1270
7 min 37 sec

Brooklyn Academic Learns To Upcycle Fine China

After stumbling across a collection of fine china being thrown away, an out-of-work academic learns to upcycle similar items into tiered cake stands.
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What It's About

A listener levels-up her tea game in stylish fashion.

Words of Wisdom

Ariel has some important advice on utilizing relationships: "Work your networks and don't be afraid to ask for things--for an introduction, a meeting, a collaboration...the worst thing that could happen is that they say no. I am always surprised by how generous even really "big deal" people are with their time and expertise. Just remember to pay it forward. "

Fun Fact

Originally, most of what’s known as ‘fine china’ was porcelain made in China. Porcelain was a popular art form for hundreds of years in the land of the Red Dragon. Today, most fine China is made using a similar process but due to modern production techniques it’s nowhere near as valuable as it once was.

Notes from Chris

Episode 1270

It was late in 2017 when Ariel Davis left her job at the City University of New York. She figured she’d take a month off while planning her big next move … but that never quite happened. Instead one month stretched to two, two to three and eventually nine. She filled the time by working on research assignments that came about through her contacts at the university—but instead of inspiration, she felt anxious about what to do next.

Then, one night, she was out for a run in her Brooklyn neighborhood, when she came across a huge collection of fine china on the sidewalk, just sitting out for the trash. Ariel, being one to hate throwing things away, couldn’t let it go. She called her husband who promptly abandoned their street parking spot—a valuable piece of real estate in Brooklyn—to come and help her pack all of it up in the back of their car.

Once home, they hauled every teacup, plate, and saucer up several flights of stairs and onto the dining room table of their one-bedroom apartment. It sat there for two weeks—but then a side hustle idea was about to be served up on a silver platter. Ariel's sister was soon to be married and on her bridal registry was a dainty two-tiered cake stand with a sales price of $120. Ariel thought it would be easy enough to replicate and the perfect way to repurpose some of the china she’d gathered from the sidewalk.

She watched a few YouTube videos and read online tutorials about tiered cake stands. She learned it could be made by drilling holes in the china and sliding a stand through it.

Soon after, Ariel began sharing with friends and family what she’d been up to. To her surprise, many of them were interested in re-purposing their old china and family heirlooms in exactly the same way. It was always the same story, they didn’t want to throw them away, but they didn’t know what to do with them either. Ariel realized, for the first time, that there might be a business idea here served right on a plate.

After serving up a few orders for family and friends, she felt like it might be time to take things seriously. She built a website and registered the business as The Brooklyn Teacup. Around the same time, a friend referred her to a local cafe owner who offered Ariel her first order from outside her personal network.

As luck would have it, a few months later the connection with the cafe owner led to a feature on MarthaStewart.com which sent another flurry of orders. Then, within two months that article led to another feature in the Washington Post. Even up until today, those articles still bring in a good amount of orders to The Brooklyn Teacup.

In fact, there are so many orders coming in that Ariel never went back to pursuing a different career. Today, she is earning around two thousand five hundred dollars of profit per month from her fine china side hustle. And that’s actually increased in the last few months as people in self-isolation perform cleanups—dusting off that old china and looking for ways to repurpose it.

 
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Quote of the Day
"Work your networks and don't be afraid to ask for things--for an introduction, a meeting, a collaboration...the worst thing that could happen is that they say no. I am always surprised by how generous even really "big deal" people are with their time and expertise. Just remember to pay it forward."
—Ariel Davis #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau