9 min 25 sec

Scientist Challenges Perceptions with Simple Conversation Starters

After an unsettling conversation, a junior scientist creates an entire product line to shift the stereotypes for “what a scientist should look like.”
Arts & Crafts International Product Science

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What It's About

This scientist proves that not everyone in her profession looks the same.

Business Model
Arts & Crafts
Skills Required
Design & Creativity
Profit Potential

Words of Wisdom

One thing Heidi excelled in from the start: the art of getting attention. Since she was already part of the audience she was targeting, she knew exactly how to speak and write in a way that resonated with customers. Without ever spending a dime on ads or outlays, she grew her Instagram account to almost 10,000 followers!

Fun Fact

In late 2018, Heidi was awarded a Winston Churchill Foundation Fellowship, for a “creativity in science” project she had submitted. She spent about 3 months at the beginning of 2019 traveling to various countries around the world, meeting with scientists, artists, writers, and creators who had crafted unique pieces and papers to share their research.

Notes from Chris

Episode 966
Heidi Gardner was traveling back from a conference in London when she had an awkward conversation at the airport. A stranger asked what she had been doing there, so she explained that she was a scientist and was in town for a few meetings about her PhD.

The stranger, an older man, chuckled and replied, “Oh, you don’t look like a scientist.”

Heidi was confused, and frankly, a bit offended, but didn’t know what to say in the moment. She had the entire flight from London to Aberdeen, Scotland to think about it—and by the time her plane had landed, she had the beginnings of an idea. If she could create interesting products that scientists could proudly wear, declaring their status and vocation, it might start to shift the perception others had for what a scientist “should look like.”

Fortunately for Heidi, she had grown up with a father who worked in design and marketing. So, when she was 15-years-old and looking for an after-school job, she went to work for him. While the work was very basic, it helped familiarize her with the concepts of graphic design and introduced her to software like Adobe Creative Suite, which made creating the designs for these products that much easier.

Rather than deferring to the standard science designs that were already available, she worked nights and weekends on fun, colorful sketches that showcased the creativity she knew so many scientists have.

Her first products were postcards and tiny prints (4x6 reproductions of the artwork she was creating), that customers could purchase and display in their homes and offices. These original products are what led to the naming of her e-commerce store, Science on a Postcard.

Within a few months, she had enough profit to start investigating, then producing, the pins and apparel she had imagined on that flight from London. As she had hoped, these items were even more popular than the postcard prints, and the demand was high. Every time she releases a new pin design, there are immediately people who want additional ones ... which is great, but also a little stressful!

Toward the end of her first-year with Science on a Postcard, Heidi had stockpiled enough money for a big scary expense, a £1,500 pound booth rental at the New Scientist Live event in London, dubbed The World’s Greatest Science Festival. Having attended before, she knew how powerful the space could be for getting eyes on her products.

After her first year, recognition for the work she was doing really took off, both in product sales and in the bigger message she was sharing with the world. Science on a Postcard had sold 3,000 items on Etsy, and produced an additional 2,000 items for private clients who wanted custom bulk orders for their teams and events.

Combining Science on a Postcard with the work she is doing in her full-time job has led to a number of science event invites and speaking gigs, which continues to help her grow her platform—and pleasantly leads to more sales. Most importantly, it has sparked conversations about what makes someone a scientist.


  • Science on a Postcard: Learn more about this misconception crushing side hustle over on Heidi's Etsy page and her personal blog!
  • WordPress: Heidi used WordPress to set up her blog, and here you can learn how to install your own WordPress site in 5 minutes

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

Yours in the revolution,


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Quote of the Day
"My side hustle has benefited me in lots of ways! I've learned new skills I didn't even know I needed, networked a ton, met hundreds of people that are interested in the same nerdy stuff as I am, and slowly I've started to give back to that community too. So, in short, my side hustle has given me the warm fuzzies.​​​​"
—Heidi Gardner #SideHustleSchool

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