Entrepreneur, designer, photographer and mum of two Jessi Evans-Marcius’s side hustle is helping Aussie businesses achieve professional product photos without the hefty price tag.
Evan’s business, Backdrop Collective, is an Aussie first, delivering Australian-made premium quality double-sided vinyl backdrops that have taken the small business world by storm.
The mum of two started her business, which now makes 20k a month after being made redundant following the announcement of her second preganancy..
“The day after I told my work I was pregnant, I lost my job. I had no idea what to do. I started doing freelance photography until my son was born. Then COVID hit,” Mrs Evans-Marcius said.
“I was on maternity leave, we were in lockdown, my son couldn’t go to daycare and the photography jobs were few and far between. I started doing some food photography for DoorDash, but realised I couldn’t make the photos look good with bad lighting and a shiny card table in the corner.”
That was when Jessi discovered backdrops. The only options on the market were expensive or too small for what she needed, so she set about creating her own.
“I went to Spotlight and started calling around different businesses to see how I could make backdrops. Eventually, I spoke to someone who told me about the double-sided option which would give businesses better bang for their buck. That sold it for me.”
Three thousand orders later, the business offers a range of high-quality vinyl backdrops in different colours, textures and themes, turning a messy workspace into a luxurious bathroom, Pinterest worthy kitchen or Christmas wonderland.
For side hustles or bootstrapped start-ups, using backdrops is an affordable alternative to hiring a professional photographer, and in the era of social media, helps create aesthetic content.
“We were aiming to sell ten backdrops a month to begin with. We sold ten backdrops on our first day and we made $7,500 for our first month,” Mrs Evans-Marcius said.
“We’ve grown so much that we’ve just invested in a new printer so we can do custom backdrops of any length, pattern or print.”
Although these backdrops are helping photographers, cake decorators and other small businesses, even more importantly, Jessi credits this side hustle for helping her as she navigated postnatal depression.
Struggling mentally with a newborn, COVID and little family support, this labour of love gave her a welcome distraction and creative outlet.
“I really struggled with a new baby. I had to learn to let go and adapt to this new life and I had so much anxiety about feeling like I wasn’t doing a good job as a Mum,” she said.
“Having Backdrop Collective was my saviour and my sanity during that hard time.”
Jessi’s top tips for starting a side hustle
- Build a community
Being a small business owner can be lonely. Build a community of other people in business who you can chat to, bounce ideas off and who can help you (and vice versa). There are so many amazing courses and groups out there that are full of other side hustlers looking to network and connect.
It’s also important to get support with the business itself because you can’t do everything! Having someone trustworthy and driven to help you with different aspects of the business can really take the pressure off. For example, is there someone who can help pack orders or help with marketing, or even someone to help do a post office run! My Dad helps me with our Stone props, and I have a friend who does a post office drop for me once a week while our kids play – these little acts of kindness help so much.
Two business community groups I’ve found helpful on my journey include:
Lady Start Up
- Really plan out your business name
There’s so much more to naming your business than just picking a name that sounds good. You want to pick something that gives you a leg up along the way.
You want the name to express what your business offers; you don’t want it to have a lot of competition when searching it on Google and having what you actually sell/offer in the name will also help with organic ranking.
For example, our business Backdrop Collective, we sell backdrops, so it’s in the name which helps us rank organically and appear with any other backdrop search. This name wasn’t already taken when we searched on Google and Instagram, and there are limited options someone could be looking for when searching for a backdrop (mainly events and photography) so we don’t risk coming up for a completely different product.
- Grow your email list
Take your focus off growing your Instagram followers and focus on growing your email list. Your email list is the only marketing tool you truly own. Your Instagram and other social media are dependent on algorithms making it hard to have consistent organic growth or income. Social media can also be closed or hacked at any time! But your email list is full of people who chose to sign up and are interested in your business. It can quickly become a huge part of your sales strategy (and income).
- Trust your gut
Trust your gut and go with what you believe is right because no one knows your business or your customers like you. We all doubt ourselves and all make mistakes as we go, no matter how big your business is. This will continue to happen, but all you can do is trust yourself, and if you feel something is right- go for it. If something doesn’t go according to plan, it doesn’t matter because every time it doesn’t go as well as you hoped, you’re one step closer to the next huge success your business needs.
- Have a plan for growth
You can’t start off with a huge successful business. Everyone starts small and grows as they go. So having a plan in place for the coming years and an idea of what you want to achieve will help you get there. We try to always keep updating our plan of what we want to achieve in the coming months and years, so we have a goal in sight and stay motivated. I find writing all these things down also help get them out of my head, releasing a bit of the mental load.
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