Recently, Weebly — a website building company known for ease of application and the ability for users to set up beautiful websites in hours — came to Nashville and hosted free workshops for Nashville entrepreneurs and makers. My business partner Elizabeth and I were invited to speak on a panel called “When to Jump,” moderated by Mike Lewis, whose best-selling book and podcast are also titled When to Jump. On the panel with us were several well-known Nashville-based brands including Bailey Spaulding of Jackalope Brewing Company, Stephen Rose of The Peach Truck and Patrick Hayes of 1767 Designs. The conversation covered everything from knowing when it was time to launch your business, to advice you wish you had listened to along the way. We were fortunate enough to be part of an influencer dinner the next night where we discussed the issues of branding, the modern-day work week and what that means, how Nashville is a pretty special place and so much more.
We heard about many inspiring businesses during our time with Weebly last week and wanted to share a few of them with you. Each has had a different path, and each story represents the amazing things that happen when you put yourself out there full-time or embrace your own unique side hustle.
Kelsey Kelley of Scribe Hustle
Kelsey Kelley works full-time at the mortgage company Guaranty Trust as a pre-loan home closer. As a young, married couple, she and her husband were invited to many weddings, which while wonderful, can easily get one off track in paying off outstanding debt, like student loans. As an innovative way to still give her friends something of value that she could create herself, Kelsey started offering her services to handwrite their wedding invitation in beautiful script. As friends and family saw her talent, they started hiring her to do this work, and her hobby became a consistent side hustle and income stream. After three years, she and her husband have paid off all of their student loans – six years ahead of time.
And, as a natural progression for this age group, her friends starting buying homes. Once again, she was in the position of wanting to share in their excitement by purchasing a gift, but without the budget to do so. Thus, she put her creative talents to work and started making customized watercolors of friends’ new homes or even of their pets. Once again, with the power of friends telling friends and social media, this turned into a revenue stream and now is the most profitable part of her side business, Scribe Hustle.
Today, Scribe Hustle hand-letters invitations for events, hosts calligraphy workshops and paints custom watercolors of homes and pets.
As big fans of Dave Ramsey, this couple is working hard to become completely debt-free with the goal that Kelsey can stay home with her future kids while working on her Scribe Hustle business.
Find out more about Kelsey Kelley and Scribe Hustle at scribehustle.com.
Simoni Kigweba, Private Chef
Simoni once thought his college career would lead to an MBA and a corporate job. Today, he has found his niche as a personal chef creating delicious meals for gatherings of up to 20 people. He was the private chef behind the dinner we attended that led to this article, and I can firsthand attest that dinner was one of the best I’ve had in ages.
While at the University of Arkansas, Simoni started prep cooking at a local vegetarian restaurant. This opened his eyes and heart to a love of cooking for friends. He discovered Chef Jacques Pepin and Thomas Keller and experienced an incredibly pivotal point during his junior and senior years of college as he allowed himself to wonder, “What if?” What if he let go of his college trajectory idea? What if he let go of the quest for the MBA and the corporate job? He answered his inner voice with small cooking internships in Atlanta and then landed a full-time job at Burger Up in Nashville.
Listening to Simoni, it’s obvious that his love of cooking runs far deeper than the finished product. “I had the desire to grow professionally and sought out every educational opportunity to learn more about the production and techniques of the culinary arts and basic food. My first five to six years in Nashville were all about cooking as much as I could, as long as I could, until my body gave out. Butcher shops, farms, learning — learning the art of ‘this is how you cook.’ Then, my personal life changed when I found my beautiful wife, and I started thinking about the future. Work life didn’t make sense. I had many professional questions. Should I go back to economics and business? Sometimes you want to cast such a large net. Then, the realization that casting that net into a niche that you are comfortable in and talented in … that’s where there are dividends. This is when I became a private chef – restaurant-caliber food, made in the home. I work to bridge the gap between the host and the guest. Now, the host can be the best host they can be and guests can escape — there is no need to be more than a guest and wonder if you should be helping the host. My services have filled a nice niche in town.”
After becoming a full-time private chef in January 2017, his biggest marketing has come from referrals and social media. He and some friends also have been hosting Common Table, an underground supper club, for six years. Each quarter, 10 seats open up for the season. Ten strangers, whose names are drawn from a list of entries, are given a seat at the table for a ticket price of $80. You meet new people and experience a delicious meal and music and it’s always hosted in a secret location in Nashville. Once the event is set, 10 lucky names are pulled. To enter your name, be sure to get on Simoni’s mailing list.
Simoni advises that entrepreneurs tell their story. This is why he chose Weebly to build his website since he could incorporate his business information, a shopping platform and host a blog, all in a visually appealing way, on one platform. And, it only took him a day to set it up. Bartering food for gorgeous photos helps.
Steve Soderholm of Ranger Station
Steve started dabbling in candle-making in 2015. As a musician, he was playing drums on the road full-time, and candle-making was something he did at home on the side. The candles were unique and functional, wax poured straight into whiskey glasses, which served as the candle vessel. As he says, “No one throws away a whiskey glass.” Friends saw the candles and started asking if Steve could make some for them. Six months into the candle-making, Steve launched his website. All at once he had an online business and social media channels that needed constant tending to in order to market this new line of candles.
Today, Steve has done a complete 180 as he now works full-time on his candle-making business, Ranger Station, and plays music on the side. His twin brother, Jon, joined this growing company eight months ago to make it a family affair. The majority of the business is wholesale, and reps sell Ranger Station products into businesses around the country. After starting in his kitchen, production had to move to the garage and then to a dedicated studio space. Then, production outgrew that space and is now handled in partnership with local social enterprise, Thistle Farms, at their production facility.
Steve and Jon spend the majority of their time on marketing and selling their product via e-commerce. As they are selling a scented product, it doesn’t easily translate in a photo or words. They have found that video, specifically video accompanied with words, does the best job conveying their product to consumers. Steve explains, “What we have to do, since people can’t smell, we have to paint this personality of what this fragrance is. Scent is such a memory-driven thing, and people associate certain scents with different memories. Through video, people can see common experiences playing out that we can associate with the different scents of our candles.”
Currently, Ranger Station carries eight scents with a new product coming out in about a month … which I promised to keep under wraps. But, follow Ranger Station on Instagram for that upcoming announcement: instagram.com/rangerstation.co
As far as leaping into a full-time career that was once a hobby, Steve says, “… I took the leap. I was in a work situation that was comfortable. I was busy and it paid well. But, I needed a better environment, and the candles were demanding so much of my time. It’s amazing – my career and hobbies have completely flipped. Now, music is my hobby.” And, his wife fully supported his leap to the new career and serves as an unofficial consultant on all products.
In addition to their signature scents, they have a custom candle program where they will prepare proprietary scents for brands. “We go back and forth to make a signature scent exactly for what our client wants. We use our current vessels or create custom ones.” When asked about other companies that have copied this idea of candles in whiskey glasses, he responds, “We were the original, the first, and we present that brand really well.”
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