Turning A Side Hustle Into A Full Time Gig w/ Jackie Klassen
Becoming a Creative Entrepreneur.
Before I get goin’ with today’s blog post, I have a question to ask you!
When you hear the story of someone turning a hobby or a creative passion into a career, what type of person do you picture?
Usually, when we hear of someone using a creative outlet to build a career we imagine a millennial posting awesome content that is blowing up our news feeds, or maybe an online solopreneur who is travelling the world and able to work anywhere with a wifi connection (a digital nomad, if you will).
Buuut, before you get settled with the stereotypical idea of what exactly a creative entrepreneur looks like, I’d like to introduce you to Jackie Klassen, founder of Fetch Bags, and let her change your mind on what kind of person it takes to turn a creative hobby into a business!
The Start of Fetch Bags
Jackie had a pretty ‘normal’ life after high school. She went to university, got her degree and entered into the work field as a nurse, which is what she continued to call herself for the next TWENTY years. Although Jackie loved being a nurse and being at the aid of others she always knew she had a creative side which was sometimes hard to suppress.
“I’ve always loved art, design, architecture, photography... and I dabbled in it all.”
However, it wasn’t until just a few years ago that Jackie started to realize she needed a creative outlet in her life. She narrowed in on her creative endeavours and stuck with one of her many loves - making all kinds of bags! Purses, totes, backpacks, even fanny packs (which are making a huge comeback right now if you didn’t notice). She found something outside of Nursing that lit her up inside!
“Sewing bags really started out as a hobby! A few years ago I started by making tons of simple tote bags for friends and family. I loved designing and sewing bags, but I didn’t need all these bags! So a little over a year ago I opened an Etsy shop to start selling them."
Turning A Hobby into a Full Time Gig
Just like most other self made entrepreneurs Jackie started out making her bags as a little side hustle - and then watched as it took off. Eventually, it got to a point where being a nurse AND a bag maker were just taking up too much of her time.
"I sold 2 bags to someone local, and was thrilled! But then there were no sales for months. I decided to look closer at Etsy, and did lots of research and learning about selling on etsy. From there I polished my shop, added more bags, and boom! They started really selling...to people I didn’t know, and weren’t local! That was so exciting! I’ve sold to almost every State. Each time I hear Etsy’s “cha ching” sound on my phone, I can’t wait to see where the sale is from! In the past year, I’ve sold over 400 bags just on etsy. Including markets and shops, I think I’ve sold 600 in this past year. Finally it became difficult to juggle my nursing job and fetch bags."
Jackie came to a cross roads - would she slow down the amount of orders she could take for Fetch Bags or continue in the pursuit of this new found career and quit her stable income job as a nurse? Luckily, she had the support of her partner who clearly saw how happy she was when she was making the bags and she finally decided to quit her day job! (Or, I guess technically sometimes she probably worked night shifts, but you get what I’m saying..)
"I was enjoying my little business more and more. In reality, my Nursing career was becoming more stressful and difficult. After 20 years of being a Nurse, I just really knew that I needed a big change in my life."
So, how does one go from being a nurse for twenty years to becoming a full time bag-making queen? It’s simple, she found something she loved to do more and turned that into her new day job. Easy peasy, right!? Lol kidding… But here is what Jackie said about her initial thought process when it came time to choose making bags full time over putting the scrubs on and heading to the hospital.
“Making the change to put Nursing aside was really hard, whether it’s temporarily or permanently (I’m not sure). I struggled with what my friends and family would think, what my co-workers would think! And I felt this obligation to be a Nurse. I had worked so hard at getting that university degree, and it provides an excellent income. But I’ve chosen to take this new adventure in entrepreneurship and am enjoying it so far.”
It is Never Too Late to Follow Your Dreams
It may sound cliche to say, but it definitely is not ever too late to follow your dreams. And Jackie knows all about this. Whether you are 19 or 60 years old, it is never too late to listen to that spark inside of you and ignite it, leaning into it full force until that dream, whether it’s been in your mind for a month or two decades ;), becomes your reality.
So inspiring right?!
But clearly this was a very long, thought out process for Jackie. She started out by just creating simple bags to give to family and friends as gifts. Then she realized that she really liked what she was doing AND there was a market for it. She had to tweak her designs a little bit, making sure she was staying current while having her own unique look, and open an online store to see if she could sell some of the bags from the collection that was starting to build up.
Being a Creative Entrepreneur Is More Than Just Arts and Crafts
But being a business owner doesn’t just mean making the product, it’s about learning your audience, the legalities, and learning the tools you need to connect the dots and get your product in the customers hands. Jackie had to invest hours into learning how to market on Etsy, photograph her products, even writing the photo captions etc. There are so many behind the scenes steps and processes that we rarely consider. Going from shift work to becoming your own boss and staying on task and getting motivated to work every morning when the only person you have keeping tabs on you is yourself can be a huge change! Needless to say, Jackie’s current day at work looks completely different than her hospital days. Her journey definitely is just that, a journey. This didn’t all happen over night for Jackie.
The Fetch Bags Workshop
I had to know where she was finding the space to create all these bags with such unique designs! Did she have a team??
“I make my bags in my home. I’ve converted our den into my sewing studio (it took some time for my family to agree!). My husband built me a very functional waist height counter, which is much needed for measuring and cutting fabric. I have lots of shelving to store fabric and supplies. I also have two sewing desks so that I can set up multiple machines (and also so that if my mom comes over to help, we can sew together). My mom is retired now, and usually comes over about once a week to help me cut fabric or sew. The space is spacious, bright, and I can look right into my kitchen and stay connected with the family. I would like to have a tv in there, but for now I usually binge listen to podcasts (mostly true crime, but also Etsy or handmade business podcasts).”
The Inspiration Behind Fetch Bags
"I have a huge love for modern architecture and design...and I simply try to bring a tiny bit of that into my designs to satisfy my love for everything modern. Does that make sense? That’s why you’ll see that most of my bags have what I would call a “geometric” look to them. I love simple shapes, simple designs”.
The Importance of Social Media in Promoting New (or old) Businesses
Jackie didn’t grow up with Instagram and wasn’t very familiar with the app. But she knew the importance of social media when it comes to being an entrepreneur, and she has definitely seen growth in her business since using it!
“When I started an IG last year, it definitely grew my business, especially locally! I’ve learned that being an entrepreneur these days requires you to be on social media. It’s made a big difference in driving traffic and sales to my Etsy shop and becoming more recognized at local markets.”
I love that Jackie has found this success but I’m not at all surprised. I have said it before and I will say it again; We now have the power to use social media and the internet to promote our business/products FOR FREE! Yes, it can be time consuming and at times seem very challenging, but it is a completely FREE tool that you can utilize to grow your hobby/side hustle into an actual business with minimal, if any, marketing/advertising expenses!
The Confidence Struggle of Being an Entrepreneur
Jackie has learned a lot in the last couple years as she’s transitioned her side passion into a full time career and the struggles aren’t over. She is still adapting to her markets needs, but at the end of the day she is waking up happy, excited, and passionate about making her bags and it definitely shows in her work!
“What I can say with confidence is that I like my designs. I love geometric, simple designs and I think the fabrics I choose are modern and on trend. I hope that there continues to be a market for what I love, because I would find it hard to conform to what a market might want”.
Where to Find Fetch Bags
It has been an honour working with Jackie, of course I have a Fetch Bag of my own, it’s high-quality, and flawlessly seamed bag. If you haven’t already, you can read where I raved about them on my Instagram here.
OR take a look for yourself at her Etsy shop.
And keep an eye out at these local boutiques for her simplistic, geometric bags;
Forks Trading Company Gift Shop
Made Here For You
Brewteas Local Store
Rays Gift and Thrift
Farmhouse 50 (Minnedosa)
Prairie Collective (Russell)