Inspiring stories from kitchen table to Oscars goodie bag

Today I’d like to tell you about Kim.

Kim was a normal 30 something mum who had a creative side, who was busy with life throwing her odd socks and a bad hangover after just 2 glasses of wine.

She started to make microwavable pillows as gifts for her kids’ teachers in 2001, assembling them at her kitchen table, using a corn kernel filling. Around the same time, her husband lost his job, prompting her to consider turning her pastime into a source of income.

What would most people do here? Probably give up the “un-lucrative” hobby she had and get a day job, right?

But Kim doubled down, she hustled and she stepped up to the mark believing that her hobby could be a fully fledged successful business.

She went from selling pillows out of her truck to setting up shopping mall kiosks in the US. Within two years, Lavine’s Wuvit pillow was in national chains, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s and Bed Bath & Beyond, and by 2006, it generated more than $1 million in sales.

Today I’d like you to heed her words as she very aptly explains how to determine whether your hobby can become a business. First you need to ask yourself...

"Do you have a great product and can you demonstrate and prove its marketability? That may sound elemental, but too many creatives fail to consider that question.”

Think she was a one off? Think she was lucky? Here are several more inspirational people who shifted their hobby to a profitable business & my opinion on their secret sauce.

Coal and Canary

Tom Jansen and Amanda Buhse make scented candles and after 4 months of starting their products are in 11 stores across the US, and will be in the gift bags that go to nominees at the Oscars and the Grammy Awards.

“Even though it was a hobby, we made a plan,” says Ms. Buhse.

Tangle Teezer

Shaun Pulfrey started Tangle Teezer from his two-bedroom flat, packing the first of his globally successful hairbrushes in the kitchen with his mum.

Brompton Bicycle

Andrew Ritchie created prototypes of his folding bicycle in the bedroom of his flat overlooking London’s Brompton Oratory – hence the name of the company, Brompton Bicycle

Thread Squirrel

Pudsey-based mum and former call centre adviser Tracey Marshall turned her embroidery hobby into Thread Squirrel in 2013, after first taking six months out to learn new skills and work out how she was going to monetise her skills. Today, the 52-year-old Yorkshirewoman’s map-inspired embroidered cushions and gifts are selling like hotcakes around the world on online craft platform Etsy and Not on the High Street.

Cambridge Satchel Company

Julie Deane started her Cambridge Satchel Company from home in 2008 with just £600; now it’s a global brand.



What do all these people have in common? Talent? Yes...but more importantly they had the tenacity and determination to learn the business side.

None of their successes happened overnight, it took time, persistence and a hellava lot of learning.

They had to understand how to market their talents, how to write effective copy that drew people in, they had to understand sales and figures and time management.

It wasn’t all luck and talent - they believed they could and they did.