Skip to Content

A Small Business Owner Story: From Side Hustle to Ditching the Day Job

I’m Kristen and I run Upcycle My Stuff.

I’m passionate about upcycling and I want to help you feel that way too.
I’m also passionate about small businesses and the difference that running one can make in people’s lives.
I am a small business owner myself.
Here’s my (pretty long) story:

The Day Job and the Side Hustle

Before I ditched the day job to follow my passions I worked in local government and the voluntary sector.  I set up and ran a project that trained local government officers to encourage people to make use of their empty homes (ones that had been left to go to rack and ruin for a whole range of reasons – there are more of them out there than you think!).  I liked it but there was a frustration element that came along with working inside and with government bureaucracies and of course the grind of commuting into an office day in and day out and not feeling like there was enough time to pursue my own passions.

vintage wedding headpiece business

That was the day job.  At the same time I had an upcycling side hustle called Hairlooms Headpieces – making one of a kind bridal headpieces upcycled from vintage jewellery. 

It was a great creative outlet and I had the privilege of being part of one of the most memorable days in my customer’s lives.  It was so lovely to make something for them that I know they would treasure and possibly even pass down to their kids! 

Life gets in the way

My side hustle was going from strength to strength and I was getting busier with it and then I got hit with a personal bombshell.  My Father and my Grandmother died within 6 days of each other. 

My Dad had cancer for several years and frankly focusing on the business had helped me cope by taking my mind off of it.  But despite his illness both deaths came pretty out of the blue and knocked me for six.   I went into a bit of a spiral and shut down the business. 

It was a dark time, and I just couldn’t find the positive in focusing on my business anymore.  But in a funny way upcycling helped me through it. 

Upcycling is the Best Medicine

Like many people who have fallen in love with upcycling, crafting or DIY, I have always found that the physical act of transforming something from what it was, unwanted or unused, into something useful, beautiful and cherished has a real uplifting effect on the soul. 

Of course you should reach out to friends and family when you are feeling low, but I truly believe that sometimes upcycling is the best medicine! 

Whatever project you are undertaking becomes a bit of a metaphor for whatever you are going through at the time – if you can bring that old ugly side table back to life with a coat of paint what could you change in your own life?  I did a lot of revamping tables and reupholstering, skip rescuing and many other projects to give me somewhere to escape to as I healed from the trauma of losing two of the biggest figures in my life.

Ditching the Day Job

When I started to emerge the other side I didn’t restart my business, that chapter felt closed for me.  But I did decide to have children, something I’d been scared of for years. 

I now have two boys and they’ve completely changed my life.  I decided I couldn’t go back to work and put them in childcare so I started another business.  I did what I don’t recommend to others which was to jack in the day job before I had a steady income from the new business. 

small business owner baby gifts

Thankfully it worked out.  I now run a Baby Gifts brand called Nested Fox and we sell gender neutral keepsake gifts and nursery décor across Europe and North America – mostly through online outlets like Amazon, Etsy and our own E-Commerce store.   

How did I know how to set something like this up?  I didn’t is the short answer.  This was a different beast to my little side hustle wedding headpiece business, this was product research & design, branding and trademark registrations, sourcing manufacturers from China and managing quality control and importing to the UK.  And this was not upcycling!

I found the idea to run this sort of business from a blog post that emphasised the flexibility of being able to do it all at home and outside 9-5 hours. Perfect for fitting around raising my babies. Still a lot of work, don’t get me wrong, but the flexibility was the key!

Over the months before I actually took the leap I researched like a mad thing, reading all the free content I could about designing and sourcing products and selling online on channels like Amazon. 

I then moved on to several paid courses which are frankly what really gave me the tools and confidence I needed to take the leap.  I did also think  – some of this info would have been so helpful when I was running my previous business! – but I’ll get back to that….

Upcycling is my Superpower

But, you are probably confused at this point because this business I’ve been describing has nothing to do with upcycling!   

It definitely doesn’t, so I needed an outlet for that, which is where Upcycle My Stuff comes in.  I started the blog on a whim when my second son was 4 months old. 

I wasn’t really sure exactly what it would all be about but I knew I personally was fed up with clicking on to websites promising me I would learn how to upcycle something and then finding it was just an image with no instructions, no link to a tutorial, nothing.  So frustrating! 

So I wanted a site full of tutorials and instructions, and when I put up an inspiration piece with lots of other people’s great upcycling ideas, I wanted to make sure to include the link to their tutorial so my readers weren’t left the same way I was saying ‘great idea – but how do I do it?’. 

Don’t try to do it alone – Fab Guest Bloggers!

upcycled chest of drawers pink
Photo: Katie Morris, Upcycled Restyled

I knew I couldn’t write all the tutorials myself.  I’m just not an expert in upcycling everything – who could be?  So I reached out to lots of fab small upcycling businesses and invited them to contribute and lots of them did! 

These small business owners are truly experts in their fields so I was super excited to feature them and at the same time give them some exposure for their businesses.  I realised I could do more to promote them too and that my experience both in running my own businesses and in my previous career could be something worth sharing.

Building Community

Do you remember the day job I mentioned at the beginning?  Well a lot of that job was about building up a community of Empty Homes Officers across the country (Scotland), helping them learn the best way to achieve in their posts and also the best way to promote themselves within their own Local Authority area – these were new roles that councils weren’t sure they wanted to keep paying for so we had to prove they were worth it! 

I needed to work with these officers to showcase and market their value to the local community in order to convince them to splash the cash! 

I am using a lot of the same principles combined with my knowledge of running a small business to build up our Directory of Upcycling Businesses.  Many of my guest bloggers have become part of the directory which I am so thrilled about!

Bringing Ecommerce secrets to handmade Upcycling businesses!

Along with promoting upcycling businesses that are already established I feel like my experience in the online ecommerce space could be really useful for new and emerging small business owners who sell handmade and upcycled products or provide an upcycling service (like upholstery or furniture painting). 

small business tips for handmade businesses

There is a lot of what I learned to start my baby gifts business that is not applicable to this kind of business – namely manufacturing and importing – but there is so much that craft businesses and other skills based handmade businesses could be leveraging! 

There is no need for upcycling businesses to limit themselves to craft fairs and local shops.  There is a whole industry of tricks and tools that help small business owners who sell mass produced items to get ahead – why not steal some of those tricks for businesses who make their products through upcycling?  There are so many opportunities and resources out there and I would like to help show the way.

Lets Connect!

If you are thinking of starting a small business, whether it’s a side hustle, full time career or something in between I’d love to connect with you and see if I can help you get started and once you have started, help you grow. 

Feel free to send me an email at [email protected] or join our Facebook Group of upcycling enthusiasts (Upcycle My Stuff Share My Stuff). It’s full of fab folk sharing their projects.

I also have a free quick start guide to starting your own upcycling business – click below to download it!

[elementor-template id=”16665″]

If you aren’t already do also connect with me on any of our social media channels (links are below in the footer!)!

…oh and don’t be shy, drop me a comment and let me know a bit about you too! I read all the comments and I’d love to know how you found your way here and what I can help you with.

Happy Upcycling!

x Kristen

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.