One thing I love about starting my own small business that is based on my hobbies is that I get to make money while enjoying my work. So, how exactly did I get started?
Since I was in primary school, I was always interested in art and various crafts. Watching YouTube channels like LaurDIY and attending painting classes were my favourite pastimes.
I was constantly trying out new Do-It-Yourself (DIY) crafts like cutting up a shirt to make a tank top or DIY body scrubs using sugar. Although most of my DIYs failed, they were super fun to do and I had a great time exploring the different crafts I could do!
Source: Lexi’s Clean Kitchen
Fast forward a few years, I developed a greater interest in fashion. I remember watching runway shows and the Next Top Model series, eyeing the eccentric outfits the models presented. Sometimes, the clothes that the models wore for their photoshoot challenges were so over the top that made it hard for the models to move in them. However, I definitely took inspiration from the little styling details in each outfit. I always wanted to try experimenting with my own style and well – look good!
Recently, I discovered thrifting and the various benefits of it, as opposed to purchasing fast fashion items.
Thrifting, or thrift shopping, is to go shopping at a thrift store, garage sale or flea market where you can find second-hand items. Usually, these items are sold for a fraction of their retail price. Thrifting can also happen online, where you buy clothes from platforms such as Carousell, Depop, and Instagram thrift shops.
fast fashion items refer to cheap clothing that follows the latest trends, that are produced rapidly by retailers who target mass-market. Usually, fast fashion retailers release new items every week or so. They also typically produce their clothing in sweatshops, where factory workers are paid low wages and have poor working conditions. According to Earth.org, the fashion industry is also the second largest consumer of water. Producing one pair of jeans requires about 2,000 gallons of water.
I first started visiting thrift shops because the clothes were cheap, and suited my fashion style. I continued thrifting because I learned of the negative environmental and social impact fast fashion clothes bring. Along the way, I have discovered some online thrift shops which sell a large variety of second-hand clothing. What is better than an environmentally-friendly way of shopping that is also wallet-friendly?
Source: The Republican Post
I also had tons of unwanted clothing that I no longer fit into, or had simply moved on from. Since there is a source of wearable clothing, why not start a business selling them for profit? Doing so extends the useful life of the clothing, and makes it more sustainable.
As mentioned earlier, I also have interests in art and painting. I wanted to experiment with paint as a medium on clothes, so I started painting on denim shorts and jeans. My first pair was 1980s inspired, with colourful shapes and abstract lines.
With my interest in fashion and revamping old clothes to something new, I started an Instagram account to sell those items and clothes that I found while thrifting.
I started paaintnugget in October 2019 and have garnered over 2,600 followers since. I try my best to release clothes every week and constantly include my own spin on certain clothes. For example, I have started embroidering floral designs onto clothing items. Since purchasing a sewing machine, I have also made bags, pants and shirts from scratch using unwanted textiles.
Cardigan with tulip embroidery, and cargo pants with flower embroidery
I try to use second-hand and unwanted textiles to make these items as I want to do my part for the environment. I source these items from thrift shops and my friends and family’s old clothes. By turning something that was practically useless into a functioning, revamped fashion item, I am saving these clothes from going into the landfill while they can still be salvaged.
Handmade patchwork bag using denim scraps
Since my business included the sale of hand-painted denim and hand-embroidered tops, these were not common in the Singapore thrift marketplace. This helped me gain a competitive edge against other thrift shops, since I offered one-of-a-kind products tied to my brand.
If you have interest in fashion and upcycling, I hope that learning about how I got started with my online business has inspired you to take action on your interests as well!
Creathon 2021 Open Cat winner, Commenhers, is a group of youths who are passionate about creating a business which contributes positively to our planet. The 5 members each have their own skills like sewing, illustrating, drawing and more. Together, they have created tote bags, headbands, bucket hats and more with old fabric from thrift stores.
Just 2 months ago, I started gaining interest in jewelry-making as well. My mother and sister actually used to make accessories and sold them to friends and colleagues. I was too young at the time, so I did not participate in the crafting of the accessories.
Now, handmade jewelry is another popular product on the Instagram marketplace. I constantly see new accounts popping up on my feed, and even celebrities are wearing beaded necklaces as well! American singer-songwriter Jeremy Zucker has actually purchased from a Singaporean jewelry account, Clairvoyant. This shows the popularity of such products and how even a small shop in Singapore can reach a celebrity in America!
Hence, I decided to start making and selling my own jewelry. Beading helps me to destress, as I can relax my mind and simply focus on stringing the beads together. I like to do it at night, after a long day of school or work.
These were the first necklaces I made. I used a combination of amethyst, agate, fluorite natural stone beads, Swarovski crystals, freshwater pearls and other small beads.
Part of the branding of my shop, graphiceyesore, is that my feed is purposefully messy (linked to my username). As someone who gets bored of things easily, the same goes for my feed. Thus, using different backgrounds for every post helps to prevent that! I use vintage magazines as the background of my photos, and they usually complement the jewelry I am trying to shoot.
I encourage you to find your unique selling point, which can be anything from your distinctive products to the message you want to relay to your audience. It is also beneficial to create something that is a signature of your business, so that people will recognise that the product or post is from your shop without even looking at the username!
For example, my unique selling point for paaintnugget is my embroidery and painting on clothes. For graphiceyesore, I take pride in my Instagram feed and themed collections. I have released necklaces based on nature, fairies, a song album and more!
Concept based off of (G)I-DLE’s album “I burn”
Starting these businesses has allowed me to be more independent as I am earning money for myself. I have also met many amazing fellow small business owners, bonding over our love for our passions.
I have also donated the proceeds of certain items and product releases to various social causes, such as basic necessities for Singapore’s migrant workers and to individuals affected by the Myanmar military coup. Being able to give back to the community and raise awareness about social issues through my businesses is something that is very important to me.
Screenshot of donation receipt
I hope that by sharing about my inspirations and how I started my small businesses, you will be encouraged to try it out too!
This article is brought to you by Loh Jae Yee. Jae Yee is a third-year student in Ngee Ann Polytechnic. She is currently interning with SNCF from March 2021 to August 2021. She is also constantly experimenting with fashion and making her own clothes and jewelry.