This post is was originally published on The Penny Hoarder
A self-described entrepreneur and business consultant in Central Florida, Julie Wilder began using her spare time in 2012 to start studying time, or, more specifically, how the modern day Gregorian calendar tracks time differently than the calendars that existed before it.
“You could say I was almost obsessed by this idea,” she says.
The impetus for her obsession began when her then 3-year-old daughter Maya started learning the days of the week at Montessori school.
Wanting to extend the beautiful period in childhood when days are marked more by playing, snuggling and reading bedtime stories rather than than the crossing of days off the monthly calendar, Wilder created a “wheel of the week” that was color coded like a rainbow. With it, she could demonstrate to her child that time wasn’t just a linear path but a natural cyclical affair that repeats like the seasons do, over and over again.
Wilder made $15,000 last year with her Spectrum Cosmic Calendar. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder
This rainbow wheel of the week would eventually evolve into Wilder’s Spiral Spectrum Cosmic Calendar, an 18-by-24-inch poster that features moon phases, seasons, retrograde periods for all the planets and a version of her original circular calendar set in the middle.
Now, Maya is 8 and Wilder’s shop has gone from something that “wasn’t even on her Linkedin” to a substantial side hustle that brought in $15,000 last year.
“It’s taken me years to get here,” Wilder says.
How a Busy Mom Balances her Time and Money
As a hardworking professional with a child, Wilder schedules time for her Etsy shop by finding 20 minutes here and there. Using her self-taught graphic design skills, Wilder builds the yearly poster during her daughter’s spring break.
“I send my daughter to a best friend’s house and I just build the calendar for the next year,” she says. “And that’s a pretty intense week or two.”
November and December are prime calendar selling months, so Wilder says she works about 20 hours a week handling shipping, fulfillment and marketing. But the rest of the year, she only dedicates about 10 hours a week to maintaining her shop.
“It’s all stuff I can do in my spare time after my kid has gone to bed,” she says.
Julie Wilder watches as Maya Wilder, her daughter, helps her get the Spectrum Cosmic Calendars ready for shipping inside their home. Julie Wilder has been able to pay her mortgage with the money she makes from selling the calendars. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder
The shop is an example of what Wilder calls a “slow and lean startup,” something that busy parents and people with full-time jobs can do without having a lot of money to invest.
“I’m a single mom,” Wilder says. “I’m like down to the penny at my house.”
Wilder, who has a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Central Florida, is aware of what an expensive endeavor it can be to launch a small business. She co-founded a vegetarian cafe in Orlando, Florida, in 2006 and was a co-owner of the establishment for about 10 years.
Wilder is so adamant that a slow and lean startup is the best idea for most people because not everyone has access to the capital and the resources needed to start a small storefront-based business. And, with an online shop, people are granted more flexibility and freedom.
“You can set the pace of the schedule and you’re not tied to traditional business norms,” Wilder says.
Advice for Other Creative Side Hustlers
Julie Wilder and Maya Wilder roll out a larger version of the Spectrum Cosmic Calendar they received in the mail outside their home. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder
Think about entrepreneurism as a gardener would, Wilder tells newcomers to online selling.
“Your project that you’re trying to bring into the marketplace is an experiment just like a garden is an experiment,” she says. “So you have to be one part scientist and one part artist.”
A few other tidbits of advice she gives to those just starting out:
Your product doesn’t have to be perfect before you launch it. “Sometimes I joke that perfection is the enemy of done unless you’re a heart surgeon,” she says. “But in entrepreneurism, you’re really creating prototypes until you have a finished product.”
Find a mentor. “They just know things that you wouldn’t even think of because you don’t know what you don’t know,” she says.
Figure out how to live a lean lifestyle. “You can’t have a high overhead,” she says.
Future Plans For When the Stars Align
Maya Wilder and Julie Wilder dance to music inside their home after packaging up sold Spectrum Cosmic Calendars. Seeing Julie’s entrepreneur skills has inspired Maya to open her own Etsy store, and she’s already sold some items. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder
“I really want this side hustle to become my basic income so I can take a risk on a place-based business,” Wilder says.
In 2014, Wilder made about $1,000 from her Spiral Spectrum Calendars. In 2015, she made about $5,000 and in 2016 she made about $15,000. So, she’s hoping she can continue to grow her business until it becomes a mostly passive revenue stream.
In the meantime, she keeps busy leading workshops for other aspiring creative entrepreneurs and mentoring fellow small business owners. And she was recently quoted in Real Simple magazine for an article about side hustles.
She has also taken on a new mentee: her daughter who begged her enterprising mama to let her open her own Etsy shop.
“She’s gotten two sales,” Wilder says. “So, she’s officially moved from apprentice to entrepreneur. My mini-preneur.”
Brittany Ann Morrisey is a freelance writer and copy editor based in Orlando, Florida.