Who’s the Boss?

Making Space for Makers
Written by Allison Dempsey

The last few years of lockdowns have been long and challenging. Isolation and job losses have affected the world. Industries across the board have been forced to adapt and move to remote work or let employees go.

However, there’s been one plus—in the long idle hours of isolation, many have been driven to discover their own creativity.

Those with an entrepreneurial spirit and some crafting know-how have made the best of a challenging situation by turning interests, hobbies, and skills into successful home-based businesses. Requiring a relatively low initial capital investment, at-home enterprises can be launched with minimal financial risk while taking a chance on creating something unique.

That’s exactly what Burlington, Ontario resident Emily Errington did when she opened her online and home-based venture, Emily Creatives, a line of hand-embroidered sweaters featuring a “swoosh” flower design, along with a range of hand-crafted rings, necklaces, and bracelets.

“I started the ring business with my best friend a few years ago during the lockdown, and just recently decided to open a separate shop,” says Errington. “I’ve always been very ‘crafty’, and I constantly need new hobbies to keep myself from getting bored. After making a bunch of sweaters and rings for my friends, I decided to sell them. It’s something I really enjoy and can do in my own time, which is perfect.”

Satisfying as they are, home-based businesses have their share of difficulties, too.

“What I sell can be considered more ‘trendy’ items, which brings a whole new set of challenges to the table,” says Errington. “My products are not consistently popular and often go through waves of demand.”

She first started selling rings with crystals which was a “huge trend” back when she launched her first business. This resulted in many orders coming in every day and sometimes it was hard to keep up.

“Once they became less trendy, however, there was a definite decrease in demand and we started seeing fewer orders,” Errington says. “This is very challenging as you can never really be sure how well your products will sell. You have to understand these waves because you don’t want to buy too many supplies and not be able to use them, but you don’t want to run out. It’s important to stay on top of this to keep a steady flow with your business.”

While she purchases sweatshirts for $20 and sells them for $40, each item takes about three hours of designing, stitching, and cleaning before sending them out to customers, so the process is quite labour-intensive, but she “loves it.”

Being your own boss means just that—overseeing every aspect of whatever home-based business you launch, and with today’s technological advancements, the possibilities are virtually endless. These enterprises are growing in popularity both as a trend and as a means for entrepreneurs to launch start-up careers, often in the face of the pandemic’s devastating effect on “traditional” jobs.

With online and e-commerce businesses including candles, photo printing, clothing, and food production, a home-based manufacturing business could be the most sensible and successful business decision, depending on the goods you sell. Maybe you want to tackle 3D printing, a thriving industry encompassing everything from toys to eyeglasses to smartphone cases. While having some experience and ability in the field of 3D printing is advantageous, it’s not required. You just need a 3D printer, design software, raw materials, and some good ideas.

Or maybe you want to stick with traditional photo printing, whether for your own shots for artistic purposes, or printing for customers. From standard prints to postcards to posters, finding your niche is key. If you have experience in graphic design, combining it with printing services can exponentially enhance business opportunities.

On the food spectrum, if friends have been clamouring for your spice or jam recipes for years, the growing market for artisanal condiments might be for you. Specializing is essential, as it is with so many manufacturing business concepts. Finding and perfecting one unique product can make all the difference to prospects of growth and success.

Essentially, tackling manufacturing ventures that demand less production can benefit your new home-based industry. You’re not running a factory—yet!—so keeping it simple is your best bet for maintaining low costs and bringing success.

If you’re still wary of taking the leap, consider these perks: A home-based business offers numerous advantages: being able to concentrate on work instead of your commute; being able to personally choose staff members, if any; and many tax advantages, such as allowing the offset of a portion of home-based business income against expenses like mortgage, property taxes, utilities, and upkeep.

Most importantly, a home enterprise gives you the freedom to set your own schedule and work hours.

And then, like it or not, you’ll wear multiple hats as your own boss, whether in sales, marketing, or business development, sharpening useful skills and traits while gaining knowledge and experience in all facets of business ownership. So you might as well enjoy it, and value the rounding out of your business abilities.

Of course, manufacturing your goods is just one part of the process: advertising and selling are equally vital. Errington currently has an Etsy shop but does most of her posting and advertising on Instagram where potential customers can browse, examine the visuals and pose any questions they might have.

But never undervalue the importance of word-of-mouth advertising, Errington adds. Let people you know and trust in your community help spread the word about what you do. If you’re not comfortable with self-promotion, let your friends and family get the ball rolling via school, work, and extracurricular activities.

Customer referrals are key, so keep your clients happy with rewards or store credits if possible. It’s much simpler, and more profitable, to retain an existing customer than to acquire a new one, so providing excellent customer service is essential, including offering gifts and discounts for special occasions.

Email lists to promote handmade goods and crafts are effective, as are holding contests to generate interest and expand your customer base. And don’t forget the power of social media: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter are all fantastic and effective ways to gain clientele.

Thinking creatively to generate new ideas for marketing your products might include distributing leaflets in your neighbourhood and city, hosting giveaways, attending local events, and making donations to charities, all proven to help get your name out there.

While Errington is still in school and has a busy life as a semi-pro dancer, she plans to grow her mini-manufacturing business in the coming years.

“My goal is to take my advertising to the next level by doing a few giveaways so there can be more popularity, as well as getting professional photos of the products,” she says. “I’m also creating more designs and patterns for the sweaters that will be released soon.”

Making something with your own two hands is incredibly fulfilling and taking charge of your own business (and life) allows a freedom found nowhere else. After two years of being forced to shop online, many people have by now acquired a new ease and familiarity with purchasing from artisanal small-scale producers as a satisfying way to buy that connects them to both the merchandise and the maker.

So, who’s the boss? You are, or you can be with some ingenuity and persistence. Although it’s daunting at first, Errington encourages those just starting out to keep at it.

“The best advice I can give to young entrepreneurs is to stay patient,” she says. “It can be difficult to start a business. Be prepared for many days of no orders or only a few!”

And when you start, she adds, it’s always a good idea to give your friends products to try out and ask them to advertise your business.

“Lastly, love what you’re making and selling! If you don’t love it, those slow days will be much harder,” she says. “Having your own business is easily one of the most satisfying things you will do, though. You have full control over everything, so enjoy it and be patient!”



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