Can you start a business if you already have a job? I interviewed Lucy Kelly, owner of bel monili, to answer this question. Lucy is a one of a kind business owner, mom and speech-language pathologist. Her story shows that you can have a business and a career, and they don’t necessarily have to be in sync or in conflict. Read more to learn about how Lucy balances it all (and still has time for a hobby!!)
1. Tell me about your yourself.
My name is Lucy Kelly, I am the owner/artist at bel monili in Pittsburgh, PA. I create one of a kind jewelry. I am married to my high school sweetheart Erik, and we have a 2 year old daughter named Evelyn.
While bel monili is a full time career, I am also a speech-language pathologist specializing in early childhood language development. 3 mornings a week I conduct in-home evaluations to determine a child’s eligibility for county provided early intervention therapy services. I have a bachelor’s degree in Marketing from Duquesne University and a Master’s Degree (also from Duquesne) in speech-language pathology.
I recently started doing cross-stitch for a hobby, but I don’t have much free time these days!
2. What is your business?
My business name is bel monili (it means “beautiful jewelry” in Italian) and I create one of a kind handcrafted up-cycled jewelry using a combination of mid-century costume jewelry and new findings. I also sell a curated selection of women’s clothing and accessories.
3. How long have you been working with your business?
I have been in business since 2010 and I am the owner.
4. Why did you want to work from home/work for yourself? What is your “why”?
My “why” kind of happened organically. It started out as a hobby, where I could make jewelry to keep my hands busy. Then, I started getting a lot of interests and purchase requests from my friends, so I decided to start doing some local craft shows. Because of the uniqueness of my product, I was seeing success and was able to move into larger shows and a more substantial online presence. Over the years, I have moved into national level shows and a 6 figure sales number.
5. Why did you start this business? Did you look into any other business ideas? Have you tried any others before this one?
This is my first and only business! I am always expanding/editing my product line.
6. How many hours do you work every day/week? What kinds of things do you do to make money?
Well I am a full-time mom, full-time artist and part-time speech therapist, so I am working probably 16-18 hours per day. I sell in my online shop, at shows, in a private Facebook group, and wholesale.
7. How long did it take to see your first sale? How long did it take to make a profit?
I had my first sales at my first shows (family and friends aside) and my business has been profitable for 4 years.
8. How do you help your customer? Why would they buy from you/work with you?
I offer a lot of personal assistance and communication with my customers. I have a nice group of loyal customers who have huge collections of my work and they wear & share it proudly. They buy from me because they like me, they like my work, and they know that they are getting a quality, one of a kind product.
9. What do you like best about your business?
I like that I get to decide what I make and sell, which shows I do, how often or how little I work. Being the boss is great!
10. How would someone start a business like yours?
Jewelry is a notoriously difficult category to break into simply because of the incredible saturation of the market. I do handmade, and if that is your route, then you absolutely MUST have a high quality product that is unique in the marketplace. Jewelry that is one of a kind is easier to sell.
Beaded jewelry, stamped jewelry, and other common types are easy to make but very difficult to get seen unless you are already well-established. But there are several direct sales jewelry companies such as Stella and Dot that offer beautiful, quality products with the structure and support of an MLM company.
With any business, you should have at least $1000 ready to invest in product, advertising, and marketing materials such as business cards and product packaging.
11. What kinds of expectations should someone new to online business, working from home, and working for yourself have?
You should expect to put in at least 2-4 hours per day working your social media accounts, reaching out to friends and family, posting in groups, liking and commenting on other companies/businesses that you like and want to support, and familiarizing yourself with your product line and your business. You absolutely must know who your customer is and what is important to them, then find the features of your product that meet those needs and solve their problems.
12. Anything else you would like someone to know about you or your business?
Being in business for yourself is a LOT of trial and error. You own many, many failures and you own many, many successes. It is important that you can learn from your mistakes and pay attention to what the market is telling you. You need to be able to invest the time and the money into making your business successful. It will not happen on its own.