740
9 min 2 sec

Trip to Europe Inspires Adventurous Blanket Biz

After returning from an extended trip abroad, this digital strategist draws on a sense of adventure to source and sell heirloom throw blankets.
Creative Design Product Retail

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What It's About

A digital strategist weaves together a second income!

Business Model
Arts & Crafts
Skills Required
Research & Design
Complexity
Medium
Profit Potential
Medium

Words of Wisdom

Jala says that she spent a ton of years getting caught up in research and second-guessing herself. And she said that the hardest part of this business was just deciding to take a leap. Although it may sound a bit cliché, it's true. The sooner that you start, the faster you can find success!

Fun Fact

When Jala makes a sale, her Shopify app goes “cha-ching!”—she knows she can turn the alert off, but she doesn’t want to yet because she loves hearing it. She thinks the true indication of her business flourishing will be when she turns the alert off.

Notes from Chris

Episode 740
What do design, travel, sustainability, and blankets have in common? They’re all common elements of today’s side hustle. Jala Smith-Huys has been working as a digital strategist for the last ten years. Before that, she worked as the creative director for a group of food markets in Portland, Oregon.

But Jala knew for a long time that she wanted to launch a product business. She had plenty of good ideas, but couldn’t decide on what product to make.

After returning from an extended trip abroad to Europe, she was eager to make progress. She brainstormed product ideas by identifying what brings her joy, and keeps her excited. For Jala, those things are, once more, design, travel, sustainability, and blankets.

Accordingly, Seek and Swoon is her new business—she sells heirloom quality/knit decorative throw blankets that are made in America from recycled cotton yarn. The blanket designs are inspired by destinations such as Spain, Iceland, Croatia, and the US.

Perhaps even more of a catalyst for Jala to start her business was her concern of becoming obsolete in her role as a social media strategist. She felt that at some point—likely in the near future—her skills could be considered old and irrelevant. She wanted to stay ahead of that and change her career on her own terms, by doing something that was meaningful to her. You could say she was looking for a job security blanket.

So she knew that she wanted to design and sell cozy knit throw blankets with patterns inspired by places she’d traveled to. But there was one minor roadblock—she knew nothing about knitting or textiles. So she had to do a lot of research.

Of the 100 mills she contacted, only 5 seemed promising. After some conversations about pricing and process, it was down to three. She requested samples using her designs. Long story short, the samples did not come together—they just weren’t right. Jala felt in her gut that none of these mills just were right for her to partner with. It was important for her to feel good about who she worked with and their relationship.

Start-up costs for Seek & Swoon were around $10,000. This was used for inventory, packaging, and shipping materials, and some custom coding for the website. Monthly profit varies by the month, but right now she’s averaging about $1,500 per month in net profit. She says it’s not much, but she’s just happy to be profiting in a product-based business.

At day’s end, she wants her customers to feel better than good about their purchase. When she hears personal stories from buyers about how they fight over their throw with their husband, or they gift a baby blanket and it’s a favorite shower gift, it’s the best she could hope for.

She’s now brainstorming ways to expand the business while staying true to her brand. It’s important for her to remain true to the pillars she started the business on—good design, sustainability, and travel-inspired. Her ultimate goal is to get the business to a place where she and her family can travel more and potentially live abroad. Wherever her path leads, Jala will be sure to blanket herself with the comforts of home.

 
  MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:

  • Seek & Swoon: We're in the middle of winter—cuddle up on the couch with one of Jala's unique throws!
  • Shopify: Jala used Shopify to set up her site for Seek & Swoon, and they're offering a 21-day trial and exclusive discount for all Side Hustle School listeners!

SEE ALSO:

Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,

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Resources

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Quote of the Day
"For someone who wants to start a side hustle without any idea how to start, find someone who knows the answer. That person does exist—you just have to know where to look!"
—Jala Smith-Huys #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau