Liz Ballard is a mom of two with a demanding career as a managing director at Harvard University’s Harvard College Fund. Recently, she launched a side business selling jewelry—a way to indulge her creative side while also making money. Here’s how she did it.
She found a viable outlet for her passion through a larger organization.
“I decided to become an Independent Stylist with Stella & Dot, a social selling company that offers jewelry and accessories. Since the company has no sales minimums, you can be a ‘brand ambassador’ and dress yourself in beautiful things (that you buy at a discount) while earning a nice commission on anything you do happen to sell. It’s a modern [model] that has created the opportunity for you to really craft your own business.”
She tested the waters without risk.
“If someone thinks they have talent for some kind of crafting pursuit, the key in my experience is to learn the Craft Fair circuit. Some years ago, I tried to sell my handmade greeting cards. I had an Etsy shop, and while I did OK selling there, where I really made money was at the holiday craft fairs. It’s a good way to start small because you aren't signing on for anything long-term, and you’ll realize your profits very quickly.”
She understands the difference between a career and a passion project—and values both.
“I’ve worked hard to build my career in the nonprofit world, and I’m not looking to leave it anytime soon. That said, I have always dreamed of having a side business where I could explore my more creative—possibly more goofy—side, and maybe this jewelry thing is it. Women love to get dressed up. They love to help each other get dressed up. I hosted a party for this company and honestly could not believe how much fun the women had, playing with jewelry. Sometimes we’re all too busy to pause and just enjoy some basic and simple pleasures, like getting together and just having fun playing with pretty things.”
She prioritizes her business as a crucial element of a fulfilling life.
“Life is about time management. I work a full-time job, and it is truly a full-time job. I have two kids. I have other hobbies, and I have lots of friends and an active social life. But when I realized how much I wanted to explore the Stella & Dot opportunity, I decided I had to find a way to make time for it, as I do to make birthday invitations for my kids, or have a dinner date with friends, or have an afternoon excursion with the kids. Careful management of time is key.”
She knows how to market herself without being pushy.
“My business is still quite new, and so far I’m relying only on word-of-mouth and Facebook. I want to see how much the venture might grow simply through friends and family. The key is to remain on your potential customers’ minds but not saturate their news feeds or become obnoxious. There is a very fine line between saying, ‘Hi, I'm here if you want to buy anything!’ and ‘I'm going to be in your face unless you block me.’
She has a long-term goal with a finite stop date.
“My plan right now is just a year, to see if starts to look like a business or like a hobby. My overall career vision remains in the nonprofit world, and I honestly don’t think I’ll step away from what I’ve built. However, if this side venture can provide me additional money for spending or saving and on a consistent basis—I’ll continue to do it!”