Becky Pospisal had been a passionate social worker for 12 years.
But in early 2016, she found herself working in a corporate compliance position – and eager for a change.
“It was an analytic job,” she says. “I couldn’t work with people or be creative, and I knew it wasn’t the right fit anymore.”
So, without having an inkling of what it would be, she started searching for a new opportunity. Eventually, she came up with a unique side business idea that not only feeds her passions but also allowed her to quit her full-time job.
Here’s the story of The Knotty Nail.
The Knotty Nail goes from idea to launch
When Pospisal and her husband were on vacation in Lake Tahoe, she told him they couldn’t go home without an idea for a new business or career for her.
“Of course, we made it home and still didn’t have the idea,” she says with a laugh.
But she kept thinking about it. And one day, while browsing Pinterest, she came across an interesting new craft: string art.
“Des Moines, where I live, has a lot of great art,” she explains. “But it lacks any Pinterest-style classes.”
Having done direct sales before, Pospisal knew it was a good market for small businesses. But she didn’t want to base her new venture on sales pressure.
“So, I basically came up with teaching string art classes,” she says. “I started doing research and practicing a lot.”
A few months later, in July 2016, she launched The Knotty Nail.
Becky’s crafty side business success story
As a graduate of a private college, Pospisal has “lots” of student loans. No stranger to side hustles, she had a small wedding design business and was a certified bra fitter in years prior.
So, even after launching her new business, she continued to work full time. On evenings and weekends, she traveled around the city teaching her trademarked “Sips and Strings” workshops.
At these three-hour sessions, she provides all the materials – boards, nails, and lots of string – and instruction in how to create a piece of string art. Each participant pays $40 plus tax.
She offers these pop-up workshops at private homes for groups of friends or at local bars and businesses. And yes – the event’s host or hostess usually provides wine or beer.
It was fun and exhilarating, but with three kids aged 15, three, and two and a full-time job, it was also tough.
“There were a lot of nights I was up till midnight or 1 a.m. getting wood prepped,” she says. “Or when my husband put the kids to bed three out of four nights that week.”
But business kept growing – and in April 2017, less than a year after launching, Pospisal took The Knotty Nail full time. She estimates she’s now taught string art to more than 1,400 people.
“I feel really fortunate I don’t have to have a second job,” she says. “I’m doing well enough to manage our day to day without being gone all the time.”
Overcoming a fear of failure
Although Pospisal had most of the tools already, she spent about $5,000 to get off the ground, mostly for her website, trademarks, and logos. She borrowed the money from her parents – a fact that motivated her to work even harder.
“The fear of failure was so high that I would do anything,” she says. “I think it was a good incentive; I didn’t want to disappoint anybody – including myself.”
Pospisal managed to pay her parents back within six months. The Knotty Nail has grossed $70,000 to date.
Ninety percent of that revenue comes from workshops. Pospisal holds three to seven each week – on the weekends, sometimes three in a single day. She also does a lot of children’s birthday parties.
On weekdays, she performs administrative tasks: setting up workshops, answering emails, or creating string art to sell at local stores.
“It really does fill up my day,” she says. “It’s full time plus a little extra.”
And expansion is already underway. Pospisal recently hired a part-time contractor to offer Sips and Strings workshops in Omaha, Nebraska. She’s open to more cities too, so contact her if you’d like to get involved.
How to create your own successful side business
First, you have to know your market, Pospisal says.
“If you’re opening a business in your town, do some research on who’s doing similar things,” she explains. “In Des Moines, it was the wine and painting parties – we had a lot of those. I scoped out some of those places.”
She analyzed what they were doing and how much they were charging. She set a similar price point but didn’t undercut them.
You also must make marketing a major part of your strategy.
“I do all of my marketing on social media,” she says. “If you share or like my page, I offer an incentive. You have to do something different than what the person down the road is doing.”
And above all else, you’ve got to work hard.
“The only way you’ll ever turn a side gig into a full-time gig is by giving up your time and money and resources – and surrounding yourself with people who will support you in that,” she explains. “No success comes without sacrificing something.”
For Pospisal, the late nights and time away from her family have certainly paid off.
“I wish I’d done this forever ago,” she says. “Even though I’m busier than I’ve ever been, I feel so fulfilled getting to work for myself – and being artistic and creative and working with people.”
“I feel like this is what I was supposed to be doing all along.”
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