7 min 4 sec

Engineer Stumbles Into Custom Cartography Business

After encountering resistance with previous attempts at e-commerce, an engineer finds success in a laser engraving hustle.
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What It's About

An engineer engraves a new chapter to his story.

Business Model
Arts & Crafts
Skills Required
Engraving & Marketing
Profit Potential

Words of Wisdom

Curtis says that entrepreneurial ventures can pop up when you’re least expecting it. For a while, he forced himself to try out ideas even if they didn’t seem quite right. When he stopped putting pressure on it, suddenly his side hustle popped right up in front of him.

Fun Fact

One of Curtis’s favorite products to make was a series of four glasses, each depicting a significant location in someone’s relationship. There was a map for the place the couple met, their first date, where they got engaged and where they got married.

Notes from Chris

Episode 1062
Ever since he was a child, Curtis Singer has had an entrepreneurial spirit. It all started before one of his parent’s garage sales. Curtis decided to collect some sticks from his yard, whittle them down and sell them as “air fresheners.”

As he grew up, he began wanting to delve into more profitable ventures. Yes, even all-natural, preservative-free air fresheners couldn’t cut it in the market!

Curtis then started selling cold brew coffee filters that would fit inside a mason jar. While his product worked pretty well, this time he struggled to find an audience. He thought that he could build it up if he invested more time and money into marketing and began a strict social media regime. However, Curtis wanted his side hustle to be just that … something he did on the side.

See, by then he was working as a mechanical aerospace engineer. He loved his job, he just wanted to diversify his income. Because his job is 100% based on program funding, he was looking to create more stability in his life—and he didn’t want to spend a long time on something that didn’t have much promise.

At that point, Curtis decided to stop forcing it. He had been putting so much pressure on himself for so long to find a viable idea. So, instead of jumping into another attempt right away, he decided to volunteer his time at a makers’ space in his area. A friend of his was starting it up, and needed some help.

There, Curtis worked on establishing a process for the laser engraver that the shop had. As a consequence, he was soon trying to find all kinds of things that could be laser engraved, just for fun! In his search for finding cool things to laser engrave, he stumbled upon an open source data map. Over time, he was able to work the map into a file format that is readable by the laser.

Then, it hit him. He wasn’t looking for a new idea just yet, but a new idea had appeared before his eyes. He could create laser engraved pint glasses with maps on them. Curtis loved going to local breweries to chat and share stories with his friends. An essential part of stories was the location. He envisioned people sipping from a pint glass while looking at the map on their glass, and being reminded of the experiences they’ve had.

He knew he needed to open a new online store, and fast. He decided that Etsy was the fastest and cheapest option, so he made that store in about five minutes and called it Outward Cartography (Etsy link). He posted his Denver pint glass and also included a second listing with a custom map pint glass option. That way, even people with no connection to Denver could submit whatever maps they wanted.

Over the next few months, the custom map pint glass was ordered over one-hundred times, and in his first year, Curtis made about $850.

This year, he’s on track to earn close to $20,000 from Outdoor Cartography. He’s currently selling his pint glasses for $39. He also sells other products, like engraved flasks for $47 and bottle openers for $27.

Next, he’s developing a website separate from his Etsy shop to sell his products. With that, he’ll include some custom software that allows the customer to design their own map, choose the product, and order it directly from the site!

He puts in about ten hours a week on his hustle, and plans to pull that back in the near furture. Curtis loves his day job, but the hustle has allowed him to no longer live in fear of being laid off. He’s even used the extra money that he’s made for a down payment on a house.


  • Curtis's new website OutwardCartography.com is being engraved as we speak. Until it's ready, learn more and check out Curtis's awesome products at his Etsy store.

Yours in the revolution,


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Quote of the Day
"When I stopped trying to force something to happen, and really just followed what I was interested in; only then did I find something that actually 'worked'."
—Curtis Singer #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau