How We Went From a Side-Hustle to a Full-Time Gig For Two

Posted by Kendall Valerio on

In 2014 - we were flat broke.

For over a year I had been unable to work in Canada while my paperwork to become a Canadian permanent resident was being processed. When it fiiiiinally went through we were officially broke and in credit card debt. Over a year of living on one income (Steve's fast-food manager salary) will do that to you.

Even without money, I couldn't go without giving anniversary and birthday gifts.


(Cut to me needing to be more creative than I'd been since high school - and trying my hand at some handmade gifting).


 For our first anniversary, I made Steve a gift filled with vintage map prints of the places that meant something special to us. The piece featured where we met, where we were from ... where I took the train to and he waited for me for hours (multiple times) while it was delayed (looking at you, Montreal).

 I desperately needed a second source of income to pay off our credit card debt and ease our anxiety. So in 2015 I turned my handmade Pinterest-y DIYs into my side-hustle. I made burlap bunting flags, decorated mason jars, canvas art, screen-printed tees. But it wasn’t until I circled back to the map art I made Steve and combined it with my favourite medium - embroidery - that my side-hustle started to feel like a viable job I could grow.

 Now here we are 5 years later. Steve’s gift has become his full-time job. And we’re both working from home in our small apartment in Little Italy, Ottawa.  Embroidering away while we binge watch HGTV.

 Somewhere in there, we went from my side-hustle to a full-time gig for two.

 Here are a few steps we took that led to that:


1. Sign up for Etsy

You already have your products, a name for your biz, and maybe you even have an Instagram or Facebook business account. You think Etsy might not be the right avenue for you and you want your own site instead. Or, you think the fees are too much $$$.

 I’m here to tell you - and I love you so please don’t be mad at me but - I think you’re wrong.

 Etsy is the best selling avenue to start with - and to continue with - even after you have your own website and following.

 People flock to Etsy to shop. It’s a marketplace that - with the click of a finger - a complete stranger in middle-of-nowhere Nebraska can find you and your handmade goods. How cool is that? You are paying Etsy fees - but once you set up your listings, tinker with SEO, and finish your whole bio - Etsy does the rest.

 Even now, with our own website and over 50 wholesale clients in North America - I’m so thankful to have Etsy as supplemental income. We’ve had over 2,300 sales and most were to people who would’ve never found us otherwise.

 If you are still afraid of investing, here’s a link to get 40 free listings (and full clarity this link will give us 40 free listings, too):

 I love Etsy - but it wasn't the only answer to turning our side-hustle into a full-time gig - we also did...


2. Craft markets on the weekends

True story: I signed up for my first craft market (picture above!) in June of 2015 before I had even sold a single product. I took pictures of my DIY projects and crossed my fingers that would be enough. To this day I still owe the lovely ladies who hosted the Ottawa Makers Market at the Rideau Curling Club so much for taking a chance on me.

 I made $200 that day - and that $200 truly changed my life. It sounds crazy, I know. But it gave me so much confidence that people wanted to buy something I made with my hands. It’s also where I found out that our most popular project was the one I didn’t DIY but the one I created - the hand-embroidered heart map! We had about ten locations that first show - and we’ve since grown to over 1000.

All you truly need for your first craft show is: a table (unless supplied), a table cloth, business cards, a card processor (we use Square!), and your products. Check out my very first business card I made in Vistaprint - featuring a Beastie Boys quote 🙈.

If you don’t make any money your first craft show - don’t give up. That summer I did a craft or flea market every weekend - sometimes on both Saturday AND Sunday. I would wake up at 4AM on Sundays and set up at the Rideau Carleton Flea Market. I would say yes to a show at a shutdown Target in the Hazeldean Mall and sell one thing in two days. Most markets that summer we made under $100 - and one we sold not a thing. But that $200 gave me the confidence to keep going through the hard times (and eventually I learned which craft shows were worth my time and money).

 If you are new to Square, use this link for free processing on up to $1,000 in sales during your first 180 days (which we’ll get, too): 

 Sure, the markets were tiring - but there is no escaping that you need to...


3. Work when you get home from work

 For a year and a half, Steve and I came home from our full-time jobs, parked our butts in front of the TV, and worked on our side-hustle (Sadie & June) until we went to bed. I would stitch so long my hands hurt - until I taught Steve how to stitch - then we would both stitch so long our hands hurt.

Steve actually went full-time before I did. When I found out we were accepted into Toronto's One Of A Kind Show & Sale in the spring of 2017, Steve asked me to teach him how to stitch. This both allowed him to finally quit his crappy job and helped me scale up the business. I can sum this step up into one amazing quote from the queen shark herself:


“Entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week” - Lori Greiner


I soon realized I could make the same amount of money doing something that I loved as I did at my current full-time retail job that I had fallen out of love with. My mind was set. I made sure I had five months rent plus utilities saved, I gave a month's notice to my boss, and I said hello to my new life working side-by-side with my husband.

It’s hard to imagine having a “regular” job again. Sometimes I have a nightmare I’m not my own boss - but then our alarm wakes me up (the theme to The Lion King lmao) and I realize it was all a dream. <3


Have any questions? Comment below.


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