Sydney maker Therese Lyons is no stranger to a jam-packed schedule. The self-proclaimed ‘workaholic’ founded her rainbow-hued Etsy shop EnaAndAlbert six years ago, and quickly began stacking up both orders and industry recognition. It wasn’t long before her practice evolved from solo jewellery-making to hands-on workshops, markets, and DIY kits shipping worldwide. Oh, and she also has a day job.
While many dream of devoting all of their time to their own business, Therese says a balance of her shop with her day job is not just a necessity – it’s a creative coup, and boost to her own business.
From her product line itself to her business approach, Therese is all about a bold, DIY ethos – a trait she inherited from her grandmother, shop namesake Ena. “She was always making something! Home furnishings or clothes for me and my sister, painting, or very nanna ribbon embroidery she’d sell on consignment,” says Therese. “From when I was little she was always very supportive of me making things…. If I ever said ‘I can’t do this grandma’ she would say, ‘there is no such thing as can’t’.
“When you’re running your own business there are definitely times when you feel like I can’t do this. I try to have her mentality and remember there’s no such word as can’t.”
This can-do philosophy extends to the material Therese uses for her jewellery: polymer clay allows her to control every aspect of the texture, shape and colour of her designs. “I started jewellery making as a teenager, but when I couldn’t find the exact beads I wanted I lost interest: the beads weren’t big enough, they weren’t colourful enough, I couldn’t find the right shapes, they were too expensive…so when I found out about this great thing called polymer clay, I was instantly hooked!”
Colour is a major muse (Exhibit A: her Instragam) and polymer also allows Therese to mix her own hues – from lapis blue, musk pink, to watermelon red. It’s a science Therese works hard to perfect, spending months creating the colours from scratch. “I might make 15 versions of the same blue but it has to be the right blue – if I’m not happy with it I could pull it at the last minute!”
Therese discusses success, juggling commitments, and how a day job can give you an advantage.
Tell us about your experience running Ena and Albert and balancing a day job at the same time.
“I like to say I’m doing my Etsy full time and my part time job is my side hustle! I really do work full time hours for Ena and Albert, and then I work three days a week for an international wholesaler of gifts and homewares. I’ve been working there for 10 years, starting off packing orders for the online store and have been through every part of the business since then. My title is ‘special projects’ which means I have about three different jobs that are all completely separate, and involves everything from planning our trade fairs to working on our website.”
Do you find that many of the skills in your day job transferable to your Etsy shop?
“So many skills I’ve learned from in my job are transferable; even though the products are completely different and mass produced, and mine is a small business made out of my spare room. I just participated in my first wholesale fair [for Ena and Albert], and I can’t imagine having that experience without learning about it first in my day job, it would be so daunting! I’ve learned so much about great photography and copy. Even if it’s not directly related, you never know what you’re going to get out of your day job.”
How do you organise your time between both roles? What is a ‘typical’ working week?
“I work Monday to Wednesday; I’ll get up at 7:30am, check my emails, do an Instagram post while I’m getting ready head off to work. I might check my email in my lunch break, but when I’m at work, I’m at work, I try not to mix the two. On my way home I’ll do insatgramming and emails, have dinner with my boyfriend, and then work Ena and Albert at about 7:30 for a few hours – either packing orders, answering emails, making beads or designing, or sending kits.”
“I give myself Wednesday night off – that’s like my Friday night! The rest of the week I’ll get up and start working straight away, making, working on a new piece, or stocking up for a show or a wholesale order that’s due. I do a post run in the afternoon, and I might have the night off, or if it’s busy I’ll work into the evening. I try to go to bed at the same time as my partner and have a routine.”
“If it’s quiet I will have a weekday off and see a friend, and I take one weekend day off. Running your own business it can be hard to have a proper day off, but I’m getting better at it. I love what I do, and sometimes I realise I need a break but other times I don’t because I’m just really enjoying it too much!”
Tell us about how you’ve grown your shop while still working?
“It was slow going at first. I had an Instagram, but when I opened my shop nothing really happened to be honest! A friend from uni ordered something, my auntie ordered something, then I got my first customer order form a girl in New York. I focused on my jewellery, getting better at taking photos, and looking at what successful people were doing at the time. Then I started to get a bit of exposure, and I had a shop contact me – my first stockist. I thought, if I’m serious about this, I need to start meeting people and doing local events, so I started doing local markets in Sydney and went from there.”
Therese’s top tips for balancing a job and your Etsy shop:
- Remember: having a day job doesn’t mean you’re not successful. “You don’t need to quit your day job to have a successful Etsy shop. Maybe your day job becomes your side hustle and your shop becomes your main thing. There is nothing to be ashamed of. In the past, people might have thought ‘oh, so your own business isn’t doing that well, you need to keep your job’ – but that’s not it. I like going and having this other job, there are not only skills I learn from it, there’s also that financial safety net; I always know that money is there and I never have to worry if it’s a slow month or if I get an unexpected bill. I work so much on my own for Ena and Albert, there’s that social aspect as well. There are so many benefits keeping your job.”
- Get organised. “I have a monthly planner where I write down every single thing I’m doing, whether it’s a workshop, a deadline at my day job, or social event–all colour coded of course! So then I can look at my month and see whether I say yes or no to something. I usually say yes to everything and can get exhausted, but this is a really great way to stop you over-committing to things and to scale back.”
- Ask for help. “Whenever I’ve asked for help or have had it forced upon me, I’m always so grateful and it makes things so much easier. Not everyone can pay for help, but family and friends often want to help you, and you can make them dinner or bake them a cake. My mum loves helping me with those little things I sometimes don’t have time for, like stamping bags, getting booklets ready for the kits. It’s also a great way to get that social aspect of actually hanging out with someone too.”
- Build your community. “When I was first starting out, I went to an Etsy conference – it was one of the first things I’d ever done by myself! Belinda from the BrisStyle team spoke about joining a team and the sense of community that it brings. I was so inspired, because while I have a wonderful group of friends, none of them are crafty and they didn’t quite understand why I was happy to stay at home and make 50 necklaces for absolutely no reason! So it excited me to meet other people who were like me. I joined the Sydney Made team and started doing markets like Finders Keepers; now I have a wonderful bunch of friends who I can text, meet up for a coffee and say ‘what do you think about this?’ …that’s just amazing! From a sales perspective, the more people you meet in the industry, the more people support and promote your work, you do the same for them. Yes – meet ups can be awkward! I find most Etsy sellers are shy like I am – so while you might have a super awkward conversation, then you’ve had it, and the next time you meet them you’ve already got something in common that you can talk about. From one shy awkward person to the next – join a team!”
Check out Therese’s colourful polymer clay jewellery at Ena and Albert.
All images by Maja Baska
How do you balance your Etsy shop with a day job? Share your tips in the comments below.