Nicaila - Side Hustle Pro | Makers Series

Over the past few weeks, you’ve learned more about the creative processes behind soap making, upholstering, and candle making! While today’s featured maker doesn’t create a physical product, what she does create has impacted many fellow creative entrepreneurs-

I would like to introduce you to Nicaila Matthews Okome of the Side Hustle Pro podcast!

A few years ago I came across the Side Hustle Pro podcast and I loved it! I really enjoyed hearing the stories of other Black women entrepreneurs- how they started, what hurdles they encountered along the way, and how they became successful. So of course I wanted to know more about the woman behind the podcast!

This window into their process wouldn’t have been possible without the foresight of Nicaila and her process. I was interested in learning more about her and what motivated her side hustle! There is something for everyone in her insightful answers and I’m so glad we could make time to put this together for you!


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How did the shift from digital marketing to full-time podcasting take place? 

It started very gradually, with me tipping my toe into the waters of entrepreneurship. The first six months after I launched my podcast, I focused solely on consistency (releasing an episode each and every Wednesday and promoting that episode across all of my social media platforms). I leaned on my digital marketing background to build the Side Hustle Pro brand across social media and connect to my listeners outside of the podcast. I started to test out monetization and explore turning my podcast into a business at the six-month mark. That meant forming an LLC, opening a business bank account, launching my first paid product. Then, I started to put my plan together. The first step was SAVING to cover my living expenses for several months. Then I spent the next year working that plan: learning, growing, refining my revenue streams and deciding on a realistic date to go full-time. I set a quit date of September 2017. I had to push it back a bit, but in December 2017 I made the shift to full-time podcasting.

What ignited your passion for black women entrepreneurs? 

I can't think of a particular moment that ignited that passion. I am that girl following random people on Instagram just because I think you're fly and liking all your photos. I have always been drawn to badass black women who are not afraid to walk in their purpose. So talking to black women entrepreneurs who were able to start out as side hustlers and then grow their hustle into their own business inspired me during a time when I felt rejected and lost. Talking to them reminded me that there is unlimited magic inside of me, and I don't have to wait on anyone else to give me permission to unleash that. 

Walk us through your creative process. What does it look like from idea to finished podcast episode? 

Well, it starts with moments where I'm just able to sit in a coffee shop and do one of my favorite activities (stalk dope black women on the internet, LOL). I sit down and scroll through my episode management sheet, taking a broader look at the upcoming episodes and themes. I look for gaps or redundancy and keep note of what I think is missing (as far as industries I haven't covered or perspectives/lessons I want the show to teach). Then I move on to researching Black women entrepreneurs, scouring the latest news stories, the top business and entrepreneurship websites, etc. I have an endless list of names that I'm "researching." Once someone moves from "researching" to the desired guest, my assistant reaches out and we begin the booking and reminder process. When it's episode day, I clear my calendar. I want to devote all my time to get into the right mental zone to be completely engrossed in my guest's stories. I've learned from experience that when I have too much on my to-do list my mind is scattered and it's not fair to the guest, nor is the conversation as fruitful as it can be. Once we're done recording, I send all files to my producer and he handles the editing and mixing. Once it's ready, I schedule and on release day it's time to promo! Most importantly, I batch these processes. So I only record on Mondays and Tuesdays (because of the mental focus it requires of me and since I actually need to do other things the rest of the week—like coach my Podcast Moguls students!).

What is the most fulfilling aspect of running Side Hustle Pro? 

The most fulfilling aspect is knowing the show is having such a positive impact on so many people's lives. Knowing that people are starting side hustles, upgrading their businesses, learning new strategies and resources, and learning about black women entrepreneurs they may not have heard of, means everything to me. Just today, a listener came up to me in the street to tell me how much she loves the show and how she started her side hustle shortly after she discovered the podcast. How amazing is that?!

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As an entrepreneur, sometimes motivation can ebb and flow. What slows you down and how do you overcome it? 

What slows me down is when my energy is off. Energy is real and I do everything in my power to protect it. To overcome it, first I really took inventory of my working style this year (and I no longer compare it to anyone else's). Then, I started doing these 90-day sprints (I call it my Goal Getter Action Plan) and it helps me to set ridiculously small goals so I get things done and push past feelings of overwhelm and mental blocks. I know I need off days to let my creative juices flow. So I remind myself that if I knock out all my action items by a certain day, I get to take Friday and Saturday off. All of this has been extremely helpful in keeping me moving forward.

What's been your favorite entrepreneurial highlight so far? 

My favorite entrepreneur highlight was in summer 2018 when I was able to take an impromptu trip to join my sister and her husband, kids, and our parents at Disney World. When they were booking their tickets, I wasn't sure what my schedule would be like at the time so I thought I would have to pass on the trip. But then a week before I realized I had nothing pressing and could clear my schedule and book a last minute ticket and join them. Getting to spend those priceless moments with the fam was everything to me. Entrepreneurship allowed me that flexibility and freedom to get up and go and for that, I am forever grateful.

What's the most important thing you've learned so far about yourself as a maker?

That I can do it! I can do this crazy thing called entrepreneurship! I've learned that I can trust myself to find my way no matter what occurs. I've had so many moments in the past where I was lost and confused, and I look back at it all like, that had to happen for me to be here today. So why wouldn't I trust that things will continue to work out? Through all the ebbs and flows, every mistake is here to teach me something. So I can breathe, and focus on living and enjoying this life, rather than waiting for some ultimate moment of success to exhale. Most importantly, I know God's got my back.


Dopeness all around. Let me know what you thought of Nicaila’s feature! It was a pleasure getting to know more about her and the process behind bringing this amazing podcast to life.

Keep up with Nicaila online: Listen to SIde Hustle Pro on Apple Podcast or Stitcher. Visit her websites: https://www.sidehustlepro.co, http://www.podcastmoguls.com/ and give her a follow on instagram, facebook, and twitter- she’s @sidehustlepro everywhere. Also check out the coloring app she created with her husband- Color Noir!

Miss the first 3 makers features? Check them out here!

Want a makers photo session for yourself? Check out the details in this newly announced service 🖤

Stay tuned for the next Makers Monday feature on July 1!

Amina- Handmade Habitat | Makers Series

Life has been handing me back to back curveballs for the past few weeks and today, I needed a moment.

Honestly I debated posting Makers Monday today given how trying the last 24 hours have been, but decided to go ahead with it because this week’s feature is actually quite fitting when you’re overwhelmed (as many of us likely are) for a way to sneak in a few moments of calm and wellness into your day.

Today, I am honored to introduce you to another magnificent maker- Amina Ahmad of Handmade Habitat.

While working with an artist at the Off The Beaten Track Warehouse last year, I was drawn to Amina (ah-min-uh)’s beautiful and airy studio. Shortly afterward, I followed her on the gram and fell in love with her brand! Amina's holistic approach to wellness really resonated with me, and the beautiful aesthetic of her feed completely sold me.

The more I explored and followed Amina’s work, the more I knew that she would be a phenomenal maker to work with. I love seeing things that genuinely make me feel good just by looking at them and Amina's eco-friendly, handmade products are even better than they look!

I’m very grateful that Amina and I could connect offline to not only show you a portion of her process, but to further explore the importance of serenity and nature in her brand. These are some things all makers can benefit from, but I especially love the way it shows up for Amina 💚


You have a very eco-conscious business, how do you connect with nature personally?

I love nature. I grew up in a pretty rural part of Maryland and I think that has fostered a connection to nature and the changing of the seasons for me. I often joke that my parents collected trees. Growing up, we had a big yard with a dozen different trees from magnolias to dogwoods to weeping cherry trees, and the same with plants. In the spring and summer there was always something in bloom and we would spend a lot of time outside in our yard. The house my mom grew up in had a backyard filled with mint that my late grandmother planted which smelt magical every time you stepped outside into it. Everyone in my family always has mint around to keep that connection to her and that house. Now I love observing nature, the change throughout the year, and I try to spend some time with it every day. It’s very calming and grounding for me, always feels familiar, and one of my favorite parts of the day is when my dog and I take a long walk to check on all our favorite neighborhood flowers and trees. 

Walk us through your creation process. What does it look like from idea to final product for one of your candle collections? 

I like to start out with a mood that I'm trying to create when we embark on a new candle collection. Candles are such personal products that are completely connected to mood and aura, so I like to start with the feeling I want the candle to evoke. Then we test scent combinations, exploring new areas we haven't gone to with our current scents, and then we look for containers and start designing labels that also reflect those sentiments. It's a long process with lots of tiny decisions, but in the end, we wind up with a new look, a new scent, that is not just good smelling, but that helps our customers achieve a deeper sense of rest, inspiration, and calm.

What is the soundtrack to Handmade Habitat (what's playing in the background when you're creating)? 

I love mellow music and light vibes. I listen to a lot of Jamila Woods, Raveena, Men I Trust, and new indie music like that. I can get really excited by music - it feels like it comes into my body and energizes me, sometimes too much lol, so sometimes it exhausts me to work with music on all day. That's when I switch to NPR and podcasts. 

What is the most fulfilling aspect of owning Handmade Habitat? 

It has been amazing to see an idea come to reality from a product perspective and a dream perspective. I never thought running a business that pays the bills and me a salary would be possible, and it makes me so happy that I have been able to live this life. Sometimes I get really caught up in the day to day but it’s also always so rewarding when someone tells you how much they love what you make. 

As a small business owner, sometimes motivation can ebb and flow. What slows you down and how do you overcome it? 

I’m a chronic avoider of email. I get a million emails about a million different things and it takes so much concentrated energy to get through it. At this point in my career though I’ve adopted the philosophy that I don’t owe everyone a response. My time has become the most valuable thing that I have now and I’m always working on trying to spend it most efficiently, and I’m still not able to do everything I want to accomplish. 

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What's been your favorite entrepreneurial highlight so far? 

It’s hard to pick one! I’ve been making and selling things for nearly nine years now and there have been so many good moments. I was so excited when I got into my first store- the old DC Trohv (RIP), and when I got into my first Crafty Bastards which made me feel like i had finally earned so much credibility. But the small moments have been great too- someone telling you a story about how our geranium rose reminded them of a loved one that passed away, and all the great people I’ve met and that have come into my life through this business. DC’s maker community is so loving and supportive and that might just be the best thing.

What's the most important thing you've learned so far about yourself as a maker?

I’ve learned that I really enjoy the work. The business has become my whole life and I honestly love it. It’s been hard to find separation from work time and personal time because I can always be working but that’s because I really love it all so much. 

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Soo so good. Didn’t that just make you FEEL good? Thank you Amina for being apart of the Makers Series and sharing your insights and creative process with us!

Keep up with Amina online: Visit her website: https://handmadehabitat.co/ and give her a follow on instagram, pinterest, and twitter- she’s @handmadehabitat everywhere! Also, keep an eye out for when she has open studio hours because visiting her studio is a real treat!

Miss the first 2 features? Check them out here!

Want a makers photo session for yourself ? Check out the details in this newly announced service 🖤

Let me know what you thought of Amina’s feature and stay tuned for our next Makers Monday feature on June 17!

Nicole- Nicole Crowder Upholstery | Makers Series

Happy Makers Monday!

Two weeks ago, the Makers Series kicked off, and we received wonderful feedback:

“What a dope idea! I definitely enjoyed it! Looking forward to the next Makers Monday!” -Nabu

“Thank you sooo much for this series! I get souped up hearing about creatives. Your series will be a Monday bright spot!” -Vicki

Considering how much work went into getting this project to see the light of day, I’m really happy that you guys are loving it too :)

Today, I am thrilled to introduce you to another brilliantly talented maker- Nicole Crowder of Nicole Crowder Upholstery.

Nicole and I first connected on social media over 5 years ago through mutual creative friends. At that time Nicole was a photo editor and I loved her creative eye- seriously, just take a look at her instagram! As I saw her dive into the world of upholstery, I was consistently impressed and inspired by her designs, and that feeling has only grown over time. Nicole and her work have been featured in The Washingtonian, Design Sponge, Apartment Therapy, Modern Luxury DC, Washington Post Express, and most recently she was named to Washington Life Magazine's 2019 Young & Guest List 40 Under 40!

I am honored to share her feature with you today. Nicole is dropping GEMS ya’ll. On top of sharing her creative process, I love that she shares some practical tips that you may also find helpful with your creative work! I was super inspired by our interview, so I know you will be too 🧡


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With your background as a photo editor, how did the shift to upholstery take place? 

I shifted to upholstery because I was just a bit burned out from working behind the desk and executing the visions of other people. Working this way didn’t feel tactile, like I could really see the fruit of my labor.  I initially discovered upholstery very serendipitously in the fall of 2012, and just began playing around with fabrics and some small, old pieces of furniture in my apartment. That first set of chairs set off an affinity that has stayed with me for the past seven years. Years later I left my job as a photo editor, but definitely took some time removing that title from myself as I was transitioning into furniture designer. Slowly, I became much more comfortable in a new identity, and started to identify as an upholsterer and furniture designer. That’s when I really felt like yes, this is where I am right now in my life and I can fully claim that identity and walk in it. 

I love how you incorporate bold colors and eclectic prints in your furniture designs. What guides your decision-making when it comes to what your final product will look like? 

Thank you so much! So much of my decision making is based on a gut feeling. I am inspired by various things at any given point, and so sometimes when I’m designing for myself I’m inspired by the color palette of fruit, or a mood, or some details that I saw on a beautiful lace or beaded dress. I’m inspired by my ancestors or by a story that I read. That’s the beauty of working in design- inspiration can be the touchstone for so many fantastic creations, and there is a well of things that inspire my decisions. But central to any creation is making sure that there is a feeling that resonates with me when designing the furniture, and then being able to translate that into the piece.

Walk us through the creation process. What does it look like from idea to final product for one of your pieces? 

The creation process changes from piece to piece. For example, if I’m working with a client, I begin by asking them for a few buzz words about different types of aesthetics that they are drawn to, or about the color palettes of their home. From there I will put together a swatchboard of fabric types that correlate with those and I will come up with a few design proposal for how I suggest we reupholster the pieces. From there it’s a little bit of a volley of ideas that go back and forth until we solidify a primary print or set of prints. Once that’s done, I will order the fabrics, pick up the furniture, begin stripping it down and cutting out the patterns of the fabric, and then finally, reupholstering the piece. 

The process is generally the same if I’m designing a piece for my personal collection, with the exception that I do hem and haw a lot more over fabric choices, just because there is such a wide range of color options and prints and it’s very easy to get overwhelmed with ideas. That’s why I have to be really firm about the vision that I have for piece, otherwise my imagination will take me in 1 million different directions and I’ll spend months trying to come to a design idea resolution. Sometimes that’s OK too. 


You have a piece that's being really difficult- the fabric's not laying correctly, you've been stabbed by more staples than you care to count... How do you reset? 

I put away my tools for the day, and spend a little time just looking at beautiful inspirational photos, usually of travel or fashion.  Or I will treat myself to a nice meal, probably outdoors where I’m sitting in the sun. And I try to give my mind a rest by focusing on a completely different area; nothing to do with upholstery, but just relaxing. I love taking long baths where I’m just soaking by candlelight. That is such a fantastic mental restart for me because it reminds me to slow down and be still and to be present.  I used to beat myself up over mistakes or wasting fabric because I didn’t cut it the right way or I tore a hole in it. But now I remind myself that this is work but it’s also joyful work. And the energy that I create it is the energy that it’s going to be received, so I’d like to be in a space where I’m working from joy and from confidence and calm. So I essentially step away from upholstery completely until my mindset can come back to it and be fully present. 

What's the most fulfilling aspect of owning your own creative business? 

It is the creation process, when I’m designing and creating moodboards for a very clear idea from my imagination. I love surrounding myself with various fabrics watches, and coloring images into a Pinterest swatch board, and then thinking about how different textures will marry with one another and how various color palettes can work together. I love the process of figuring out how something will ultimately look and trying to execute a piece of furniture that does not exist anywhere else in the world. I know that it sounds selfish (because it doesn’t involve creating a piece for someone else specifically), but there is nothing like the feeling when an idea crystallizes in your mind, and you can execute that in a very tangible real way that elicits a great response from people who have responded favorably to it. 

As a small business owner, sometimes motivation can ebb and flow. What slows you down and how do you overcome it?

I tend to slow down by being distracted by doing 1 million other things, when I should really just focus on the task in front of me. A lot of times when I’m upholstering I will just stop midway and then pop on over to Instagram, or check Twitter, or check my email.  Just for no reason at all. Those little distractions are mini energy leaks throughout the day, and I only imagine how much more I could be finishing in terms of projects if I were distracted less.  As I become older, I think more about how much time I am losing because of distraction—whether due to my own fault or someone else—and by my own mismanaging of time, and  it’s something that I think a great deal about and how I can use my time more mindfully. 

But distractions are very clear indicators that I’m not motivated to work in that moment, And sometimes I will push through that feeling by turning on a podcast or a playlist and putting my phone away and just keeping my head down and finishing as much of the work as I can. I also get through those slow periods by not beating myself up when I’m not as “productive” in a particular day as I wanted to be. And I’ve also tweaked my language to go away from being “Was I productive or was I busy today?” to instead asking “How was I fruitful today?” Sometimes I’m not always fruitful as it relates to Upholstery, but perhaps I helped a friend get through a difficult situation, or I did something for my self care. Essentially, I try to measure my productivity less on how much work I got done in a day and more about did I make well use of the time that I had in the day and how I feel at the end of that day. 

What's been your favorite entrepreneurial highlight so far? 

One highlight was definitely when I signed the lease for my first upholstery design studio just before the 2 year anniversary of my business. For two years I worked out of a 300 sq ft space in my apartment, and having a dedicated workspace in DC—on a main strip that gets a lot of foot traffic— was a dream because I was able to afford that place with the income that I made from my craft. And it was such a turning point in the growth of my business. It marked a point where I pushed past a comfort zone of wondering: can I be successful in this industry, can I sustain myself in an expensive city doing essentially a very antiquated craft, and will I be able to find spaces that help foster that? That studio space was a dream manifested, and I’m excited to grow into the next space beyond it. 

What's the most important thing you've learned so far about yourself as a maker?

I’ve learned that I am extremely adaptable and open to shifting how I think and how I work and the pace at which I work much more quickly and easily than I thought I would be. I’m used to thinking and working and responding to situations very quickly, but being a maker I’ve been forced me to slow down my thinking. To be more strategic in how I spend my time and my resources and my money.


That was dope, right? Thank you Nicole for being apart of the Makers Series and sharing your creative insights with us. As mentioned, Nicole recently moved into her own studio space and it is so beautiful! If you’re in the DC area, I encourage you to go visit! We took the photos for her feature in one of the final weeks where she was working from home, just before her move.

Keep up with Nicole online: Visit her website: https://www.nicolecrowderupholstery.com and give her a follow on instagram, pinterest, and twitter- she’s @nicolemcrowder everywhere!

Miss last week’s feature? Check it out here!

Want a makers photo session for yourself ? Check out the details in this newly announced service 🖤

Let me know what you thought of Nicole’s interview! Stay tuned for our next Makers Monday feature on June 3!

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Maya- Herpothecary | Makers Series

It’s here, it’s here!

As announced last week, today is the official start of the Makers Series- a biweekly series that will feature some inspiring and talented women makers! So beginning today, that makes every other Monday, Makers Monday :)

I am so inspired by creators- especially when I can learn more about the processes behind their work, so it was really important to me to bring this series to life because the work just doesn’t magically appear. Often we see the the final product someone has created, but not necessarily what went into the creation process, so I’m really happy to have the opportunity to share this with you.

To kick things off, I would like to introduce you to the woman responsible for my smell goods- Maya Johnson of Herpothecary!

I happened to stumble upon Maya’s beautiful soaps last year when I saw her pop-up at the Spice Suite. Let me tell you… this is one of the rare times I wish the internet had a scratch and sniff option lol. I was already super drawn to her products by the gorgeous designs, but after experiencing them for myself- not only did they smell great, but I couldn’t get over how nourishing everything was! The cherry on top? Her soaps, butters, powders, and scrubs are all created with natural ingredients you can pronounce and that are good for you! I became an instant fan and told everyone I could about her! So now it’s my turn to share her with you :)


Your products are absolutely beautiful! What guides your decision-making when it comes to what you will offer and how the final product will look? 

Thank you! The soap designs are definitely driven by the seasons as well as by things I see around me and in nature. Oh and lot of Pinterest color palettes! LOL

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Walk us through the creation process. What does it look like from idea to final product for one of your soaps? 

While it's usually ideal for me to draw a sketch of what I'd like the final soap to look like, lately I've been diving into the making process blindly and letting the colors and scents lead the process. So once I've prepared my lye solution along with my melted oils, butters and additives, I combine them with my stick blender until emulsified. I separate them into different containers and color each one with a different mica or skin-safe colorant. I fragrance each color and further combine them until smooth and cohesive. From there I start to pour them into my soap mold. Depending on the design, I'll either do a hanger swirl where I drag my swirling tool throughout the soap in random directions, or I'll leave it as is. I love gold on tops of my soaps and will usually finish everything off with a gold mica drizzle swirl. The next day, I'll cut the large slab into loafs, cut the loafs into individual bars, stamp, bevel and cure them for at least 4 weeks.

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What is the soundtrack to Herpothecary (what's playing in the background when you're creating)? 

99% of the time, some type of lo fi hip hop is playing as I soap. It's super soothing and really allows me to focus. 

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As a small business owner, sometimes motivation can ebb and flow. What slows you down and how do you overcome it? 

Some of my soap designs can make me feel a bit stagnant at times. It can feel like there are only so many drop swirls one can do before all the soaps start to look alike. I like to keep it fresh by watching the trends in the soaping and handmade world and put my own spin on them to keep me inspired.  

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What is the most fulfilling aspect of running Herpothecary? 

I love getting the testimonials and reviews of customers who at one time were loyal Dove or Lush junkies tell me that they've "made the switch" to making me their Soap Pusha lol. I never thought this would be a "thing" and it really inspires me to keep going to hear that something as small as a bar of soap really brightened someone's outlook on their self-care routine.

What's been your favorite entrepreneurial highlight so far? 

Hands down, having the experience and chance to build and grow with The Spice Suite and the Spice Girls. Those women are SUCH a rock of inspiration and I doubt that Herpothecary would be such a "thing" without my tribe. 

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What's the most important thing you've learned so far about yourself as a maker?

I've learned that I'm pretty resilient, even as a die hard introvert. As this entrepreneur trend seems to tick up and I find myself surrounded by people from all walks of life who look like me, support me, or folks who would even be considered "competimates", its forced me to change the lens of which I view those interactions. I've had to pivot with more precision and intention. There are bumps and bruises but I've found those moments to be teachable ones that I've been able to grow from. 

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It was such a joy photographing Maya and getting to learn more about her creative process. I hope you enjoyed getting to know Maya a little better! And if you’re interested in experiencing her smell goods for yourself (which I do highly recommend), please visit her website, and follow her on facebook and instagram- she’s @herpothecary everywhere!

Let me know what you think of the new series! Also: stay tuned for our next Makers Monday feature on May 20 :)

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