the SLURL so that it takes you to the store and you DONT get kicked out by a security orb!

    Glad you enjoyed the article,
    Avarie Parker

  3. Lissa Maertens says:

    May 10th, 2009at 12:14 pm(#)

    Sorry about the SLURL. That one was to the one that I stated was probably going to go away. I’m in Agard now across from Zhao shoes. Here’s the slurl:

    Lissa Maertens
    Cattiva e Cattivo

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