lady startup

‘I’m a lifestyle editor who makes beaded jewellery. Here’s how I turned my hobby into a micro-business.’

It was May 2020, and I was scrolling Instagram when I saw a cool girl I follow over in France wearing a colourful beaded anklet woven with shells.   

In this post, a throwback to her European adventures, I saw a piece of jewellery that just looked like summer. I wanted something similar, but I’d change the shells for pearls. And I’d make the beads brighter. And maybe mine would be a bracelet...

I didn't know it at the time, but I was setting the foundations for my very own micro-business.

It began as a fun hobby. Fast-forward a year and I'm now running a small handmade jewellery brand alongside my role as a lifestyle editor. Am I rolling in cash and quitting my day job? No. But am I complementing my income with a little top-up while doing something I absolutely love? Yep.

How it started.

As Mamamia's Head of Lifestyle by day, it’s my job to know what’s on-trend. After seeing that Insta post, I started noticing versions of beaded jewellery popping up everywhere. But they weren’t exactly the type I wanted to buy. I had this clear vision in my head of luxe yet playful jewels you could stack up and wear every day.

It also brought back a wave of nostalgia for the beaded jewellery I used to make when I was a kid.

I managed to fish my old beading kit out of my belongings, and knew there was a local bead store in my hometown on the NSW South Coast – so I spent a chunk of change on some bits and pieces, and got to work. 

The skills came flooding back to me.

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At first the hobby was just a really good distraction from the chaos of the pandemic and lockdowns. Every day after work I’d sit and bead, and the world would fade away.

It became a kind of mindfulness practice: focusing on one task that consumes you is said to be great for clearing the head and calming the nervous system. But it was also a creative outlet and a way to channel my love of fashion into a tangible product.

Making things Insta official.

I started posting my pieces on Instagram, and friends noticed. Soon they were messaging me about how they could buy bracelets and chokers, so I started a separate Instagram as a space to showcase my designs and experiment with some branding. 

As a Jewish woman, my Hebrew name is Tamar, which means 'palm tree' – but not the elegant tall one, the short stumpy one. That's always been a source of amusement for my partner, so he suggested the name 'Small Palms'. I liked the vibe so I went with it.

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After going official with my page, I opened up the DMs as a sales portal and the orders started trickling in. Somehow, customers were finding Small Palms. And they weren’t just my mates.

Ok, I'm (side) hustling...

After a few months I made the call to level things up – to take it more seriously and see if I could make this a legitimate small business.

Step one was to order the gold hardware (called 'findings') from an online wholesale supplier to try to keep my costs down. This website also stores your order for you for convenience, so you can hit the go button when you need a quick stock-up! (I’ve committed to ordering all my beads from the shop in town, because she's a Lady Startup herself, and it's a female-fronted family business which we love to see!)

Finance: Evidently not my jam.

Which leads me to step two... getting down to business. 

I needed to set up a system for tracking my outgoings and the payments for orders. As a creative type, accounting is hardly my strong suit, and I’ve found keeping a simple Excel spreadsheet and orders noted down in my phone sufficient for now. 

But the "back-end" of the business is still fairly ad hoc, and I’d love to know a bit more about that side of things and brush up on the basics, so I’ve enrolled in the Lady Startup Activation Plan course myself, led by Mia Freedman. It’s a short, self-paced course that takes you from an idea to a launch in six steps.

Thankfully it only requires 2 or 3 hours a week to make real progress, and the info comes in bite-sized modules – which feels like a worthwhile investment of my time.

The course modules cover ideation, branding, marketing and social media, and I love that you can tap in and out of it whenever you want. Once you enrol, you’ve got access for life.

I’m especially keen to pick up some pointers on how to lift my social game. I love creating content and shooting product in and around my home, but the next step is to start legitimising my creative assets with a style guide, and hold a proper photoshoot.

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Making it all work.

Although the Instagram following is small, I haven’t actively tried to boost it yet because, to be honest, I don’t have the time to meet much more demand. Figuring out my operations is another thing I’d like to work on with the help of the Activation Plan course.

The followers I do have are highly engaged, and Small Palms has a bunch of repeat customers around the country. I've sent orders to Hobart, Perth, and I've even got one on the way to New Zealand.

From the start, I’ve left the door open for custom orders, which has allowed me to gauge feedback and see which styles are most popular. I love running Instagram polls on new designs, sharing behind-the-scenes footage from the ‘studio’ (our study at home, which is filled with trays of beads) and the interaction that comes with chatting to new customers as well as my super supportive friends.

It’s never been about money or financial gain, although that’s a nice side effect. It’s exciting to see the pieces resonating.

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For me, it’s genuinely about the joy I get from creating things people love, and then seeing how they style them. I’m obsessive about quality, and care about ensuring the pieces are well made. It’s my policy that you can send a piece back to be re-fit or fixed if it ever breaks free of charge (but that hasn't happened just yet.)

The dream down the line would be to open a small lifestyle boutique that stocks fashion, homewares and my own jewellery line.

How it's going.

For now, a local fashion store has offered to stock my pieces, which was a huge incentive to get my sh*t together. I’m now in the process of making a lookbook and getting my stock levels up to where they need to be to secure that placement.

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The best part about running a micro-business is that it’s not a stressful thing for me; it’s an escape, and I want to keep it that way. The reality is that I have a high-pressure day job, and if I need to, I can pull back on orders for a few weeks to focus on my work or family life. Also, scrolling Instagram is ‘research’ – and I’m going to keep telling myself that!

If you're thinking of turning your own hobby into a micro-business or side project of your own – whether it's macrame, preserves or upcycling old furniture – my advice is to do it. Just start. Don't fear the unknown, you'll figure it out as you go. And you'll probably bloody love it.

Lady Startup is a movement and a community that helps women to put a rocket up their business dreams. There are a range of courses to choose from, depending on your business stage and specific need.  If you're looking to turn your hobby into a micro-business of your own, try the Lady Startup  Activation Plan course, taught by Mamamia's Mia Freedman. The online, self-paced course is designed to take you from idea to launch, with a supportive community of lady startups to guide you along the way. 

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