Earning

Mom of 2 builds hobby into a crafting business set to bring in $25,000 this year

Wanting to save money on her daughter's clothing, Briana Zion created a successful business.

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Briana Zion.
Photo by Briana Zion

When Briana Zion was buying onesies for her infant daughter in 2018, she realized she could save money by decorating plain items herself instead of buying one already emblazoned with graphics. Zion's husband bought her a Cricut machine for her birthday, and she started printing designs she found on Etsy and other sites onto her daughter's clothing.

When the pandemic hit, she focused more on that hobby. "It was just something to keep going as we sat in isolation," she says. "Crafting is my happy place."

Today, Zion, who lives in Hollywood, Florida, and has two children, has turned her hobby into a full-fledged business. Addicted to Customs sells T-shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts, and totes, pulling in its customers via Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. The venture brought in almost $16,000 in 2020, and Zion estimates revenue of roughly $25,737 for 2021 including upcoming holiday sales. Her profit will be around $20,000 this year.

At first, crafting 'was my stress relief'

Before the pandemic, Zion primarily used her skills to make gifts for her friends and family. When she went on maternity leave ahead of her son's birth in March of 2020, she continued crafting. "It was my stress relief," she says. "The pandemic happened literally as I had scheduled a C-section on the 19th of March, and the world shut down around us."

"We got incredibly lucky there, but I wanted to give back to everyone who helped," she says. Zion used her Cricut to make 3,000 plastic bits that hold the mask away from the wearer's eyes, and gave them to the hospital's staff. "And then I was like, 'I want to do more, I need to do more.'"

Harnessing social media, word of mouth

Zion belongs to a shoe customization Facebook group with fellow side hustler Megg Riley, whose business hand-stitching shoes brought in more than $24,000 in its first 18 months.

As Zion got more involved in customizing shirts, Riley suggested she start selling them. "I would sell them in auction groups, and people [who didn't win] would say, 'I want this anyway' and I would end up selling them a sweatshirt and three shirts," she says. 

Zion originally sold her pieces at around $15-$18 for a basic T-shirt, earning her a mild profit. The Facebook shoe groups are her biggest market. "They have small business days where you can promote your business, and I've made a lot of friends. It's word of mouth at this point."

A pandemic layoff, and a pivot

Zion's love of crafting helped her bounce back when, at the height of the pandemic, she was laid off from her role as the assistant to the CEO of a nonprofit. After the family relocated from New York City to Florida to be closer to family, Zion was able to start building her business, selling a wider variety of items and more of them.

Her first big order came in from her brother's plastic surgery practice, where he is known as Dr. Miami. The practice placed an initial order for 200 pieces, and she now has a standing order with them for 400 pieces every month. More individual customers started placing bigger orders, too, sometimes for 15 to 20 items each.

Addicted to Customs T-shirt.
Photo by Briana Zion

Zion now charges $22 for a basic T-shirt, $12 for a standard tote, and $35 for a more luxurious tote with pleather, a larger size, a snap, and a pocket. Hoodies go for $35, and crewneck sweatshirts are $30. This fall she started offering the tie-dyed look of bleached items, available at $50 for a crewneck sweatshirt and $55 for a hoodie.

She has continued to give back by donating her products to charity auctions. "People have done a lot for me over the years and I want to be able to do the same for others," says Zion. "That's really where I try to promote, is by showing that I'm human just like everyone and not just in it for the profit."

They have small business days where you can promote your business, and I've made a lot of friends. It's word of mouth this point.
Briana Zion
Founder, Addicted to Customs

'I thrive on smart-alecky content and sarcasm'

All of the pieces Zion makes are things she would wear herself. "I thrive on smart-alecky content and sarcasm and all that," she says.

While she's had some training in Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop, Zion doesn't consider herself a designer, and prefers adding her style to ideas she finds on Etsy and other sites. She makes sure that any designs she uses come with a commercial license. "My sister-in-law is a trademark attorney, so we've had extensive discussions about what's safe to do and what's not safe to do," she says. "I tread very carefully." 

One example of this is her tote bag with the text "I hate people." "It was just a random design I came across on Etsy and I thought, 'People would like this," she says. "So I cut it out in glitter and put it on a bag, and people went nuts. I've sold more of that than I think any other item." 

Addicted to Customs totes.
Photo by Briana Zion

When a buyer wanted 21 shirts to give as Christmas presents, Zion started by having them choose the shirt color and style. "Then I run vinyl ideas by them and I say, 'This design would look really cool in a reflective vinyl, let's do that, what do you think?' And that's where the customization comes into play," she says.

"They're getting to create their item from scratch instead of buying something already made. It's 'I want that design on a blue shirt with a V neck and I want a looser fit,' and I go through the different shirt vendors and find what they are describing to me, so they're getting exactly what they want." 

'I'm constantly trying to diversify and grow and learn'

Zion participates in chat groups for Cricut and sublimation, and she learns by watching YouTube videos too. "I think, 'I want to do that, I can do that,'" she says. "I'm constantly trying to diversify and grow and learn new things for my business." 

Her husband updated her Cricut in 2020 for an anniversary gift and got her a sublimation printer, which produces a brighter, more vivid image.

They're getting to create their item from scratch instead of buying something already made.
Briana Zion
Founder, Addicted to Customs

Her next equipment goal: a white toner printer. "Sublimation is limited to light-colored poly shirts, so I would love to be able to offer my own screen prints," which will expand the colors and materials she can work with.

Addicted to Customs has allowed Zion to work from home and spend time with her children. Before the pandemic, "I was working 40-plus hours a week commuting in and out of Manhattan," she says. "So this allows me to be with my kids and do something I absolutely love doing. It really is my happy place."

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