Once in a while, a part-time pursuit becomes a full-blown career, surpassing one's goals and wildest dreams.
Take Nole Garey, and her blog Oh So Beautiful Paper, which she writes from her sunny living room on Capitol Hill. For nearly 4 years she's inhabited a "happy little corner of the Internet universe," blogging about stationery, birth announcements, posters, greeting cards, and most prominently, wedding invitations.
"When I started the blog I didn't intend for it to be a career," says Garey. At the time, she was a desk officer focusing on Djibouti and Somalia. As her audience grew, advertisers beckoned. "The blog really took off," she explains, "and it turned into [a career]." In a short time, Garey had replaced the salary she was making as a civil servant. In her new career, 'it's sort of a giant paper love fest every single day!"
Garey's former colleague at the State Department, Elon Weinstein, has also made an entrepreneurial leap. He now owns and operates The Custom District, where he "designs and fabricates cool fun stuff." Weinstein crafts everything from kitchen cabinet doors, to custom guitar pedal boards, custom motorcycles and gym equipment. Project by project, he's been building his business for about 7 years.
"For an extended period of time I did the furniture work and international consulting simultaneously," Weinstein says. "And it was a pretty even balance. I had a workday and then I ran home and started another work day, from 6 p.m. until midnight."
Weinstein says he's grateful to be starting his own company as a second career. Because he spent time in the federal government, he says, he knows how to get things done in spite of obstacles. Only this time, if it doesn't get done, it's his reputation on the line. Which "at times has been enormously stressful," he says, "yet through all of it, I'm really content."
In Columbia, Md., There's another former moonlighter, now finding success in her hobby. Funlayo Alabi runs Shea Radiance with her husband and 4 employees. They import Shea butter from various West African countries, and use it to make balms, crèmes, and body care products.
The idea for the business came from her sons, who both have health conditions that dry out their skin. She couldn't find a lotion that worked, and remembering the folk remedy of her childhood, she asked her mother to bring some Shea butter on her next trip from Nigeria to Maryland. The Shea butter worked, and the Alabi family started brainstorming how it could turn into a new business.
Three-and-a-half years later, Funlayo left her job at a major health insurance provider, and made Shea Radiance her full time gig.
"I was at a point in my life when I knew I had to follow my heart and my passion," she says. "This was what I was born to do."
By the end of this year Shea Radiance will be nationally distributed at Whole Foods, and starting this August, you can find their shampoos and hair products on the shelves of Target stores all around our region, and throughout the country.
It's been a long time coming, Alabi says, but with a full time effort, you can get a full time reward.
[Music: Moonlighting Reversals: "Fly Me To The Moon" by Nina Simone from The Best of Nina Simone / "Moonlighting (As Made Famous By Al Jarreau)" by The Karaoke Crew from Drew's Famous Karaoke Hits: Classic Hits Vol. 3]
Photos: Side Gigs to Full-Time