Welcome to Money Talks, a series in which we interview people about their relationship with money, their relationship with each other, and how those relationships inform one another.
Meredith Artyukhina is 31 years old and lives in Washington, DC. Julia Beaumier is 27 years old and recently moved from DC to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Meredith runs CapitalStitchCo, an embroidery kit business, and Julia runs a handwoven home decor business called Jetta&Jules (Jetta is her dog).
These business besties work together to improve their practices and increase their sales, to the point where both women are earning low-five-figure incomes on their side hustles. Here’s how they got started — and what they’re hoping to do next. This conversation has been edited and condensed.
Meredith: I have ADHD, and I think of it like a superpower. I can hyperfocus on an activity for a long period of time. During the height of the pandemic I spent months learning about embroidery, and then I started making my own patterns. The activity was such a relief to my anxiety, and it made me think — I live in such a fast-paced city, high-stress, lobbyists and lawyers, lots of people who might enjoy something that takes them away from their phone and makes them work with their hands. It could be really beneficial for them, and it could be a really great business idea for me.
My original business plan was a class-based model. I planned on teaching classes of about 20-25 people. But in January of last year, a local maker’s shop reached out to me and asked “Do you have a product? That, like, you sell?” I didn’t, at the time! But I looked at their shop and thought about how wonderful it would be if I took this opportunity. So I said yes! And then I made one in, like, two and a half weeks.
That was my first kit, and I sold out twice last year. I made $21,000 in revenue and had a net profit of about $11,000 pre-tax.
The embroidery and fiber art community, especially on Instagram, is incredibly tight-knit and incredibly hyper-local. As soon as I started posting about DC-related embroidery, I had other DC embroiderers reach out. They followed me, I followed back. Then I said, “We should all get together for brunch,” because that’s what people do in DC. They get together for brunch!
I messaged, like, eight different embroiderers and fiber people. A bunch of local women. I wanted to make friends! That’s when I met Julia — and we just clicked. We were on the same level. The next time we hung out, we were at her place and I was helping her spin yarn into little balls.
Julia: At the time, we were living about three blocks apart. We didn’t realize that until we met in person. It’s a great example of the online world meshing with the real world.
My origin story is similar to Meredith’s. I was bored during the pandemic! I actually tried embroidery first — I got a kit, and I thought “this is fun,” but I kept seeing weaving online and I thought it looked really cool. I ended up getting my first loom for the first Covid Christmas. That was Christmas 2020, so I started weaving in January 2021.
I loved it. I was making all of these weavings, and honestly? The reason I started selling them was because I had too many. I couldn’t keep giving them away as gifts, and my walls were full. So I got together with some friends and said, “I’m going to present you with my business plan, and you’re going to give me feedback.” It was like a Shark Tank Zoom call. They actually got these shark costumes!
I think Meredith and I have both been able to start successful businesses because of our passion, and also because of luck. You have to put in a lot of time and effort, and if you’re not doing something that you love, it’s going to be hard to prioritize. There are parts of running a business that aren’t fun, so if you dread the accounting or the advertising more than you enjoy the business, it’s going to be really difficult.
We also have day jobs, so it’s not like we’re depending on this for our full income. I work on the private sector engagement team at World Wildlife Fund, and specifically work in the plastics and material science space. I absolutely love what I do, and WWF has really great work-life balance. I work remotely and am online around eight hours a day.
I probably spend about 10 to 30 hours a week on my business. There are some days where I can easily spend five or six hours after work weaving, and other days where I only spend 20 minutes on tasks like making social media posts or answering emails, and there are some days where I don’t spend any time on my business at all. I also try to get a lot done on weekends. If I’m doing a market or making more inventory for my online store, I’ll spend up to four or five hours a day putting together kits and fiber packs after work, so there are definitely ebbs and flows.
Meredith: I work at a law firm on Capitol Hill specializing in estate planning and probate work. I spend a lot of my time during the week drafting wills. I work 9 to 5 on the weekdays, and then I usually spend between five to 15 hours a week on my business — though during the holidays it could be far more. This year, I am trying to better balance work and leisure, so I am concentrating the release of my products into two periods: the 12 weeks between Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, and then the holiday rush from October to December. That way, I can spend more time with family and friends.
You read a lot of articles about soft skills: how to talk to people, how to find the appropriate time to bring something up. I used to be a very shy person. I originally wanted to study costume design, but financially it was just not feasible for me to go to school in New York City. I kind of tricked my way into going to fashion shows anyway? I learned all of these skills, like networking, understanding the mood of a conversation, being personable.
Now I take these skills and I apply them to what I call, in my head, “bravery tests.” Three times a week, I have to do something that feels scary. This is a bravery test! Another bravery test is, like, I’ll cold-call a shop. “Hi, is there anyone I can speak to about hosting an event?” Or I’ll cold-call a shop where I would like to sell. I sell in eight stores now, and half of those relationships came from cold calls. “Hi, I’m Meredith, I’m a local embroiderer, and I have these products. Would this be something that you would be interested in selling, and what would be the process?”
Julia: We both applied to this art show in DC; it was 100 art pieces by women, and that was one of the moments for me when I realized that I was good at what I did. I’m legit! Obviously you have a lot of imposter syndrome in a lot of things, and I wouldn’t have applied for it if Meredith hadn’t asked, “Are you going to apply?” but it was one of those things that was extremely influential. Putting yourself out there, doing the scary things, doing things that put you out of your comfort zone. It’s super important.
Meredith: I highly encourage people, especially early on, to find someone they click with on a business level. When Julia sees opportunities that we both can benefit from, she’ll send them to me. I’ll do the same, and then I’ll say, “I know it’s scary,” and then we’ll both apply!
Julia: Pricing, too. It’s so hard as an individual to decide what to charge, and how much of a profit to make. You can find resources online, but it’s so beneficial to have someone who can say, “I think you can price that higher.” You also need someone who can say, “I don’t think anyone’s going to buy that.” It’s nice to have that kind of business-bestie relationship.
Meredith: When I first worked out the pricing for my kits, I should’ve been charging more. I asked Julia if I should raise the price by $4, and she was adamant I charge more. I’ve done the same for her — her weavings take a lot of time, and she deserves a living wage for the time she took to make them!
Julia: Pricing artwork is difficult because it’s a bit subjective. I used to have a complicated system of weighing all the fibers I used before and after a project to find the cost of the materials, and then plugging that and the number of hours I worked on it into an equation to figure out the price. Now I price my original artwork primarily by square inch, and use a number that I feel reflects the value of my work.
Meredith: I did some market research and found the average price for kits like mine was between $25 and $41, so I made my price sit squarely in the middle at $32. I also decided on $32 over $33 so that it was an even divide when I sold on 50/50 commission in stores.
Julia: It’s definitely helpful to talk with other artists to gut check pricing and profit margin because it’s so easy to undervalue ourselves.
Meredith: Everything seems to be changing regarding making the right investments. I live in a very expensive metropolitan area. The property taxes per year are about half of what I pay in my portion of rent per year. That kind of thing will definitely shift your perspective on homeownership! On a societal level, we have been taught to view homeownership as our principal investment, and I think that this is an error in judgment. A home, to me, is a consumable good. You live in a home, and a home breaks. Your roof leaks, the tiles crack, I know so many people, the water main breaks and it’s a six-figure sum that insurance has to pay out. As a renter, I don’t have to shoulder any of the costs and I don’t have to shoulder the time expense that it takes to be a homeowner.
I grew up in a home that my parents owned. I grew up around a lot of homeowners, and I’m not ashamed to say that the people I grew up around had a lot more resources at my age than I do right now. At the same time, as an adolescent I could see the strain they were under. The myriad of responsibilities that homeownership puts on a person.
When you own a business, there’s no 30-year mortgage. There’s no home equity loan. There aren’t these responsibilities hanging over your head all the time — especially if your business is a side hustle, which mine is. I get to decide how many products I sell per year. I get to decide when I want to pull back on my workload for a month. I think it is far more enjoyable, especially when you’re young, to invest in yourself and your education and your dreams — instead of hoping that someday you’ll luck into a popular housing market and buy a home that can be your nest egg when you retire.
Julia: My perspective on homeownership has shifted since I moved from DC to Grand Rapids because now I’m in a position where I could buy a home if I wanted to. To me, it really depends on your priorities and what makes you happy. I have a lot of friends who are getting married and having babies. For them, buying a house is their big priority.
If you don’t like the idea of running your own business, it isn’t a good investment. I also don’t think you should put all of your eggs in one basket. I put money in the stock market. I fund my retirement accounts. All investments come with some risk, including business investments. I ordered $1,000 worth of looms from Belgium, and everybody I knew thought it was a bad idea. I quickly sold them all and taught classes and earned my money back, but it was a big risk.
Meredith: I’ve always been incredibly debt-averse. I actually paid for my bachelor’s degree out of pocket by testing out of several subjects and finding an affordable school that would accept those credits. It was a very specific way of paying for college that not everybody can do.
I think the analytical side of a business is so important. Believe me, the dream is wonderful. I love designing patterns. I love making Instagram Reels. I also put a lot of work into SEO and competition research. I look at what other people are doing and I look for things I can improve in my own processes.
I also try to avoid financial risk. I only rent a storefront during the holiday season, and even then I share the cost of the space with other retailers. It’s more expensive to rent during the holidays, but I’d rather pay more for a short period of time than take the risk that comes with paying rent on a storefront every month.
Julia: I won’t go into credit card debt to fund my business, but some months I won’t eat out as much. Business costs ebb and flow. That said, I don’t like to put rules on myself about how much I can spend at any one time. When I bought the looms, I didn’t tell myself that I couldn’t buy any yarn. I’m much less meticulous and planned out than Meredith is.
Meredith: We can work on that!
Julia: In the next year, I’m hoping to do more commission work. I just got my first commission, and there’s a lot more time involved, but the payout is in the thousands of dollars instead of in the hundreds.
Meredith: My focus this year is on community. I’m also looking to expand into digital design, so people all over the world can buy my patterns. I also want to build community through workshops — I’m actually running a year-long stitch along on my Instagram right now, and it’s completely free. My greatest joy is seeing people collaborate on something I’ve designed!
Nicole Dieker is a personal finance writer whose work has appeared in Bankrate, Lifehacker, Morning Brew, and Dwell. She is also the author of the Larkin Day Mysteries, a comedy-cozy mystery series set in eastern Iowa, and WHAT IT IS and WHAT TO DO NEXT, a quarterly zine about understanding reality.