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I met Jenn during Fear Experiment (think adults learning to do something that scares them over ten weeks and then performing in front of hundreds). We were part of the Broadway group, learning routines to Broadway songs and feeling a bit nervous the whole way. I'm so excited to see her business flourish.
1. Tell us about your side hustle.
I run a creative product-based small business that offers handmade, small-batch polymer clay jewelry (earrings, bracelets, necklaces), accessories (keychains, barrettes), and home goods (sun catchers, oil diffusers, trinket bowls).
Each product is handcrafted by me from the design to cutting, adding embellishments (i.e., texture, prints/patterns with silkscreens, etc.), to the finish with sanding & assembling.
2. What inspired you to start your business?
I started working with polymer clay to maintain my mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic & cope with isolation, feelings of depression, and anxiety.
Working with clay gave me both a physical way of dealing with stress (kneading, sculpting, pounding, etc.) and a way mentally – to manage my thoughts by being present, mindful, and aware of what I’m creating.
After years of searching, I finally found a passion, something I wanted to run toward instead of running away from. For those reasons, I decided to take a leap, trust myself and turn it into a side hustle/small business person.
3. How did you make your first dollar?
I made my first dollar when I sold a friend a pair of my Lyra pink & black skull earrings from my first earring collection, Night Blooms. That collection is very personal and was inspired by my mental health journey and Allie Michelle’s poem from her published collection “The Rose That Blooms in the Night.”
4. When can you work on your side hustle? How do you make time for it?
I work on my side hustle whenever I have downtime from my full-time job – on breaks, in slow moments, on weeknights, and weekends. If I'm not working on my full-time job, I’m likely working on my side hustle.
There are some days when my full-time job wears me out, and my energy for my side hustle is low. On those days, I give myself the rest I need. You need to be mindful and aware of your energy & listen to what you need. It is ok to rest!
On the days when my full-time job requires less, I put that energy & focus into my side hustle.
When I have to prep for in-person markets, I pull out all the stops – working whenever I have downtime from my full-time job. I give in-person markets a dedicated focus, as I love what I do & there is so much joy in seeing someone compliment & appreciate your creativity/passion in-person / face-to-face.
5. How has your side hustle impacted your personal and professional life?
My side hustle has given me more confidence in my professional/personal life. It gives me a sense of belonging, community, and the ability to manage my mental health (depression/anxiety).
As an introvert with social anxiety, my side hustle gives me an outlet and a “voice” when I may not always find the right spoken words. Each piece/product has meaning & represents some part of myself.
Whenever I do an in-person market, I escape my comfort zone to share my creations with my community/city.
I am also part of a larger, supportive online community of polymer clay jewelry designers/artists. I found community with others interested in sharing their creations, tips/tricks, and guidance/advice.
I am NOT alone. I belong.
6. What challenges have you faced while working on your side hustle, and how have you overcome them?
My main challenges revolve around making time for administrative work (vs. creative work), such as marketing/social media, product photography, website updates, etc., as I always focus my free time on creating products.
I overcome this challenge by trying to dedicate 1-2 weeknights every other week to administrative work and/or by breaking those tasks into smaller micro goals.
Other challenges I struggle with:
- Creative blocks- when no creative inspiration is flowing
- Imposter syndrome – moments when my perfectionism makes me doubt myself. It makes me question myself, my small business, and my creative process, & makes me question if I am an ‘artist.’ This sometimes happens when a design I am working on doesn't match the idea I envisioned in my head.
I overcome these challenges by giving myself space, looking through past sketches, journaling my thoughts, fears, and anxieties, and being mindful of doubts and reframing my thoughts.
Sometimes I just need to step away to refocus.
7. Do you have any resources to recommend to someone looking to start a side hustle?
As a handmade/product-based side hustler, I am part of several Facebook groups geared towards artisans/makers, including:
- Chicago Makers Resource Group
- Andersonville-Edgewater Makers
- Vendor Display & Inspiration Tips (provides peer guidance for in-person markets/vendor events)
- Shop My Porch (selling group)
- Chicago Artists Resource Group
I am also part of several polymer clay-specific Facebook groups that are great for advice, tips/tricks, sharing our works, gathering feedback, etc.
Other resources I use:
- Polymer Week Society
- The Blue Bottle Tree
- I recently joined & am learning more about guidance/offerings from The Nest Guild
- Edgewater Chamber of Commerce
- Useful Apps
- Canva – for designing marketing materials/social media posts
- Later – for scheduling/posting to social media
- Focus To-Do – uses the Pomodoro method to break up tasks, provide focus/breaks
- Evernote (for noting my design ideas, collection ideas, hashtags to remember, idea pictures, etc.)
- Microsoft To Do
8. What advice would you give to someone considering a side hustle?
- Be patient with yourself; it takes time to build a small business.
- Be KIND to yourself. There will be ups and downs, and downs and ups – give yourself credit for your successes & learn from your failures/struggles.
- Trust yourself and your instincts.
- Know that is ok to rest, be mindful of your energy & take a break /pause (short or long) if you need to.
- It’s ok not to be ok – ask for help if you need it; tap into resources, community, peers, and those around you.