Digital Havens: Entertainment merchandising expert and accessibility advocate Stevie Hopkins wants to build an inclusive web3 home for pop culture fans 28 Jun 2022
Stevie Hopkins, CEO and founder of entertainment industry branding and merch service SCP Merchandising, has learned a lot over the decades about what connects people who love the same music, games, or fashion. A master of merchandise, he built a successful, rapidly growing business on that learning, working with artists, influencers, and leading streetwear and fashion creators while defying intense challenges. SCP's past and present clients include Billie Eilish, CrankGamePlays, Eddie Burbank, Louis the Child, Freddie Gibbs, JackSepticEye, Markiplier, Mitski, and many other cultural icons and tastemakers.
Now, Hopkins sees a new horizon for pop culture communities and scenes: web3. Like copy machines unleashed zine culture, like smartphones transformed photography, decentralized tech promises to power up new forms of fan-initiated creativity. While current tech forces fans into platforms' preset boxes and holes, web3 will let them own what they gather, make, and share.
Hopkins has a crystal-clear vision of what's missing in web3 so far, however: "Very little of what many are building in web3 brings people to real-life tangible experiences or merch. That's a pillar of what I think will take web3 mainstream," explains Hopkins. "These experiences are crucial to acceptance and adoption. I want to make NFTs make sense to more fans, giving people tangible enjoyment and rewards and opportunities in the real world."
Hopkins' enthusiasm and commitment have deep roots in his own experience. Hopkins was born with a neuromuscular disorder that requires him to use a wheelchair. He became an energized entrepreneur who founded his own company and a speaker who uplifts others facing challenges. The internet and technology let him excel at both.
"The internet saved my life," Hopkins explains. "It changed the picture for people with disabilities. It was a creative outlet that let me engage with the world. It was an outlet of personal identification, thanks to gaming groups and online circles. I could be the person I wanted to be without the limitations others saw."
It also unlocked other opportunities, as well, including career and entrepreneurial prospects that didn't exist 20 years ago. "Employment for people with disabilities has always been a major problem and that problem persists. Even for me, a valedictorian with two college degrees, finding an employer was very challenging," Hopkins notes. "Online, however, I could build and run a business, working with creative people doing things I loved."
If the internet in its initial and 2.0 forms helped Stevie create a fulfilling life and livelihood, web3, he envisions, will present another level up, by putting the means of online creation, production, distribution, and ownership into the hands of users. "Web3 is the next evolution of something that I'm already in love with, something that's an extension of me," Hopkins reflects. "Web3 lets us engage and take ownership of our internet activity, through mechanisms like the tokenization of community and creativity. I've used the internet as my access. Now I own and control it. It's inspiring and powerful."
Hopkins wants to bring this power to more creative people, especially those who may not feel fully included in web3 conversations so far. He sees this potential addressable community as massive, as big as all the passionate scenes, undergrounds, movements, and styles out there. To make a haven for these culture- and fashion-obsessed fans, he's building Dropolis, drawing on a long career of creating sought-after merch and experiences for name artists.
Dropolis will stand out from the dozens of chaotic marketplaces for digital collectibles, offering more than a random drop of an image or sound or profile pic. Hopkins and his team imagine Dropolis as a virtual space where fans can form communities as they nab NFTs linked directly to stuff they love, be it an amazing IRL experience, an invite to an exclusive party, or a limited-edition piece of apparel.
Powering these experiences and NFT drops are real stories with real meaning for fans. "Even if they are big now, I want to partner with artists and creators who have grassroots stories," Hopkins explains. "I want to focus on working with underrepresented communities, entrepreneurs, and brands, all the underserved people out there," who can find a web3 home on Dropolis.
Thanks to this ethos, Dropolis' NFT-powered, fan-guided community will resemble a city in its cultural complexity and offerings. A city isn't about the buildings, streets, stores, or spaces; it's about the people. Dropolis wants to attract people who love pop culture, music, and fashion and build web3 infrastructure to turn them into potential builders.
The whole metaphor of a city built and owned by its citizens presents a fresh way of thinking about big NFT projects, one in perfect harmony with the internet's liberating potential. "We tell the world who we are based on what we engage with and how we engage with it. The internet has given everyone an opportunity to learn and explore their identity, to engage with new hobbies, games, music, and communities. I really want Dropolis to be the safe space for this exploration, for merch or fashion or music or food—whatever you're into."
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