Mom Boss Interview: Meghan Benson from ellie & james

Another Monday is upon us and if you are dreading your upcoming work week, today's mom boss interview is for YOU! 

How so? 

Well, because it is with a smart, creative, and SUCCESSFUL mom boss who is making a great living while working from home and designing her own jewelry line! 

So, so fun, right?! 

Side Hustle Moms, meet Meghan Benson: A hard-working and loving mom, wife, and former teacher who now runs the popular jewelry line, ellie & james

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Meghan, we know you as a wife, busy mamma to three, and inspiring mom boss, but tell us a little more about yourself! What did you do before ellie & james? Have you always been in a creative line of work?

Hi! Yes, I am a wife, mama and mom boss, but beyond these current hats I wear I have a few hanging on the shelf that I still pick up from time to time. Prior to starting my business I was a high school math teacher and soccer coach (I LOVED working with high schoolers).  Outside of those day jobs I also taught in the Education Department of a local University, encouraging future educators headed into middle and high schools.  On campus I was a technology trainer for educators and spent most of my free time studying the newest ways to integrate technology into classrooms. I actually thought my next position would be in this area, and, I have a Masters degree in Educational Technology. Fortunately, my degree has helped tremendously with running an online business, and I still get to tutor math and help coach soccer from time to time (my daughter just finished her first season in her league of 5 year olds). :)

When did you decide to leave your job as a math teacher to stay home with your kids? Was it something you had always planned to do?

I have always felt career oriented and did not plan on leaving my job to stay home. I thought I could do it all, but once we made the decision to add to our family through adoption, I knew that staying home was super important for the bonding and attachment to our son.  I also could not resist staying home with our daughter. She was so much fun and at 15 months old I started to feel like I was missing out… then began the conversation about what it looked like for me to stay home.  My husband and I moved closer to family, left our Orange County lifestyle behind, and decided that maybe staying home was what I was called to do.  Just to put this in perspective, I did not feel relieved at first… I actually felt like I was sacrificing by staying home because I loved my job and had big plans for where I wanted to go professionally. My husband and I had even discussed the opposite scenario of me in the workplace while he stayed home.  In the end, I chose to stay home and I would do it again. This is definitely where I am supposed to be.  Opening my own business gave me a sense of professionalism and an outlet that I craved. I also learned that staying home is really hard but really important.  Parenting is the most difficult job I have ever had.   

When did you begin making your fabulous jewelry? Did it start off as a hobby or did you begin designing as a potential side income?

I began making jewelry kind of suddenly one day in 2014 while looking for a birthday gift idea for my sister. She had lived in Barcelona and was missing it a lot.  I wanted her to have a map of Barcelona to wear and found the idea through a random google search. I am a little on the penny-saving side so I thought to myself, “I could make that.”   I ordered a kit with 5 pendants and 5 chains and taught myself how to do it.  I made three gifts and one necklace for myself, and then people began suggesting that I sell them.  After about 2 weeks I opened a shop online!  The rest just unfolded in the most unexpected ways, and I learned very quickly the power of social media in today’s business world!  

What was it like to sell your first piece of jewelry (and, if you don’t mind my asking, what was it and who did you sell it to)? Did you begin your sales journey at storefronts or as a vendor, or have you always been online? 

The first sell was exciting, but I will admit it was to one of my best friends. :) She bought a pendant with lyrics from Mumford and Sons on it. The next sale was from her mom… when I began getting orders from people I didn’t know (a few weeks in), that is when it started to get really exciting!  I instantly began to figure out Instagram and how to sell on there. The majority of my sales even today are from customers who visited my site through Instagram.  I do sell in storefronts around the country, but many of the boutique owners found me through Instagram and I have not physically seen my products in the stores (crazy, right?!).

How do you find the time to be a full-time mom, design the jewelry, photograph it, update your website, etc.? Can you walk us through a day in your shoes? 

There are no two days that are alike. I have three kids, three schedules, and they are little so those schedules change ALL. THE. TIME.  I struggled with balance and had a lot of growing pains once the business took off. This happened around year two.  My third year I finally hired help and life makes sense again! No, really, hiring was the biggest game changer because it allowed me time to do the business side of things, creative, designing, accounting, etc. 

Here is a ‘typical’ day… when my older two have school:
6 AM - up and get dressed before kids are up (otherwise it’s hard to ever get totally dressed)
7 AM - breakfast for all, nurse baby, snack for my son’s preschool, lunch and snack for my daughter in Kindergarten
7:45 AM - Out the door and the drop offs begin, kinder first, maybe a quick drive thru Starbucks run, Pre school drop off
9 AM - home to feed baby food and myself because I usually don’t get to eat when feeding the kids
9:30 AM - baby plays in office while I answer emails or plan out work for the day. Maybe I get things ready for my employee or I design something I plan on making later in the day (custom orders, wholesale, etc.)
10 AM - nurse baby and try to get her to take a nice nap :)
10:15 until baby wakes up - WORK AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE!!! The small window of “kid-less” time is so important if I have any making to do, business calls to make, or anything that needs undivided attention
11:45 - pick up time for pre school and kinder… race around getting kids
12 PM - lunch for all! 
12:30 PM - Homework time (yes, there is homework in Kinder and my Pre Schooler loves to do ‘homework’ too)
2 PM - nurse baby again and hope for a second nap (sometimes this is the first one)
2:15 PM - Back in the office! Photos, gluing, chains, charms, packaging, shipping… get it done! 
4 - 5 PM - Wrap it up for the day, post office trips, emails, etc.
5 PM - make dinner, the occasional dance party to celebrate the end of the work day, take kids outside to play
6 PM - Family dinner when daddy arrives home
7 PM - The bed time routine begins...
8 PM - We made it! Parents celebrate with some homemade sweets or This is Us/Fixer Upper. I try not to do work after hours so that my husband and I can spend time together but occasionally I have a thing or two to finish up.

What tips can you give to anyone out there interested in beginning their own creative side hustle? Is there anything you wish you would have done differently? 

Find a small group of local creatives like you who are running a business (and moms!). I have a group of 3 mamas that I meet with 1-2 times a month to talk about our businesses. We encourage, support, advise, review, etc. with one another and because each of us runs our business alone it is great to have others to bounce ideas off of. Also, we are all in different industries so it works really well to have outside perspectives (and not be in a group with a competitor… instead we can collaborate).

Second tip, don’t reinvent the wheel, but don’t steal. You will see others in your industry with awesome ideas. Learn from them, but make it your own. DO NOT STEAL OTHERS’ WORK.  It happens all the time in the creative world and is obvious. If you want a creative side hustle, get creative with your product. No copycats!

Learn your target audience. Who do you want to sell to or appeal to? What is unique about you, your product and your audience? Don’t waste your time with events or avenues that have nothing to do with your target audience. This is one area I would have examined more if starting again. I wasted a lot of weekends at un-targeted events. It puts a strain on your family when you have a lot of littles running around and you are away, especially when it isn’t productive. 

What is your favorite way to market your brand? Do you stick to social media or have you found better ways to promote ellie & james?

Social media and handmade events have been successful for me. Again, find your target audience and run with it!

Let’s end our interview on a fun note: Is there a certain piece or collection you have designed that is your absolute favorite? What was it and why?

Oh, I am always changing my favorite as I come up with new things here and there. Currently, I LOVE the bar necklaces (I wear those all the time). I created one that said 'I am enough’ just for me, one of a kind. That was probably my favorite. But now it lives with a friend who was at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Vegas.  It was one of those times I knew she needed it more than I did and I probably designed it with myself in mind but was always meant to give it away. :) 

Meghan is so awesome, right?! Now that you know all about Meghan, be sure to connect with her via the ellie & james website, Facebook, and Instagram

3 Easy Ways To Begin Making Extra Money TODAY

(Please Note: This article contains affiliate links, meaning I may receive a small kickback -- which, if I am being honest, will go back into growing the site -- if you sign up via any of the links. Thank you for supporting the Side Hustle Mom mission!)

As a busy mom, there is nothing that sounds more appealing to me than a long, uninterrupted nap; peeing without an audience; and making extra money without having to rearrange an already crazy schedule. 

All of the above are impossible, right? 

Wrong (well, in terms of the last one, anyway)! 

What if I told you that you could start making money TODAY without doing anything differently? Would you be interested? Yes? Good! Then let's get started by talking about these 3 super easy-to-use apps:

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1.) Ibotta

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You have to grocery shop anyway, so why not get PAID for your everyday purchases? With Ibotta, it’s as simple as downloading the (free) app, unlocking rebates on everyday items (milk, eggs, etc.), scanning your receipt, and then cashing out once you’ve reached at least $20! I literally just downloaded the app this weekend and am already up to $13 cash back… say what?!

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I. love. Ebates!!! I have seen the commercials for years now but always brushed it to the side (after all, where are they getting the money and why are they giving it away for free, right?) but decided to give it a go as I researched this article. You guys: You can use your Ebates pretty much anywhere (including Amazon, where I shop almost daily) and earn up to 20% cash back just for using their affiliate link. By using their link (which adds *maybe* an extra 10 seconds to my shopping time, I have already earned $5, which is CRAZY considering it is all stuff I was going to buy anyway. Check it out!

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Let's be honest: You're checking your phone first thing in the morning, while the kids are napping (or -- if it's a rough day -- watching an episode of Sesame Street so mamma can have ONE minute of peace!), and before you go to bed, so why not make a habit of taking a short survey each time and earning CASH?! With Swagbucks, it's seriously that easy! (In addition to taking surveys, Swagbucks rewards you for watching short videos, shopping, and even playing games.)

Do any of you already use these apps? Do you have another you recommend? Spill the beans in the comments! 

The Side Hustle Journal Is Coming... And You Are Going To Want One

Hustling is hard...

...and side hustling is even worse!

Whether you are working full time, part time, freelance, or dedicate all of your time to raising your babies, it is hard to find the time to start or maintain your own business. 

Wouldn't it be great if there was a planner dedicated to helping you find the time to start and/or grow your business? 

For awhile, I didn't think such a thing existed (trust me, I've looked) and the closest thing I could find were the generic planners that didn't have hour-by-hour planning and just big open spaces to jot notes. (On a side note: Who else hates planners that go hour-by-hour? Does anyone else feel like a complete failure when they didn't sit down as planned at exactly 6:30 pm to write posts?)

Hustlers: I am THRILLED to report that all of our hustling dreams are about to come true, thanks to The Side Hustle Journal!

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Everyone has ideas but few people execute on them. For many people their job is the excuse for not starting a side hustle to generate an additional income stream, here is a tool to help change that.

The Side Hustle Journal is a tool to take your idea from concept to cash flow, no matter how busy you are. The journal isn't simply a daily planner, it includes systems designed specifically for side hustlers. The systems built into the journal will teach you how to:

  • Hack your busy schedule to unlock time
  • Break down the process of starting or scaling a business into bite-sized chunks
  • Only focus on what's important and forget the rest
  • Expedite the process through consistent micro goal setting
  • And do all this while increasing your performance at your day job
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These are the foundational objectives of The Molehill System, which lives inside The Side Hustle Journal.

AWESOME, right?! Are you ready to get your hands on one of these bad boys? For only $24, you can not only help fund the project, but you can also get your own HARD COVER copy of The Side Hustle Journal. You can back it on Kickstarter HERE.

(In addition to the $24 option, you can pledge $1 for a digital copy, $45 for two copies, etc.) 

For more information on this epic project, be sure to check out the Kickstarter page (which goes seriously in depth with everything you can do/accomplish with your journal) or give 'em a like on Facebook

Selling on eBay: Volume Two

Happy Monday, all you hustlers!

I was going back and forth on what to check in with today, but I thought I would give you an update on how some of my eBay inventory has been selling (for your reference) and hear how it is going for all of you! Obviously, I am still new to flipping on eBay, so bear with me if you think I'm pricing too high or low... it's a learning process for sure! 

Ralph Lauren Polo White Golf Shirt XXL Bought: $.99 (Goodwill bins) Listed: $14.99 Sold: $11.50 Profit: $10.51 (minus eBay's cut)

Ralph Lauren Polo White Golf Shirt XXL
Bought: $.99 (Goodwill bins)
Listed: $14.99
Sold: $11.50
Profit: $10.51 (minus eBay's cut)

Diane von Furstenberg Silk Wrap Dress Bought: $8.99 (Goodwill) Listed: $40 Sold: $35 Profit: $26.01 (minus eBay's cut)

Diane von Furstenberg Silk Wrap Dress
Bought: $8.99 (Goodwill)
Listed: $40
Sold: $35
Profit: $26.01 (minus eBay's cut)

Chanel Mini Skirt with Black Bow (PLEASE NOTE: My photography skills have gotten MUCH better since I first began... also, I researched and researched this piece to make sure it wasn't a fake.) Bought: $4.99 (Goodwill) Listed: $49.99 Sold: $40 Profit: $35.01 (minus eBay's cut)

Chanel Mini Skirt with Black Bow (PLEASE NOTE: My photography skills have gotten MUCH better since I first began... also, I researched and researched this piece to make sure it wasn't a fake.)
Bought: $4.99 (Goodwill)
Listed: $49.99
Sold: $40
Profit: $35.01 (minus eBay's cut)

In total, I have sold a total of 12 items so far and am currently sitting at a profit of about $100... there have been some big wins (hello, Chanel!) and some pretty big losses (like this darling black dress I listed last weekend that had 6 watchers and ended up selling for only $3.75... what?!), but the process has been both super enjoyable and educational. 

In addition to selling on eBay, I have also created an account on Poshmark and honestly have no clue what I am doing... I have received a few offers so far, but they have been really low and just haven't been worth pursuing further. If you are on Poshmark, are you having luck? Do you like it better than eBay? Help a sister out! 

How is flipping going for you? Which brands have made and/or lost you the most?