Learn how Society of Grownups Director Xiomara Lorenzo turned her passion for making jewelry into a thriving side hustle.
Is this a “hobby” or an “expensive hobby”?
I asked myself that very question a few years back, after taking a hard look at my jewelry-making activities. I have been designing and making jewelry for more than 10 years, dedicating the last few years to converting my hobby into a proper side hustle.
It’s a simple question, with just the one word—expensive—making all the difference. However, it begged the following questions: “How do I know if this is an expensive hobby…and what do I do if it is?”
Let’s take a step back to see how the word “expensive” came into play.
During my last two years of college, I started making jewelry. I bought craft wire and a pair of wire cutters at a local bead store. I also had pliers that came with my handy four-piece orange IKEA tool set. My room was a danger zone—snips of wires and beads ready to prick the soles of unsuspecting feet. Nevertheless, soon after, many of my friends were sporting a pair of Xiomara originals and I became known on campus for my earring designs.
The cost of materials and labor was negligible. I was interested in selling but I was happier to give the earrings away.
<Cue the groans of my MBA degree>
Though it may have made more business sense to sell the earrings, I had uncovered something more powerful than a profit alone—a passion.
A few years later, the question of whether this was an expensive hobby became relevant. I decided to nourish my passion and took metalsmithing classes. I learned how to create more durable designs using soldering techniques. But the classes came with a significant expense—a few hundred dollars for each set of classes, which didn’t include tools and materials. The class expense quickly became the size of a monthly grocery bill. In order to avoid ramen for all of our meals, my partner and I started having conversations on how much household income could go toward this passion and what did I want this to become.
With a more formed passion in one hand and better budgeting skills in the other, in 2014 I launched a 3D printing jewelry business via Etsy called Xiomara Lorenzo Designs. If I wanted my jewelry to be something remotely sustainable, I had to treat it as such. I realized just putting money into a business without tracking if the additional money helped it grow would be counterintuitive.
<Cue the applause from my redeemed MBA degree>
This mindset helped me set reasonable financial goals; the first being that the business cover its monthly operating costs. I now use tools such as Iconosquare and Facebook Ads Manager to identify high-performing images from Instagram that are then used in my Facebook ads. I attend events such as Boston Young Creatives to learn from other entrepreneurs which local and digital resources they draw from to help sustain their ventures.
Starting a business forced me to be clear about why I am choosing to sell jewelry, especially since I am balancing a full-time job—plus a life! I know now that I want to pursue my passion, but it cannot become a financial drain.
In addition, I see an opportunity to fill a need in the market. I often hear feedback that heavy earrings—made of metal or equally heavy materials—are tiresome to wear all day. Over time, heavy earrings can unintentionally stretch one’s earlobes. Mine don’t: I use 3D-printing processes because the pieces produced are incredibly lightweight but retain the size, intricacy, and attractiveness that similar pieces made from metal provide. And the customer feedback for my earrings confirms I am on to something.
I am excited for my future plans for the business: I launched a new collection called “Liberation” which highlights empowering women and I am starting to partner with local retailers to diversify my sales channels. My goal is to continue to find digital and physical partners who engage with the demographic that XLD attracts.
My dream is to see more unique and eye-catching jewelry brought to the market via 3D printing, and for XLD to lead the way. Having hundreds of fans supporting the jewelry business motivates me to keep moving forward towards this dream.
To make this happen, I will set operational and financial goals and continue to expand my sales channels. I’ll also let myself enjoy the fun part of the business—helping a new person find the right pair for them, taking interesting and eye-catching photos of my work, and (my favorite part) creating new designs.
Fortunately, XLD continues to show me that I need to dream bigger and set bigger goals. Not a bad problem to have.
Check out Xiomara Lorenzo Designs at www.xldesigns.co.
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