Connie from Life Of Learning asked me to talked about my Etsy shop and featured me in her section Career highlights. A simple feature of her Instagram page became a 1000 word email which I then decided to turn in a blog article for my own website!
I started my Instagram account for fun at the end of 2017 but I quickly realised that this would have been more than just sharing pics of myself in the lab. Last year, when I had less than 2k followers, I started getting the attention of companies that wanted to collaborate with me because they like my page and brand. However, none of them took me seriously and people wanted to take advantage of my time and experience asking me to do stuff for free.
Around that time, I started looking with admiration at the work of Samantha Yammine, Soph Cook and Heidi Gardner who managed to monetise their pages and science communication accounts in different ways, either by starting their own business like Science On A Postcard or through collaborations with companies. Since companies weren’t willing to cooperate with me, I started getting the idea of selling merchandise as a way to make extra cash as a cheappy student but I wasn’t sure how to do it.
My initial idea was to sell T-shirts with science-related hashtags but I didn’t want to invest loads of money on it because I am a student and, despite I am very good at managing my finances, I can’t allow myself to make a huge investment. The cost of printing 100 T-shirts is of about 400£ and I wasn’t sure whether I will ever have got my investment back.
I quickly realised that this would have been more than just sharing pics of myself in the lab.
After the summer, last summer, I broke up my ex-boyfriend and suddenly had loads of time to spend on my own. I started crocheting for fun and drawing designs of atoms on my diary. The first attempts doing atoms were a disaster. They looked good on paper but not so good when executed. I then started drawing possible ways of the word science and again loads of drawing that looked good on paper didn’t look as good when executed. Finally, I have the idea of the bookmarks and the initial designs. At this point, I didn’t have any idea of selling, I started doing the first bookmark for myself because I needed one. I used to spend loads of time reading to fill the space after the break-up. I was reading 2/3 books at a time and didn’t have really anything at home to use as a bookmark.
I showed the bookmarks to a friend and he told me that they were really cute. I went home and started the Etsy shop, I didn’t have anything in stock back then but I was motivated to do my own things and making a hobby an extra income to support my education. After a few more failed experiments (am I talking about crocheting science or my PhD?) I created the bookmark science as it is right now and I was really satisfied with it. I just told myself “This is something people will be willing to pay for!”. I literally started making money by investing £5 buying the copper wire and a few envelopes!
I always had the idea of monetising my pages but I didn’t want to risk a huge amount of money at the start.
I didn’t sell much so far but I understand that my business is a super niche, How many people are passionate about science, crochet and reading at the same time? Plus the paper industry is steadily declining, people read Kindle or listen to an audiobook (I do it too!) but I have loads of ideas for the future such as moving away from the reading business and create more practical stuff and my sister suggested to start making some jewellery which sounds awesome to me. I just don’t have the time right now and due to the restriction of my scholarship, I can’t earn much on top of my salary because they might suspend my scholarship.
You do not need big ideas to success only loads of confidence in yourself and the firm belief that you will make it.
I have learned a lot from my business not only crocheting science but my Instagram endeavour overall.
1. Making your mark, your name and your voice heard it has not been easy as one may think. When I started this business, I entered a niche dominated by big names and I was just one of the many PhD students out there doing science communication. It took months, loads of work, slap in my face, burnouts etc to create my own brand.
2. People don’t buy your products, they buy you! If you start a business without a clear vision, you will not make it. People trust people, not material things.
3. Having a voice and doing unconventional things expose you to criticism, it took a lot for me to step up from it. Many people turn out to my pages just to criticise me, which is fair enough, but if you want to have an argument and engage in discussions do it all the time, not just when you have to tell me that I am wrong. I have come to ignore these individuals. Some people will love you, others will hate you. Many are jealous because you will be more successful with science communication than they will ever be with science. A few will make everything in their power to destroy your name and reputation. Others will make everything they can to lift you up.
4. Last but not least, do not allow anyone to put you on a pedestal. Once I read the Giulius Caesar from Shakespeare. The crowd cheered and applauded Antonio when he did his speech. The same crowd applauded Ceaser when he did his speech. Do not put yourself on social media if you are looking for validation or because you are following a trend. People who lifted you up will put you down in a heartbreak. Do your things and express your true self and do not be scared to do it. As I said before, some will love you others will hate you. Both fine by me!
Thanks, Connie for the opportunity to share my own experience, hope it can motivate others to start believing in themselves.