This Entrepreneur Made More in the First Year of her Small Business than at her 90K Salaried Job
In our second installment of 'How I Grew My Small Business,' we take a deep dive into how Juliana Pache left her unfulfilling media job and turned a side hustle into a thriving jewelry business.
Content Writer @ Buffer
On the surface, it would seem that Juliana Pache landed her dream job. The New York native was the head of social media at Rolling Stone – the famed music magazine. But in reality, the gig was anything but. Despite working in a job that blended her two passions – music and social media – Juliana found herself weighed down by an unhealthy work culture and demanding schedule.
As she dealt with the stress of her nine-to-five she developed a side hustle – making clay jewelry early in the mornings. While she initially started the venture as a hobby, a way to ease into her hectic days, she soon realized she had something special. After 11 months at Rolling Stone, she quit to launch Pache Studio.
By betting on herself, not only has the entrepreneur achieved inner peace, but she’s also making more money than ever before. Matter of fact, in her first year of operating her small business full-time, Juliana brought in more money than at Rolling Stone where her salary was $90,000. Here’s exactly how she did it.
A creative outlet stems from an unfulfilling 9-5
Born and raised in Queens, New York, Juliana had a culture shock when her family moved to the suburbs of Florida during her middle school years. The minute she turned 18, she knew she needed a change of environment and landed at Temple University in the heart of Philadelphia where she majored in media studies and production.
A singer herself, Juliana originally envisioned a career in music but after a few classes, she realized the technical aspect of producing music wasn’t for her. This led her to shift her focus to journalism and media. During college, she landed a marketing internship at Red Bull where she worked with the infamous “wings” team.
The experience was formative for her and she worked at the energy drink company after college. But needing another change, Juliana left Red Bull and moved back to New York where she did marketing for a coconut water startup. Unfortunately, it was no comparison to her previous job.
“Red Bull is an outlier. It's an exception to the rule. Right?” she said. “It was really cool. They do stuff with arts, music, sports, and culture. It was just completely different.”
Luckily, it didn’t take Juliana long to find another position where she would thrive. She became the social media editor at the Fader, a publication that covers music and the culture around it. The job blended all of her interests including music, journalism, and social media. In her three years there, Juliana worked her way up to become the social media director. She then moved to do socials for VICE, a larger and well-respected publication, and was then hired by Rolling Stone a year later.
But while her career trajectory looked amazing from the outside, this was a difficult time for the media professional.
“Rolling Stone broke me,” she said.
Juliana found herself in a toxic work environment where she was given an unreasonable amount of work and no support. It all became too much for her.
“I was having frequent panic attacks. And not only that, but the hierarchy at Rolling Stone is so old, white, male dominant. And they have a certain way — culturally — of communicating that they don't recognize is demoralizing and condescending,” she said. “So the combination of all of those things, I just felt like I was alone out to sea. No support.”
Realizing that she was being taken advantage of, she quit only to have the company offer her two extra weeks of PTO and the promise of bringing in additional support. But after a month and no hiring progress, Juliana left for good.
Leaving a stable job was risky, of course. But Juliana had a plan. In the morning and evenings when she had a respite from her day job, she was working on a side project she started at the end of 2020 and decided it was time to fully invest in it.
“I had started my [jewelry] business, Pache Studio,” she said. “It was a side hustle, a creative outlet. It was a way to make some extra income. By the time I quit Rolling Stone, I felt like, ‘oh, I have enough of a following here that I could really make something of this.’”
A passion project becomes a stable business
Technically, Pache Studio started as a hobby. Having stretchy and sensitive earlobes, Juliana found herself getting most of her earrings from Etsy because they were lightweight.
“I was buying clay earrings a lot on Etsy,” she said. “And I was like, 'I wonder how they're making this?'’”
After doing a Google search, she purchased all of the necessary materials and decided to try her hand at producing jewelry. Two weeks later, her Etsy store went live.
A social media professional herself, Juliana was able to get the word out about her small business relatively easily and grew Pache Studio’s Instagram organically. While she was still at Rolling Stone, the volume of orders for Pache Studio was quite low, which allowed the entrepreneur to slowly work on the business.
An early riser, Juliana naturally goes to bed from 9:30 - 5:30 am. This meant she had several hours every morning she could dedicate to jewelry making before her day job. At the time, she wasn’t necessarily thinking about expanding this project into a full-time business. Rather, she found the craft was becoming a form of therapy.
“Producing the jewelry was kind of my creative outlet,” she said. “It was a very relaxing, kind of repetitive hobby. So that worked out in my favor.”
The stars just happened to align and when she found herself at her breaking point at Rolling Stone, Etsy approached her and wanted to feature her business. This helped Juliana take the leap to leave her salaried job in October 2021.
“I knew I was gonna have a flood of income coming,” Juliana said. “Etsy featured me in their blog. They featured me in the newsletter on Small Business Saturday. So I was good.”
After leaving Rolling Stone, Juliana devoted all of her time to Pache Studio and it became her main source of income in 2022. This was also the year she prioritized in-person sales and began tabling at local markets throughout New York City. She found great success with this approach.
“I kind of shifted some of my priorities to do the in-person markets,” Juliana said. “Because it's quicker. I can just bring the earrings, put them in a bag, and make the sale,” she said.
Juliana recalls that her first in-person sale was at a small popup in Bushwick. Despite feeling a bit unprepared – she forgot to bring a tablecloth for her display – the day was a success.
“I just remember that whole time at that market, feeling like, ‘oh my god. I can't believe I sold this many earrings,’” she said.
The behind the scenes of running a small jewelry business
While it’s never easy to let go of a stable paycheck, Juliana’s found greater financial freedom through her small business.
The entrepreneur made more in 2022 than she did in 2021 when she was employed full-time at Rolling Stone. While she did do a bit of freelancing for VICE, the majority of this income came directly from Pache Studio. Here’s a look at her company expenses and what it costs to operate a small jewelry business in New York.
Initially, Juliana paid exactly $1,250 to open up Pache Studio. This included the $500 fee to start an LLC (limited liability company) in New York City along with an additional $500 to get the LLC published in the newspaper. The remaining $250 was the cost of the first supplies and materials Juliana bought to make the earrings.
The entrepreneur spends about $250 on admin tools every month, including her Shopify website and Quickbooks. The materials for her jewelry can be anywhere from $200 - $400 a month. Her monthly vendor fees also range from $400 - $600 depending on how many markets she attends. On the high end, her total expenses per month can be around $1250. Still, Juliana has been profitable every month she’s operated Pache Studio.
Her schedule is broken down into spending about three hours a day on admin work: fulfilling orders, responding to customers' requests, going to the post office, updating inventory, tracking expenses, and tweaking the website. The remainder of the day – anywhere from two to four hours – is dedicated to the production of the jewelry.
Depending on the technique and assembly required, Juliana spends about two to five hours on one batch of earrings which amounts to 12 to 15 pairs.
Currently, Juliana is operating as a team of one. She does work with a part-time employee who helps her at the markets and sometimes utilizes Taskrabbit for help on shipping out orders, including hiring someone to pierce holes in the earring cards.
With Pache Studio growing, she feels like it’s time to bring in a team member to assist her. As a small business owner, it can be a bit intimidating from a financial perspective to take this step, but Juliana acknowledges that she needs the help now.
“I've decided now I need to hire someone because it’s just not sustainable,” she said. “Mentally, I'm buzzing around. And I'm checking things off my to-do list, but every time I check something off, it feels like five more things are put on my list.”
The creative process of making jewelry
Finances aside, Pache Studio has allowed Juliana to tap more into her creativity, something that’s been with her since her childhood.
“I’ve always been a very creative person,” she said. “In elementary school, I was in the art club. I just remember using materials in a fun, creative way.”
Now, years later, she’s continuing to experiment with materials – this time as a career. Each earring is hand-crafted by Juliana herself using polymer clay and hypoallergenic materials. First, she shapes and molds the clay and will sometimes add mixed elements like hardware and resin. Once she has finished manipulating it, she cuts the earrings up into different shapes and will then bake them in the oven.
Designing the earrings comes naturally to Juliana, as she’s always had a penchant for identifying striking color combos and patterns in everything from buildings to fabrics.
“I was looking at the preview of The Real Housewives of Potomac reunion and the colors and the set design — they had these lush purples, blues, and little hints of pink – and I was like, oh my god, that would be such a great color scheme for some earrings,” she said.
While Juliana has made a career out of managing social media for large news organizations, she applies the same principles for posting when it comes to promoting her own brand: giving back to the audience. She’s found that filming Instagram Reels that showcase the creative process gets the most engagement.
“I've tried to think about, “what is the most generous thing to post?” Because that is oftentimes the most engaging thing to post. Like, what am I offering to the audience?” she said. “I'm offering something that is really interesting to look at. So I'm not just selling earrings, I'm also offering them something that piques their curiosity.”
Achieving peace of mind through Pache Studio
Despite all of the responsibilities of Pache Studio falling squarely on Juliana’s shoulders, she’s in the healthiest place she’s ever been both mentally and financially. It may seem like a paradox, but the freedom and independence she’s gained from her small business has allowed her to thrive.
“Honestly, it's way less stressful to put that amount of inertia into a business, knowing that it's controlled by you, you set the rules, you set the pace, you make the schedule,” she said. “It's a different kind of stress because it's not the kind of stress where you feel like, 'what is the point of this?'”
In fact, Juliana was able to open her second small business, Black Crossword, because of the mental clarity she’s found. A fan of word games, Juliana created the crossword as a way to highlight and honor the diversity of Black culture. In a New York Times interview, she said her goal with the project was for, “people of the Black diaspora to learn about each other in a way that’s fun and rewarding.”
Running two small businesses is difficult, sure, but it’s also been fulfilling and purposeful for Juliana. The entrepreneur especially appreciates that she’s in charge of her schedule and says becoming her own boss has has drastically improved her life.
“The quality of life is so much better when you don't have to work with jerks,” she said. “If I want to break up my day and go to a cafe and read a book, or go to a park, I can do that. I just feel more in control.”
She acknowledges there can be a lot of condescension from others when it comes to small business, and that not everyone is supportive of this lifestyle. But even so, she encourages other aspiring entrepreneurs to take the leap and trust themselves as she did.
“Your friends might not know what you're doing. They might think you're crazy. They might think that you're twiddling your thumbs with your little arts and crafts,” she said. “But you just have to forget about all of that and focus.”
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