While many teenagers around me preferred to spend their school holidays playing sports, dancing or enjoying board games, I was sitting in a factory chair carefully watching my grandmother, the only garment pattern maker I knew at the time.
I would watch her elegantly create some of the most detailed garment patterns. I would watch her draw, cut and put pieces together. I watched how she paid attention to the detail of the work she was creating and, I believe, that is where it really all began.
My relationship with fashion, accessories, creating, building and putting together different types of textures, colours and using only my hands to put them together, dates to those moments.
That is how my hobbies unfolded. It started with me sketching clothing, learning how to use her sewing machine to make clothing. Eventually I discovered accessories. I would take some of my grandmother’s old beads and some of my other old, broken necklace materials, and re-create my own jewellery pieces. My mother, my biggest cheerleader and model of my pieces, encouraged and allowed me to fully immerse myself in my newly-discovered hobby – jewellery making.
Making jewellery became a big part of the person I aspired to be. The more I worked toward my passion, the better I became at it. Eventually, I developed more confidence to share some of my pieces with people outside of my immediate family. I would show my mother’s friends at work and I would always receive positive feedback. At times, they would give me money for the pieces they liked.
Even when it became transactional, I never thought of it being anything more than just a reward for my good work. By the time I neared the end of my high school career, my hobby had become one of the things I was passionate about. Even though I had taken Business Studies as one of my subjects, I never imaged a solid relationship between jewellery-making, hobbies and business. To me, the term business was always tied to a corporate setting in the finance, engineering or accounting space.
My view changed only after I had participated in a junior enterprise entrepreneurship programme in 2013 where I learned the ins and outs of being an entrepreneur, how to start and run a small business, how to work with people, and, most importantly, delivering on your promise.
It was only after this year-long programme that I started shifting my mindset and seeing and believing I could become an entrepreneur. I started following and reading the stories of young black women who started their own businesses. I drew a lot of inspiration from them and later decided to turn my hobby into a small business.
I still design and make all the pieces myself, using social media tools and word-of-mouth to let people know about what it is I do – and how they, too, can turn passion into a business.
Here are three of my personal tips on how you can also turn your hobby into a business:
- Understand that waiting for resources to come to you so you can start will never be enough. Simply waiting does not attract resources. Take my ten-year-old self who started by taking what she found lying around her to make the most of whatever she could. Having minimum resources enabled me to stretch my thinking and challenge myself to see the possibility in the little I had. Excuses hold us back but seeking takes us a step forward.
- Understand that if you believe in something, it will never be too small or too lousy to turn into something big. If you’re asking yourself the question: ‘How do you know you’re passionate about something?’ The answer is simple: ‘It is that one thing you know you could do every single day of your life’. Allow yourself to discover what is fulfilling to you and understand that you are never too old or too young to start, to discover or to create.
- Understand that it is okay to still have your small business and a full-time job. Many people fear that for them to start a side-hustle or small business, they might have to leave their full-time job to make it work. Take it from a ten-year-old, who is sitting 13 years later, sharing these tips while pursuing her passion-bred small business and juggling a full-time job. Your passion demands your attention, but so does reality. Who says you cannot do both?
My name is Bonolo Modise. I started making jewellery from the age of ten. I knew absolutely nothing about business or what it means to be an entrepreneur. As I grew up, my passion grew stronger. I’ve learned a lot about business and what it means to have and run one. As small as it may be, the most important thing is that I am passionate about what I do.