Turn your hobby into a business

February 24, 2010 4:21:11 PM PST
Turn your hobby into a business! Meet two women who made it happen.


  1. Get a mentor: Find a someone successful in your field and ask them to be your guide, teacher, and mentor. If possible, work for them. I leapfrogged ahead in my career by many years because I learned from my mentor firsthand and what it took to run a business. What to do, and sometimes just as importantly, what not to do.

  2. Don't sell mediocre work just because you can: Brutally assess your work. Find other people whose opinions you trust to brutally assess your work. Make something special that shows who you are and hone that talent before putting yourself in the marketplace.

  3. Realize that when you own your own business you are sacrificing a part of yourself for money: I've spent years cycling in and out of burnout and psychological stress from running my art as a business. Recognize that you will need outlets to help balance your life, and put them into place.

  4. Create a support network for yourself: With other business owners so that you can learn together, give each other advice, cry on each other's shoulder and critique and advise one another. Your mother, best friend, and significant other can't do it all for you.

  5. Don't let up the business end of things: If you want to be successful, you must know business. Get interested in running the numbers. Learn QuickBooks. Read small business blogs that specialize in the your area of expertise. When you are done reading this paragraph, read it again and replace the word "business" with "marketing". Then get interested in promoting yourself. Learn how to use social media and avail yourself of all the online tools that are out there.
About Whitney Smith:

I fell in love with throwing clay on the wheel when I took a class at Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz in 1994. I had a fantastic teacher, Dan Martinez, who skillfully taught me all the basics, and allowed me to take many independent study classes to hone my talent.

I went on to the University of California to study for a degree in anthropology, but I continued to work in my garage studio and assisted another Santa Cruz artist, Sandi Dihl, at her clay studio. With the help and support of family, friends, and clients, I was able to make the leap to full-time potter in early 2000.

Company information:

Whitney Smith Pottery
539 Athol Ave
Oakland, CA 94606
Phone: 510-299-5936
Website: whitneysmithpottery.com

About Patty Benson:

Learning how to crochet from a friend of mine several years ago, I immediately found a medium that combined my fascination of wool with my love of designing beautiful pieces for the home. Feeling that home accessories shouldn't just be limited to ceramic or glass, I love the idea of taking the ancient technique of felting to design something entirely new.

My diverse background includes store merchandising, interior design, and fashion design. It was while working unhappily in corporate fashion that I begun to experiment and create a body of work. I discovered Etsy and it really just took off from there! I eventually quit my job but found a part-time job that allowed me to work on my business and attend business classes provided for women in Oakland. This really helped lay the foundation and get my business moving in the right direction.

About Papaver Vert:

Papaver Vert is a small creative studio in Northern California owned by designer Patty Benson. Based on form, function and bold color, my work utilizes the time consuming technique of crocheting and wet felting wool to create tactile pieces with a contemporary twist.

A little about how my designs are made:

Using a wool and mohair blend, each piece is first hand crocheted, then wet-felted using hot water, soap and agitation, which causes the wool fibers to interlock. The last steps in the process are molding, drying, trimming and steaming, all of which contribute to the creation of bowls that are soft to the touch, alive with color, with wonderful functionality.

For more information, visit www.papaververt.com and www.etsy.com.

To contact Patty email her at papaververt@gmail.com