From Hobby to Money. How My Sister is Killing it With Her Side Gig

If you like me, are always scouting ways to supplement your income, I’ve got some inspiration for you from Kemi – my very own egbon mi l’eko ni Baltimore. She’s only two-ish years older than me, but she’s like my mini mama because ori won wanbetoo much wisdom in her head. 

Kemi has a PhD in Bioinformatics, works full time, and is killing it with her side gig. I asked her a bunch of questions, and put together her responses below. Let’s jump right in.

SNG: Tell us about your side gig. What exactly is it?
Kemi: It’s called Ruwe Designs. I design and create custom labels, stickers, and chalkboard signs. For example, I create labels for lip glosses, candles, spices and pantry items, and party favors.

SNG: How did you get started?
Kemi: I have a creative mind and I love doing crafts. Back in 2007, I started a side gig making beaded jewelry, but then I stopped doing it for many reasons. Fast forward to 2014, I did a bunch of DIY projects for my wedding. One of them was a chalkboard sign that read “Here comes the bride”. I also made a similar sign for my nephew’s first birthday, which read “Cute as a bow tie”.

Every now and then, I found myself making custom stickers for friends’ baby and bridal shower favors. All this while, you had been encouraging me to start a business out of this – especially on Etsy. It took a while, but I finally posted a couple of items in 2016. I was beyond excited when I made the first sale!

SNG: How did you learn the skills? 
Kemi: Reading, watching videos, and practicing. At the beginning, I used to do everything manually, so it was very time consuming. I did some research on what kind of tools, machines, and software can help me do things more efficiently. I am very passionate about this stuff so once I get some free time, I am on my computer or my phone googling, watching videos on YouTube, looking at pictures, whatever it takes.

SNG: Why Etsy and how does it work?
Kemi: I got introduced to Esty by you. Etsy is an e-commerce platform where sellers can list handmade or vintage items. Anyone can list an item for sale by providing a good description, pictures, and a price. It’s great because buyers from all over the world can view your items. In turn, you would pay a fee to Etsy for this service.

It works for me because Etsy does the publicity. Years ago, when I started the beaded jewelry business, I launched a website for selling, and one of the reasons it failed was because it was difficult to promote and drive traffic there. With Etsy, you still have to stand out as a seller because there are tons of sellers – about 2.1 million sellers per year. But there is also a lot of traffic – over 39.4 million buyers per year.

SNG: Tell us what your 9-5 job is about.
Kemi: I am a Bioinformatics Analyst at a Genomics Research Institute. This simply means that I write programs and analyze data that provide insights into research questions concerning human health and diseases. I love it, especially because most of the projects I work on involve organisms that are significant in Africa, such as Plasmodium, which causes malaria.

SNG: Walk us through your typical day from when you wake up. What is it like?
Kemi: I am a morning person. Most times, before I actually I wake up for the day, I wake up at night to do meditation plus Ruwe Designs work on the computer. This is usually when I prepare orders to be produced in the morning. When I wake up for real, I continue designing, then rush to produce, then go get ready for work.

During my break at work, I sometimes take a walk to the post office to drop off completed orders. Other times, my hubby does the post office run. Most evenings after I get home, I do some house chores then continue with responding to Etsy messages and processing orders, pretty much until I fall asleep. 

SNG: How do you juggle your 9-5, side gig, and other commitments?
Kemi: To be honest, this is a big challenge for me, and I am still trying to figure it out. I have my commitment as a wife and family woman. I am also very involved with my church. Among other things, I sing in the worship team, so think rehearsals twice a week plus attending services, etc. I think the key is being very intentional with my time. Thankfully, my 9-5 is mostly contained during those hours. At other times, I usually have my laptop with me, so if there’s any stalling during the day, I pick up my laptop and become productive. 

SNG: Do you see yourself leaving your 9-5 anytime soon?
Kemi: No LOL. 1) I am not there yet, although having more time would make me get there quicker. 2) I am not good with drastic changes (or change, period – sigh). 3) I wouldn’t want to lose my professional expertise.

SNG: What challenges are you currently facing with regards to your business?
Kemi: Not enough time. I need to get help. Recently I closed my [virtual] shop for a couple of weeks because it was getting too much, and I couldn’t keep up with orders. I just needed a breather. To grow the business, I need to train people.  My hubby has started training which is super awesome 🙂  

SNG: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start or is just starting a side gig?
Kemi: If you haven’t started, do your research then START. It took me several months to post the first listing because I was waiting to get perfect pictures and a big inventory. But when I eventually started, I just took pictures with my phone (not the best lighting and all that fancy stuff) but it was enough to fetch the first sale and that pushed me to improve.

If you are just starting, find creative ways to make it work. When I started on Etsy, I had to lure customers in because I had no track record. So I would offer super fast processing and shipping compared to other sellers, and offer lower prices. I would send proofs within a few hours and ship out orders by the following day, or same day if possible. So I got great reviews. Most of my reviews included “FAST shipping” and that drew in more customers and helped build a positive reputation.

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Call me biased, but I was re-inspired from reading Kemi’s story. Here are four key lessons I learned:

  1. Start where you are, but continue to learn and improve. See the difference in the boards Kemi made for my kids, almost 4 years apart?  
  2. Hustle your butt off, or you’ll end up being a serial “wanterpreneur”. You are not going to get a thriving business on a platter of gold unless you work hard for it. And don’t give me that “I just don’t have time” excuse. We make time for the things we truly care about, and most times, that turns out to be Netflix and chill. Unless you are one of the rare few that work 16-hour days, 7 days a week, you can always squeeze out time to work on your passion – a side gig, studying for a certification, or anything else you want to do. 
  3. Do what you love enough to keep you up at night. If you follow the crowd, you may end up in a gutter. Explore different things to see what you enjoy; you never know where it may lead.
  4. Put in your very best to whatever you do. Mediocrity is not good enough. Notice the perfect 5 star review from 706 reviewers on Kemi’s page?

That’s it for today’s post. If my brother agrees, I may feature him sometime “soon”. Chai, Femi’s story ehn, let me not get started. He is the true pro hustler. I’ll save the gist for his post. May God bless all our hustles! And the tribe says…[AMEN!]

If you have questions for Kemi, ask them in the comments section and I’ll have her respond to you. Also, if you were inspired by this post, please share, share, share with your friends!

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24 thoughts on “From Hobby to Money. How My Sister is Killing it With Her Side Gig

  1. Yes, infact i still rock two of those earrings. Kemi is good people. She works hard and is dedicated to her craft. Infact, the entire Abolude clan have a serious entrepreneurial (aka hustler) spirit that I admire. In this day and age, nobody just sits down with their 9-5.

  2. Wow this is really inspirational. Your sister is an inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. There are certain things i want to do but, i’m always scared to start. This just encouraged me.

  3. This is super inspiring. Start where you are, Do what you love, Hustle your butt off, and Put in your very best. These 4 lessons can transform any idea or career.
    Adding to my list of Things I Wish I Knew 10 Years Ago”.

    …and did I ever say I love your writing boo!

  4. I remember when Kemi was braiding hair and then started on the jewelry business! No be today – truly admire your tenacity to succeed against all odds. Thanks for the inspiration and Bisola for the summary.

  5. So proud of my Aburo’s doing great things. A true inspiration to the younger ones. I am going to pass this on to Teemo for her to read, as she has started a business with her friend and needs some tips!!!

  6. So many important points to remember in this post. And it holds true across many paths in life. In this day and age it can be so difficult to become visible, or ‘float to the top’ in your chosen field. I find one of the biggest challenges is the inner critic whispering that you’re not good enough or it’s not worth the effort because you’ll never make it. It’s a slow process to learn to listen to the inner critic when the words are appropriate, helpful, and useful, and shut that voice off when it’s only defeating and a negative weight on your shoulders. I love the reminder here to be intentional with our time.

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