It was not an overnight success story for me. But it’s an inspiring one, filled with falls, lessons learnt, hope & fulfilled dreams.
It all started in 2015. I was a freshly graduated Slovak girl with big dreams and broken English coming to Canada for my post-graduation work experience. I grew up in a country with limited opportunities. I was so scared, but I knew there was more for me in the world. I’ve always had big dreams, and travelling has been a big passion of mine my entire life. So I took a leap of faith and spent all my savings on a flight ticket to Canada. Little did I know that I was going to find my soulmate here halfway around the world in Canada and stay there forever.
While I was in love with the new country and my husband (boyfriend at a time), I was stuck in a never-ending immigration process and “immigrant jobs”. I worked in a coffee shop during the week and cleaned houses during the weekends. Call me crazy, but while I was scrubbing tiles in those beautiful homes, I was dreaming about what my life could be like one day if I wouldn’t be… well, an immigrant & house cleaner without a long-term work visa in a country full of opportunities. I didn’t have my family or friends here, so I spent my free time creating crafts & jewelry during the evenings. As an introvert with crafty hands, it was the perfect hobby for me to do while listening to my English lessons.
One day at the party, while I was trying to hide in the corner and not talk to anyone (as a 100% introvert dragged to the party by my boyfriend), a lovely lady approached me and asked me what I do for fun. I said I make jewelry. That was the day I learnt about Etsy & my life changed forever.
I had no idea what Etsy was, nor thought anyone would buy my handmade polymer clay earrings and magnets at a time. But she was selling jewelry on Etsy and said I could earn decent pocket money from that. That sounded like a crafter’s dream to me, and off I was googling what Etsy is and how you even start an Etsy shop. If you are wondering, yes, my first Etsy shop was a big fail! I had no idea what I was doing nor how to get customers. I was grateful if I randomly got one sale per month!
2 years went by and I was still in the same place. Working in a job that did not make me happy and still did not get any orders for my handmade creations. If you know anyone who went through the immigration process, you probably know that it can take forever. My visas were not coming. As a freshly graduated Slovak citizen in a new country without a long-term work permit, I felt like my job opportunities were very limited and I didn’t want to work in the coffee shop for another year. So I decided to take things into my own hands & do what I know best – study. I signed up for a personal training course to start my own personal training business.
Wondering how that went? Aced the exams, failed to get clients. Of course! I knew how to exercise & train people, but I knew nothing about business, marketing or social media! I also realized that I love a healthy lifestyle, but I don’t particularly enjoy getting up at 5 am to drive to the other side of the city to train the one client I had and then spend 3 hours in traffic coming back home! I felt like a failure. I was 28 years old, living in a new country with Masters’s degree that no one cared about because I did not have a long-term visa & could not get a long-term job. I did not know how much longer this stage will take, but I did not want to continue to waste my life.
I was back on the drawing board. I had to dig deep & be resourceful. This time, I knew I wanted to work from home & I knew that I had to learn how to market and run a business to get customers. After many sleepless nights, a lightbulb went on in my head – “They say you should do something you are good at. Well, I am good at crafting, and I already know how to open an Etsy shop. Can you actually earn money on there?” I was googling and you-tubing and learning how to make money selling crafts! I read a lot of Etsy success stories. I knew that if they did it, it must be possible.
There I was researching, writing my business plan on the living room floor, not really having a clue what I was doing, but I was committed. I decided to buy a Cricut machine, which was a huge investment for me. I was not going to let it go to waste. I might be good at crafts, but technology is not my strength. I was literally crying, trying to figure out how that thing even works! Thank god for Youtube and the lovely ladies who share Cricut tutorials! From my past mistakes, I knew that if I wanted to be successful on Etsy, I would really have to learn how to use the platform and how to get customers.
Let me tell you, once I learnt how to get orders, it was a wild ride! I created a small business that took over our entire house. And entire life! I became a girl who went from making unicorn polymer clay earrings on Saturday afternoon to a girl who reached over $400K in sales on Etsy in one year. Saying that out loud still sounds insane to me! The craziest thing? I did that by hand-crafting products with my own hands from our living room floor and kitchen counter! My small business became my full-time job and I was so happy to be able to work from the comfort of my home in my sweatpants and make crafts for a living?! I felt like It was my lifetime opportunity and I was not going to let it go.
When I started to share behind the scenes of my small business on TikTok, I realized I wasn’t the only one building a business from home to create a better future for our family and me. There were thousands of other women who were dreaming about starting their own business or had already started and were going through the same struggles as I did. They were feeling lost, overwhelmed, lonely, confused, and not believing in themselves – or all of the above. That was the start of the Small Biz Babes community. I started to share my story and what I learned and they started to follow me along. Since then I learnt not only how to scale my business, but also how to pivot my business so it complements my life, instead of me having to hustle 24/7 to get orders. I learned how to create systems that bring time and freedom to my business and life. I overcame massive burnout & discovered what kind of life I truly want to live I realized that my story is worth sharing if it changes the trajectory of life for at least one wonderful woman who I met along the way.
So, here I am today writing my whole story just for you. You don’t need to be an immigrant to feel stuck in a life that doesn’t make you happy. In fact, you may secretly be feeling like there might be something more out there for you, but you are afraid to reach out for more. I am over here to tell you that you are not alone and you are worthy living the life you desire. Follow your dreams.
Very inspiring story..
Thank you, Maureen 🙂