Having a hobby to keep you busy in your spare time is one thing, but being able to take the activity you love and turn it into your full-time, money-making job is something very different — and entirely possible. Faze tracked down four “happy hobbyists” who turned their hobbies into full-time work — creating successful, money-making businesses out of what they love to do best.
Barbie’s Basement Jewellery is the place to go for funky, colourful pop rings, pendants, chokers, broaches and belt buckles; all inspired by a variety of cult movies and pop icons. Robin Woodward, founder and creative energy behind this new-age pop art, shaped her long-time hobby into a real career when she lost her full-time job and had to find something else to pay the bills. “I realized I wanted to make jewelry when a friend of mine turned to me and asked, ‘If you could do anything, what would it be?’” Robin confesses. “It was all I wanted to do.” So she started to make the rounds at small craft shows and outdoor fairs, showcasing and selling her work.
“Starting small is important,” she advises, “especially when you lack experience; that’s how you learn.” Starting small, but determined to make her business bigger, Robin realized that she had to take a self-employment course to learn more about how to run a real company. “The small business course taught me business basics and gave me a headspace to take myself seriously as a business.” In only seven years, Robin and her partner, Ange Beever, have hundreds of products sold in independent stores across Canada, the United States, Hungary and Japan.
Patience and attention to detail have celebs like Mischa Barton and Lindsay Lohan clamouring for NYC Peach’s customized creations.
Christa MacLellan, a small-town girl who, as a child, loved to spend her time doing crafts and sewing, graduated from the Fashion Marketing Program at George Brown College in 2004, and was sent to Selengue, Mali as the Canadian representative for Canada World Youth’s Quebec/Mali Community Development Program. Although she loved the adventure, the agricultural work she had to do there didn’t really connect with her. Inspired by the vibrant colours, customs and styles of the sub-Saharan community, and using her flair for fashion, Christa broke out a sketch pad and began designing African accessories to bring back to North America. In only three months, Christa’s company — Saki by Chata — was born.
When Christa returned to Canada, she tried to display her merchandise at the One of a Kind Show, a mega-event for artisans to showcase and sell their work, but found that it was too expensive and intimidating for a young, upand- coming designer. “So I started Fashion on the Rocks — a small show for accessory designers only,” Christa explains. “There were a lot of young designers in the same boat, who needed a place to display their work.” Fashion on the Rocks got a lot of media attention and sponsors and is still a big yearly event in the accessories industry.
It was inspiration and a fancy for accessory-making that started Saki by Chata, but it was Christa’s determined will to get her stuff out there — even if it meant creating her own exhibition show to do it — that made it flourish. “I always believe that you should take advantage of every opportunity that you have,” she says, “Just go for it, and figure it out along the way.”
Jen Kluger and Suzie Orol, the founders and designers for Foxy Originals, hooked up at the Richard Ivey School of Business in London, Ontario, with a mission to make highfashion, yet affordable jewelry accessible to young women. Together they designed and sold their creations to friends and acquaintances on campus. “We got great feedback from our customers and realized our jewelry was in demand,” says Suzie. Soon after, they took to the road selling their pieces at festivals and concerts. “This was a hobby, and we wanted to prove to ourselves and our peers that we could run a business and be successful doing something we love,” says Suzie. News spread quickly about the distinct style of Foxy Originals, and soon the jewelry could be found in boutiques across the country. Today it is sold in over 350 stores across North America, showcased in national magazines, and found on celebrity “must have” lists; Eve, Kim Cattrall, Nelly Furtado and Paris Hilton have all been spotted wearing Foxy’s fun and funky creations. Both Jen and Suzie still rely on the skills and knowledge they gained from university to market and promote Foxy in countries around the world, but Suzie says you’ll need more than a formal education, “Really put your mind to it,” she says, “Be persistent, ask lots of questions and you will find a way.”
Sarah Gold, a custom crystallization designer and president and founder of NYC Peach, started her successful accessories design company in 2003. She took everyday objects like cell phones, cameras and business card holders, and made them expressions of personal style by painstakingly applying individual Swarovski lead crystals in a variety of unique designs and colours.
Originally, Sarah’s idea of designing personal items with coloured crystals was just a hobby and a great gift idea for her friends, but soon A-list celebrities like Mischa Barton, Lindsay Lohan, Sarah Jessica Parker and J.Lo were seen sporting the trendy designs on and off on the red carpet. “My business exploded faster than I could have ever imagined,” Sarah declares in disbelief. In order to keep up with the demand, she found herself working really hard and staying up late, night after night, filling requests from new customers. “I don’t have a business background,” Sarah explains, “but I have always tried to run my business the way I believe all businesses should: rewarding those people who help you with a little bit extra, cutting back on your own salary to get the best product out there, and making it accessible to everyone by putting it online.”
Sarah also believes that taking action is the key to turning your hobby into a business. “Your ideas are as good as anyone else’s. If you think you have a good idea, move on it and make it happen,” she urges. After all, Sarah points out, “Someone out there is going to make something cool, so it might as well be you.