by Jesse Holth –
According to recent studies, over a third of adults – and more than half of millennials – have what is called a “Side Hustle.” Sometimes out of necessity, sometimes out of passion, these entrepreneurs are taking the reins into their own hands and becoming small business owners.
Erin Young, of Young & Barrel Designs, is a schoolteacher by day – but she also creates custom farmhouse-style signs. “I’ve always had a passion for home décor,” she says, describing how her interest was piqued about five years ago. She researched how the wooden signs were made, and used her husband’s woodworking tools to help her through the initial trial-and-error. “Soon I had friends and coworkers requesting various sign styles and it just kind of turned into a side business!” She says that life gets very busy, and there are a lot of late nights filling orders and multi-tasking at home with the family. “I just love my side gig, so most often it doesn’t feel like a chore or burden. It’s that creative outlet that fills my bucket!”
Patricia Pearson and Ashley Stelck are the brains behind Hansell & Halkett, a home décor business focusing on antiques, vintage farmhouse and French country furniture, and specialty garden items. Patricia’s father was a collector of everything, she says, noting that he could never pass up an estate sale. “He had a heart for pieces that no one else wanted and would spend hours restoring them.” So, despite being a self-described minimalist, Patricia couldn’t resist the draw to “save” old pieces by refinishing or repurposing them. Ashley’s mom, on the other hand, owned and operated a well-known antique shop. With Ashley’s keen eye for timeless quality pieces, and Patricia’s desire to refurbish old treasures, it was a match made in heaven. “It’s in our blood!” They started the business four years ago, and offer everything from bathroom vanities to chipped shelves, from vases and art to rusty gas cans and wheelbarrows for the garden. While it can be difficult to manage along with their busy day jobs – Patricia is a sales advisor at Level Ground and a North Saanich municipal councillor, and Ashley is the manager of Georgia Café at Sidney Pier Hotel – you can still find them at vintage markets and pop-up shops around the Island. “We both dream of having a lovely little country shop in a rustic barn on the Peninsula.”
The most challenging part of any side gig is how to balance small business ownership with other work and commitments, as any of these entrepreneurs will tell you. “I find that my job can be pretty exhausting,” says Jen Wurban, a high school art and special education teacher. “[But] it also helps that I get to teach teenagers art – it gets me excited and inspired to go home and paint, when I see them creating amazing things and getting excited about a project.” Jen sells her art at JenWurbanArt on Etsy, and at markets throughout the year. She also takes commissions, and has been working on a few larger pieces for collaborative shows like the Potluck Art Show at Northern Quarter (October 2 to November 2). It all started several years ago, when she did a small market with friends. “We shared a table and it was a really fun experience. After that, and the positive feedback I got, I decided to give it a shot and started making mini paintings, illustrations, prints and cards for larger markets.” She has created art since she was little, and even studied Art Education and Art History at university. It also turns out that having a side gig can actually be the thing that relaxes you – Jen says that painting can be excellent stress relief. “I’ll usually come home, put on a podcast and paint to help me relax and de-stress.”
Madeline Benson agrees – she says you often feel burnt out, but there are some days when it doesn’t feel like work at all. “I just love it so much!” she says of her side business, BabyCakes. A travel agent by day, Madeline always wondered about having a cake business. “It was one of those things that has always lived in the back of my head as a “maybe one day” kind of dream – I honestly wasn’t sure I would ever see it become a reality.” She baked her first cheesecake at eight years old, using a family favourite recipe from her mother. But it wasn’t until a few years ago, when asked to bake a special cake for her sister’s wedding, that the spark was reignited. “It finally clicked for me – that’s what I wanted to be doing.” She says it’s a lot of work, but the happiness and fulfillment of pursuing her passion is worth it – a sentiment shared by all these hard-working entrepreneurs.