Own your thing, if it feels right in your heart, pursue it with every ounce of strength, don’t let anyone dissuade you, show up for you so you in ten years can look back and say “thank you” to yourself.
I remember starting my first online shop years ago. It was a hustle born out of necessity. Planted firmly on the poverty line with two babies and an unsupportive partner, I felt at times like I was swimming upstream, and just one strong current away from drowning.
There was no bank of mom and dad to draw from, but my kids needed to eat, and I would do what it took to feed them. I considered going back to school but was still carrying a student loan and the thought of taking on more debt terrified me. Getting a part time job seemed insane given the fact that childcare would eat up any money I would earn, and I really didn’t want to be that mom who missed out on all the milestones.
The one thing I knew was clothes. As a kid, I always chose clothes over toys. At 14 I got my first job at a drugstore so I could constantly update my wardrobe. As a youth with tight means, you learn quickly how far your money can stretch at a thrift store. I started thrifting because I was poor, but it quickly became something I enjoyed. People would stop me on the street to ask where I got my outfits. The thrill of the hunt was intoxicating. And so, at 24 with two babes on my hips I decided to use the $125 left in my bank account to go thrifting with a plan to sell my finds on a new little online marketplace called Etsy.
I remember those early days pushing my kids in a stroller, the oldest trying to grab every shiny fabric we passed the other wailing miserably. I was that mom. People would side eye and mutter under their breath, but it didn’t phase me, I was there on business… and business it was. In those days there wasn’t a lot of competition. I hadn’t heard of anyone else selling vintage online, so it was usually just me and my shrieking kids rolling through the shops scooping up amazing finds. Seventies lace up Frye boots, a pink 50s alpaca coat, more tooled bags than I could carry, every time I set out, I struck gold. And that first $125? I turned it into $600 within the week.
As time rolled on, I sold more and more. The postal workers would shudder when I walked in, arms laden with parcels that I could barely carry. I no longer had to worry about feeding my kids, and keeping the lights on, but I came to understand that in some peoples eyes, my little hustle would never measure up. Old friends all around me were getting degrees and cooperate jobs and when we talked work I remember feeling embarrassed about the path I had taken.
One day I had dinner with a friend who had married wealthy and scored a corporate position through her husbands connections. I told her about my Etsy shop and remember her flat out saying “well you can’t expect to actually make a real living doing that.” After that dinner she ghosted me. It was clear the path I had chosen made me a loser in the eyes of some, and while I continued selling vintage, I always did so with one foot on the gas and the other on the breaks. Even though I loved it, even though it fired me up and gave me life, I never went all in. I told myself it was just a hobby – a side hustle, so I wouldn’t feel dejected when that’s all it ever became.
As time passed something funny happened, I watched as shops that has started as my peers and competition skyrocketed ahead of me. I observed these people who started just like I had, go on to open their own stores, launch clothing lines and build empires. Most of them are still in business earning full corporate level salaries or more, doing what they love solely because they gave themselves permission to do so. They didn’t let shame or self doubt direct them. They didn’t play small so they would have a softer landing if they failed. These girl bosses owned their thing, and now they are being paid handsomely for doing so.
Something amazing happens when you hit 30. You stop caring what other people think. It was a milestone that once terrified me, and now being here I feel like I’ve fully arrived at me. I am a girl who loves clothes, when I picture my dream life, it’s me running a beautifully curated shop filled with vintage and the work of artisan makers, my arms covered with tattoos, my hair long and unkempt, and lines on my face formed by laughter and not the stress of a soul sucking corporate job.
I am now year two in my second Etsy shop and have both feet on the gas. This is what I love to do and with life as short as it is why wouldn’t I spend it pursuing my life’s passion? We are lucky if we get 80s summers out of life and yet we live in perpetual winter to one day have the freedom to feel warmth on our skin. You can feel the warmth now. You can feel it every day. If people don’t believe in your path they are not your people, let them go their own way.
The best time to start something is 10 years ago, the second best time is now. Do it now, do it shamelessly, relentlessly and fearlessly and enjoy every single day in the sun.