I turned my hobby into a six-figure business

Selling crafts online is one of the most popular side gigs in 2023. But you have to be especially crafty to grow it into a flourishing business, as Emma Eatwell found out.

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Thousands of us started side hustles during the pandemic. But only a small percentage of us have managed to turn them into a thriving, profitable business. Here’s how I became one of them.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, my life took an unexpected turn. Like many others, the national lockdown forced me to put my career plans on hold and left me with an abundance of free time.

During this challenging period, I stumbled upon a resin kit my sister had gifted me years before. Bored, I decided to open it up. By combining pressed flowers and leaves with resin, I found an incredible sense of joy and purpose in creating.

I began crafting unique gifts that carried deep meanings. Flowers, after all, have their own meanings, and I used them to convey messages of love, remembrance, and good luck.

It wasn’t long before these creations became more than just beautiful objects – they became heartfelt tokens of connection during a time when physical distance was our reality. As demand increased, I knew I had to turn my side hustle into something bigger.

I registered Cotswold Crafts by Emma in September 2020. By October, I had begun selling on Amazon. What happened next is something I’d never have guessed. Soon, that £20 resin kit from my sister would lead to a turnover of over £100,000. 

Embracing Amazon Handmade

Initially, I thought that lockdown would be a barrier to sharing my crafts. With local markets and craft shops off-limits, I needed a new way to showcase my work, and so I began searching for an ecommerce platform.

That’s when I discovered the power of Amazon Handmade and its online workshops, tutorials, and advice which helped me navigate the world of running an online business. What seemed like an obstacle quickly turned into a blessing in disguise.

Amazon’s vast reach as an ecommerce marketplace gave me the opportunity to share my creations with a global audience. Fulfillment by Amazon took care of the delivery of 90% of my sales and my startup saw a remarkable 140% growth in 2022 compared to the previous year.

The most memorable day at work was when I moved into my first business unit. It was hectic, full of moving furniture and emptying boxes. It wasn’t till late into the evening when everything was set up, that I stood back in the new workshop space and had a moment of pure pride.

It finally hit me that I was really doing this, and I had taken the largest step so far in growing into a fully-fledged creative company. I had an overwhelming sense of achievement and excitement for the next chapter.

Advice from the creative trenches

Sometimes, unexpected turns in life can lead to the most incredible discoveries. The satisfaction of being in the creative industry is so rewarding, but you do need to be prepared to put in more hours than the normal nine-to-five.

Looking back, the one thing I would advise my younger self would be to have the confidence to start this whole creative journey earlier in my career.

With all the industry support out there from companies like Amazon Handmade, along with grit and determination, you can succeed in making a successful career in the creative industry a reality. Here’s a few tips from the creative trenches:

  • Embrace Versatility: As a creative business owner, you’ll wear many hats. From marketing to accounting, you’ll need to run these departments with an open mind and a willingness to learn. Each skill you acquire will contribute to your success and when you’re struggling, reach out to your support system for help.
  • Feedback is Gold: Don’t shy away from customer reviews, even if they’re not always positive. Criticism can be your greatest teacher, guiding you toward improvements that propel your startup forward.
  • Passion Fuels Persistence: Passion is one of the most important ingredients for getting started. Building an entire organisation takes dedication, passion and hard work. I still feel excited about getting to work every day and creating bespoke items for people. It’s a real privilege to care so much about your work.

Crafting a fulfilling future

I did worry that turning a hobby into a full-time venture might change how I feel about working in the creative sector. Actually, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Other industries might bring more financial reward. But working in a creative environment gives me job satisfaction and engagement with my work – a priceless thing to gain from your career.

As I look to the future, I envision Cotswold Crafts by Emma becoming an internationally recognised brand synonymous with unique handmade treasures. We’d like to expand into the European market.

I also want to partner with brick-and-mortar businesses looking to stock my products. With an expanding team of dedicated craftspeople, I’m excited to see where this venture takes me.

My journey from a hobbyist to a thriving SME owner has taught me that dreams can be turned into reality with perseverance, adaptability, and a touch of invention. So, whether you’re just starting or well on your way, remember: your creative journey is uniquely yours to shape.

Need inspiration for your own business idea? Read our guide to 101+ cheap small business ideas for entrepreneurs looking to get started on a budget.

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Emma Eatwell founded Cotswold Crafts by Emma in the midst of a COVID-19 lockdown in 2020. Initially a stopgap while her career in recruitment was on hold, the handmade resin gifts and accessories business proved its selling potential on online shops. What started as a hobby is now a fully-fledged business.

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