Steve Jobs once stated during a Stanford commencement address, “You’ve got to find what you love… Work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” So, dare I ask: Do you love what you do?

This question and piece of advice rings especially true when speaking of the persistently emerging DIY (do-it-yourself) culture, pioneers and entrepreneurs. With the emergence of sites like Etsy in 2005, an online gateway was paved for DIY crafters to sell their products and gain more exposure. Since then, the DIY dream has been booming more than ever before. And who better to look up to than the go-getters, scramblers, and ambitious adventurers who dared to turn their hobbies into successful professions. Here are some tips, insights, motivation and marketing principles from DIY dreamers and innovators:

Never stop learning

Fashionistas, crafty creatures, recipe ravens and photographers galore have a knack for their particular craft, but like anyone, they still need to perfect that skill and turn it into something marketable and/or desirable. The admirable aspect of DIYers is the fact that they’re literally doing everything themselves, including education.

Emily Schuman of Cupcakes and Cashmere
The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting article back in February about Emily Schuman, the brains and brawn behind the fashion/food blog, Cupcakes and Cashmere. Once an advertising executive, Schuman turned her interests into a blog featuring stylish outfits, DIY design tips and recipes. Resulting in a self-sufficient business/blog with more than 6 million views a month, it’s hard to believe Schuman was none the wiser.

“I had zero experience with blogging, so I googled every single question. I didn’t even know how to hyperlink to another site when I first began, let alone reformat pictures or create a clickable headline… I was happy about how the photographs of my outfits were coming out but I felt that my food photography wasn’t as good. So I spent a week practicing and reading books and sites that demonstrated techniques that food photographers use. It’s just about improving on things and doing it yourself and not looking to others for shortcuts.” – Wall Street Journal

If it doesn’t exist, create it

Jenny Hart, embroidery artist and founder of Sublime Stitching didn’t know a thing about embroidery when she first began. Today, Hart’s independent DIY embroidery biz and online website has exploded into 8 tutorial embroidery books, edgy patterns and more. How did it come about? She couldn’t find what she was looking for. In this interview with ModCloth (another successful start-up!), Hart explains:

“I wanted to create the kind of embroidery company I wished existed. Learning how to embroider was a huge stumbling block — I felt most instructions were overly difficult, stuffy, and hard to decipher. The patterns for embroidery had become really out-of-date and not at all aimed at a new generation. So, I designed the kind of patterns I would want to stitch myself. I also started pre-assembling starter kits and bringing it all together the same way it came together for me.” – ModCloth Blog


In a wildly emerging DIY world, collaborating like-minded individuals not only increases exposure for all parties included, but can result in superb success.

In 2003, Sue Daly decided to have DIY communities collaborate with one another. Combining the huge and emerging DIY scene in Chicago, Daly pioneered the Renegade Craft Fair. Since the first collaboration of indie-craft masters, the Renegade Craft Fair’s blossoming success has expanded to Brooklyn, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, and London (UK). In an interview with Etsy, Daly explains:

“At the time there were many young makers of handmade goods without a lot of opportunities to sell their works directly to the public, outside of small markets and consignment boutiques. Many had websites and participated in early online craft forums, but no large-scale, free-to-attend, outdoor event existed specifically for indie-craft makers.” – Etsy Blog

According to the Wall Street Journal, Schuman from Cupcakes and Cashmere also jumped on the collaboration train resulting in income through affiliate programs and partnerships including: Coach, Estée Lauder, Forever 21, Juicy Couture, Style Mint, and New York Fashion Week.

SFMade (a VerticalResponse non-profit customer!), established in 2010, made it their mission to support, collaborate and sustain companies producing locally made products. According to their website, “Our vision is a more diverse and sustainable local economy, where companies who design and manufacture products locally thrive, in turn, creating quality jobs for people from all walks of life and contributing to the overall economic and social vibrancy of our City.” SFMade also collaborates with public and private sectors to enhance local infrastructure.

Teach others

Not only do DIYers educate themselves, but they’re also eager to teach their audience – something we should all strive to do with our own customers. Kelly Malone, DIY diva (owner/creator of Indie Mart and Workshop) turned her love for crafts and power tools into a business teaching crafts and power tools. Workshop, a San Francisco-based brick and mortar store was created by Malone to offer aspiring crafters affordable DIY classes. Workshops range from beer making and power tools to artisan caramel-crafting and even DIY business courses.

Recently winning the 2012 SF Bay Guardian Women in Business Award, Malone says,“We all used to make things, but now we don’t create our own things anymore. I like seeing people make their own commerce… I wanted to create a space that was super ‘hit it and quit it’… Where you could come in and take a class, but didn’t necessarily need to become some expert knitter; a place for people to sit down and get their hands dirty, learn to make something, and get inspired.” – SF Bay Guardian

Hopefully these insights from seemingly simple people turned DIY aficionados will inspire you to learn, create, teach, collaborate and “love what you do.” Steve Jobs, who created Apple from his parent’s garage, said, “You’ve got to find what you love… If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” – 2005 Stanford Commencement Address

© 2012 – 2018, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

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