Why I Started My Very Own Handmade Stationery Business And How It’s All Going

Why did I start my own side hustle? 

As a recent college grad with student loans and an entry-level salary, I started thinking of ways to save more for the future and pay off my student loans (with accruing interest) faster… And like a lot of people, when the pandemic hit, I started by learning how to do new things. 

I used that time to learn about investing in the stock market,  which I did. But those sorts of investments are really long term, so I started thinking of another type of investment that would yield a faster return, and that’s when the idea of a side hustle came to me. 

I’ve always loved making things by hand, especially personalized gifts, and found it very relaxing (up until the perfectionist side of me kicks in). So, that’s when I decided to take the necessary steps to open a small handmade stationery business.

How did I start my small business?  

I started doing a lot of research after work and on the weekends on how to start my own business. It was incredibly overwhelming at first because I found a lot of contradicting information that was hard to digest. There were so many stories  saying “do this, not that” “do that, not this”.

But finally,  I decided to play it extremely safe and post my handmade items on a site that didn’t charge me for listing items, since I was just “testing the waters.” 

And to be honest,  it didn’t work. Nobody found my things. No one really knew I had things to sell. The biggest shopping season of the year went by and I wasn’t able to  make a single sale… I was ready to give up. I was getting busy at work and researching and producing things at the same time was exhausting. Plus, it seemed like it wasn’t going to work anyways. 

But then someone I wasn’t expecting told me that what I was doing was really good and had a lot of potential, so despite my doubts, I decided to give it another shot and approach it all in a different way  

One of the things that worked in my favor is that I enjoy data analysis. My day job requires critical thinking and problem solving, so I did have that in my nature already. And that was important. Because when you start a side hustle, you need to do a lot of analyzing in order to understand if something is really working or not.

Sari Castro with all of her handmade goods: stickers, calendars, cards and notepads

To start things off, I gave myself a budget of how much I was willing to gamble without hurting my savings if it didn’t work out. I officially launched Purrfect Little Art shop in January when people are already poor from all the holiday spending and are less likely to spend money on a new shop, but I got my first sale during that first week! I also got my first few reviews of people that were really happy with their items and were really glad to find my shop. That was all the confirmation I needed to keep moving forward. 

From there on, it was a lot of research, analysis, organizing myself, a lot of headaches and a rollercoaster of emotions. Believe me, making a side hustle work with limited time is really hard! It’s especially hard when you’re new at your day job as well. You’re learning the skills needed for two different jobs at the same time! Moreover, to  make my business succeed I needed to learn about marketing, branding, copyright, strategy, product photography and business all at once. And for my day job I needed to continue growing and absorbing new information while getting my assigned tasks done in a timely matter. To be completely honest, I had a series of meltdowns because of all the pressure. It’s just incredibly hard to do it all.  

Advice For Those Thinking of Starting Their Own Small Business 

If there’s any advice I would offer to someone starting their own side hustle and working full-time is that you don’t have to do it alone. If  you have people that can help along the way, reach out to them and ask for help. 

Personally, I’m incredibly grateful my dad takes the orders to the post office. That saves me an incredible amount of time! Simply put: I couldn’t do everything without all the support my  family and my boyfriend have shown me throughout the entire process .

Nonetheless, while their help has been great , I was getting  exhausted and burned out, so I added wellness to my routine. I gave myself a day a week to just relax ) and increased my processing time, so I could continue to prioritize my well being. 

The silver lining of my business not taking off until after the holidays is that  it definitely gave me some leeway because I did not experience such a busy season that I wasn’t prepared to take on and would’ve likely failed. So, I have to admit, I am really happy I started in January and that I’m going through the initial months of understanding each season and what the customer wants. Each month I take what I learn from the previous month and improve upon it, and as a result, my shop has been growing tremendously. I surpassed 100 sales in a little over three months and the number keeps growing.

I’m currently working on a back to school collection that will launch in July. I am really excited about it because some of the items will be completely new products to the shop!

So, if  you’re thinking of starting a side hustle, definitely do your research first and set a budget. Also, remember to set realistic goals for yourself that you can work towards. Be diligent and analyze your progress.

Lastly, just go for it, because, as the saying goes, “it’s better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all”. 

To find my handmade stationery, you can visit purrfectlittleartshop.com, or follow me on Instagram @purrfectlittleart.

About the Author

Sari Castro

I currently work as an architectural designer at a small architecture firm in New Jersey, and I am the owner of a stationery shop called Purrfect Little Art. You can find it at purrfectlittleartshop.com. I received my Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Southern California. I love finding my way around cities one local coffee shop at a time.