In August 2020, Chandler King purchased his first sewing machine. She had no idea what to do with it but was eager to learn something new to occupy her time. The first piece she would make on her new machine would be a bikini. Like King, many people stuck at home have chosen new quarantine hobbies during the pandemic, driven by their desire to learn something new, to find joy in crafts and art, to pursuing passions that were once ignored and even hoping to earn extra income as a result of the financial crisis. loss caused by the pandemic. Creating something with their own hands was a heartwarming distraction when the world was out of control.
A study revealed that at least 6 in 10 Americans had invested in new hobbies since March 2020, when the pandemic began. While some quickly gave up their attempts at knitting or gardening, for others, getting into jewelry making or crocheting actually led to a successful sideline or even a new career. But, after a year spent honing their craft, these entrepreneurs need to re-evaluate how best to balance their business and their life on the outside. Some have been able to give up their day job while others plan to cut back on their work now that they are leaving home more frequently. Below, listen to four Covid-19 builders on how they built their brands and what they plan to do next.
Chandler King, Busy
In April 2021, like 650,000 workers in the retail trade – the highest number to quit en masse in 2 decades – after quitting their job, King decided it was time to quit his job at Dover Street Market to focus on design full time. “I decided to launch my Busybdy fashion brand during the pandemic because I didn’t want to be at my retail job anymore and I knew I wanted to work for myself,” she told TZR . Since launching last August, her brand has slowly drawn followers to styles like her Lettuce pants and Very Special tank top, giving her the confidence to move into full-time design.
While reports showed that many workers who quit their retail jobs were unhappy, for King the story was not quite the same. It was the interaction with designers at work that motivated her to take the plunge. “[Working at Dover Street Market] has been a great inspiration to me. Seeing these young designers with such unique pieces in store made me see how far I could go with BusyBdy if I was just starting out.
After her first bikini, King began testing models on friends and family, sharing the results on Instagram. Soon after, with a favorable reception and feedback from those around her, she launched a website for customers to shop for her handmade pieces. “Right now, designing and running the business is my job,” she adds. “It’s just me, so I do everything from marketing, to running the online store, to taking the product and sewing every piece that gets sent. I certainly work a lot more now than when I had a retail job, but I love every second. “
Following its initial success, King’s goal is to grow the brand enough to eventually expand beyond its one-person operation. “Building a team that I trust is very important to me because just like raising a child, it takes a village and BusyBdy is my child for sure. “
Last summer Aidan Macauluso continued to have the same problem: she couldn’t find her face mask. Macaluso returned to her family home during the pandemic, spending time with her mother who was a lifelong artisan. She borrowed a few beads and under her mother’s “very patient tutelage” set to work making playful chains to attach to her new needed accessory.
As it turned out, Macaluso wasn’t the only one desperately losing her mask. “People kept asking me if they could buy me these channels once I started posting them,” she explains. “By fending off impostor syndrome, I decided to start my own online store and sell them for real. “
As she got down to business, Macaluso found an unexpected advantage in launching Zany Chains: it helped her feel less isolated during the pandemic. Seeing strangers from all over the country buying her designs and posting smiling photos gave her a sense of connection. “It also gave me the confidence to learn new skills. I think so often they seem too intimidating, or we’re subconsciously worried about failing, so we don’t even try. I like to think that the launch of Zany Chains has something to do with my decision to finally see Spanish again after a few failed attempts in high school.
However, the creation of a company has its difficulties of growth, especially when it comes to a parallel concert. “I’ve always had a full-time job, which means I often bead in the wee hours of the morning or late at night. I think I now know the closing hours of almost every post office in Manhattan, and I often run on the sidewalk to do the final deposit. Although I sometimes wish I had more time, it makes the time that I have a little more sacred. “
But, despite the success, the designer does not intend to pursue a career in craftsmanship at the moment. “I consider it a side activity,” she said, “I think that’s what makes it so enjoyable. It is something that is uniquely mine, apart from other areas of my life. It has become a true therapeutic outlet which is also fulfilling on a creative level.
The idea for Only Made came to Rayne Schloss during the pandemic, inspired by his teenage hobby. “I started making jewelry when I was in high school,” she tells TZR. “At that time, I was making jewelry using supplies I had at Home Depot. These were mostly bracelets made from heavy duty ropes, bolts and carabiners. “
But far from its high school aesthetic, Only Made is more refined, with pearls and 24k gold links. Schloss’s designs are inspired by her own struggle to find specific jewelry she wanted to wear: playful pieces that still match a classic aesthetic at a reasonable price.
She got to work learning how to make jewelry from videos online and quickly had pieces that were what she was looking for and could offer others at an affordable price. “My intention has always been to start a business,” she explains. “There is a pressure that I put on myself and it is mainly to constantly innovate and create interest in the brand. I really believe in what I create and want to make sure it is translated for the consumer.
Schloss was able to use his experience in social media to increase interest in the brand using Instagram. From the days when she ran her now-folded Broke blog in Brooklyn, she has earned the trust of people who turn to her for design and style advice that ranged luxury and cost much lower. But, she still plans to keep her day job, for now. “I am very fortunate to work for a brand that allows me to have a flexible schedule and an understanding team,” she says. “We are all creative and we all have other projects that we are working on outside of our daily work, so there was no conflict. Ultimately, I would love to make Only Made my full time job and I will when the time is right. “
In the meantime, the designer is sketching out other ideas beyond the jewelry she hopes to achieve soon. “I chose the name Only Made specifically because it did not involve any product. It represents something that is made and manufactured by an individual rather than mass produced. I started with jewelry, but I want to expand to leather goods, housewares and furniture, ”Schloss shares on the future of Only Made.
Being immunocompromised, Kira Margolis had few options for life outside her home during the pandemic. She was in her final year of high school when the pandemic began and after graduation decided the best option given the state of the world was to take a year off before college. With plenty of free time and lots of inspiration from TikTok craft videos, Margolis felt it was time to continue a family tradition of crafting.
“The women in my father’s family loved making crafts and on my mother’s side we had Holocaust survivors for whom the craft was sacred,” she tells TZR. “It’s something that has been passed down from my great-grandmother, to my grandmother, to my mother and finally to me.”
But beyond maintaining family traditions, Margolis shares that “craftsmanship has given me an outlet to channel the stress that comes from my anxiety and my autoimmune disease. To have something that I could do and feel fulfilled was wonderful and affirming. “
Luckily for Margolis, as with many Gen Zers, she opened a Depop store right before the pandemic hit to sell the clothes she knew she wasn’t planning on taking to college. She drew on this audience to test her original cross stitch designs on tote bags and sell them.
But she soon had an idea for something else, she had learned to knit in elementary school when she made scarves and donated to children with cancer through a school program. She honed these skills and made her first picnic bag, a perfect summer crocheted gingham handbag that would quickly become her best-selling item for Kira Margolis Designs, her eponymous brand.
With over 100 pieces sold now, the designer says her plan for the future is to continue manufacturing, respecting the legacy of her family’s artisans, but in a more balanced way. “Selling my first piece was exhilarating. It proved to me that there are people who appreciate the work, the craftsmanship and the love that goes into these products. Although I plan to continue creating for the rest of my life, it will be in a very reduced capacity as I eventually go to college to continue my career, ”said Margolis.