Team Highlight: Liz Watts

January 13, 2023

You've seen her around, snapping pics and capturing all the content, but did you know that outside of her day job here at 36°N, Liz Watts runs two creative-focused businesses? There are probably a few other things you didn't know about her like that she used to work at an indie record label in England and that she once snuck into Harry Styles' hotel and managed to meet him. We love her because she's intuitive, scrappy, and an overflowing tap of creative ideas; but there's so much more to uncover in the life of Liz Watts!

Hey Liz! People might not know that outside of working full-time at 36°N, you also run two businesses. Tell us about Golden Oldie and Honey Punch Mag!

Liz: Golden Oldie was a concept I came up with in high school as part of a project in my apparel design class. Since second grade, I had always planned on going into the fashion industry, but during my junior year of high school, I started getting involved in the music scene. The phrase “golden oldie” is generally used to refer to an old song that’s still well-known. When I graduated in 2015, I thought it was the perfect name to start an Etsy shop with and start selling the vintage and thrifted pieces I'd been collecting while studying for my degree in Music Business.

Honey Punch Mag is an online music publication I started with my sister, Emma, in 2017! We both grew to love the music industry while contributing to online music publications in high school and, after a few years, we wanted to “be our own bosses.” We have kept up with the blog over the years and built a team of incredible contributors from across the US + UK! We are currently evolving into a more Tulsa-focused art, music, and culture blog.

Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit? What inspired you to take on your first endeavor?

Liz: It really comes down to being an entrepreneur at heart! (But mostly because I’m a Capricorn). I have always loved music, art, and culture of the past and my personal style was always heavily influenced by that. My dad has been a self-employed artist since the 70’s, so I grew up knowing that I could sustain myself as an artist and creator — never doubted that my creativity wasn’t “good enough” for a career. I remember being as young as 7 years old and making “business cards” for my future babysitting + dog-walking business. I have always had it in my mind that I’d be a business owner in some capacity!

When I was focusing my career on the music industry, the idea of having a small, curated, shop felt like good way to give me a lil extra income while doing something I loved- digging through thrift stores and going to estate sales on the hunt for vintage pieces and secondhand fabric to create my own pieces! Sustainability is also an integral part of who I am and Goldie Oldie is a way to make sustainable fashion more accessible.

My sister and I started Honey Punch Mag after about 2 years of contributing to other publications. She took photos while I conducted band interviews! We were the perfect team and eventually we thought, “why don’t we just do this ourselves?” Another huge part of starting HPM was to create opportunities for other photographers and journalists starting out in the music industry. We have had over 50 contributors over the years who have gone on to do some amazing things!

What has been the biggest challenge in your small business journey?

Liz: After the pandemic hit and I didn’t end up going back to living in the UK and working more on my career in the music industry, I decided to stay in Tulsa and switch gears. I turned my hobby, Golden Oldie, into my career focus, not knowing when the music industry would recover.

By early 2022, my definition of “success” changed dramatically when I realized that working on Golden Oldie full-time was burning me out. I thought I’d failed after “taking the leap” into full-time self-employment when, really, my business, health, and mindset just weren’t ready yet. 

I ended up feeling overwhelmed and less creative. I did a lot of soul searching and made a pact with myself- I’d keep pushing through, but if a job opportunity came up that aligned with my values, allowed me to be creative, and was for a non-profit…I’d consider it. Within DAYS, an opening at 36 Degrees North came up on my radar! I truly feel like the universe saved me with that one. Now, I can still feel fulfilled with my work and be part of an amazing community that has helped me grow as an individual and given me the opportunity to make some great connections and gain so much support for both Golden Oldie and Honey Punch Mag!

What has been your biggest win?

Liz: My biggest win has been realizing that my businesses and my creativity ebbs and flows! I create intuitively and I am not scared to take breaks from my businesses. Nothing good comes from forcing myself to create! Plus, my business goals change as my life changes- I learned I can’t base the worth of myself or my business on my productivity.

Emma + Liz Watts, Founders of Honey Punch Mag

What piece of advice would you give to a fellow creative who wants to start their own business or take on a new project?

Liz: Don’t rush to perfection! I can’t count how many times I’ve deleted every Instagram post and started fresh. Create a balance between strategy and passion- let your curiosity and intuition guide you. Don’t let the ways other people run their businesses curtail your creativity. You will have your way of running your business and you’ll grow as you lean into your intuition and cultivate your own process.

After working in the creative industry for so long, what's it like working for a entrepreneurship focused nonprofit?

Liz: I am so incredibly passionate about Tulsa and really align with the mission of 36 Degrees North! After the pandemic hit, I stopped wanting to “escape” Tulsa and started dreaming up what life could be like staying in Tulsa. (Hint: it's so good!) Joining the team at 36 Degrees North meant I could play a small part in uplifting other entrepreneurs and creators, move outside my comfort zone, and learn to love and appreciate this city in a new way. There is so much passion and diversity in Tulsa and at 36°N, so I still feel very connected to the creative industry while fulfilling my role and seeing the impact I can help make.

What is your role at 36°N? What does your day-to-day look like and how does it play to your strengths?

Liz: I am the Marketing and Events Coordinator at 36°N! My innately creative personality has allowed me to develop some new skills and hone into ones I already had! I’m on the communications team, so most of my day-to-day is working on our social media pages, taking photos at events, and saying “Oh, that’s so *insert zodiac sign* of you!” to my wonderful coworkers!

What is something people don’t expect about you?

Liz: To some people it might seem obvious, but I’m a BIG One Direction girl! I had a 1D fan account on Twitter, cried at concerts, and even met Harry Styles after trying to sneak into his hotel circa 2013. Next time you see me, I’ll share a very obscure One Direction fact that only a *true* fan would know.

Liz's nephew, Riggins, is also an artist! He loves hosting popup shops at Buck Atom's!

Tell us your Tulsa faves!

- The Boneyard

- Jo + June Vintage

- Love Me Two Times Vintage Market

- Buck Atom’s Cosmic Curios

- Kilkenny’s Irish Pub

- Antoinette Baking Co.

- Elote

- American Solera

- Et Al Dumpling Nights