MF 182 : Sue Monhait on Moving Forward from Craft Hobby to Scalable Business
Updated: Jun 17
Sue Monhait is the “gift biz gal.” She has been consulting with online retail businesses for 25+ years plus built two highly successful businesses of her own. Today, Sue will share how you can turn your hobby into a venture.
Successes at a glance:
Founder of giftbizunwrapped.com.
Special page for Moving Forward listeners.
Author of Maker to Master.
Host of Gift Biz Unwrapped Podcast.
Creator of the Makers MBA Course and Community.
Built two highly successful businesses.
25+ years of consulting with online businesses.
Sue came out of the corporate world BUT her story is a little different than some of our recent guests. Sue loved her job. She credits her time in the corporate world with teaching her a lot of the skills she uses today as an entrepreneur. However, Sue wanted to spend more time with her kids. As she reminds us “you don’t get to stop them” from growing and you only get to experience their formative years once. Sue stepped away from her corporate job, taking a break but missed being in the thick of it. It was during this time that Sue’s husband suggested the idea of starting something of her own. This idea hadn’t occurred to her before and looking back, she shares an important revelation for Moving Forward listeners that “no one has to give you permission” to start something. Sue isn’t sure why she thought she needed permission to do this but the suggestion resonated with her. Even in her corporate job, Sue was a creative, building things of her own to use in the business. So now that Sue was ready to take a completely different path, the next question for her was “what’s that going to be?” Sue admits didn’t know what she wanted that to be. She started out with five different ideas, writing them out, narrowing it down to two: 1) a gift basket company (bear in mind she had never made one but Sue loved being out of the house, food, and gourmet products), and 2) a wine franchise. The gift basket business won out. While this may seem whimsical, once Sue made up her mind, she went all in; treating it as a very serious business, putting in lots of hours and hard work. Sue started by developing a plan answering the question “what do you want the business to be;” a lesson she learned in the corporate world. Sue also springboarded off her corporate experience to target a corporate market for her gift baskets. Sue also spent time researching the industry and of course, learned how to actually make gift baskets. That business grew and unexpectedly to the point where Sue had to open a production facility. She loved that business and you might think that’s the end of the story. So you may be surprised to hear that Sue closed the business. Despite it growing by leaps and bounds, Sue decided to take on a bigger challenge, one with a global mission and scale.
Identifying an area that makes you unique within your company or industry where there isn’t currently any competition. The idea is that you have something special that can capture a huge untapped market and “swim free in a blue ocean.”
Sue’s big why:
Sue’s blue ocean is to help people who have an idea, concept or creative passion and to help them turn their hobby or craft into a business. Sue does this thru 1) a company that sells custom ribbon printing to allow bakers, gift basket entrepreneurs, etc. to customize their products onsite with messages and branding, 2) helping people start their business – Sue coaches and consults with online entrepreneurs. She also has a book (Maker to Master), a podcast (Gift Biz Unwrapped Podcast) and an online course (Makers MBA).
Top three challenges people face when getting into this type of business:
Many people who are into crafts and hobbies know everything there is about the product. They have the skills to make a fantastic product but lack the business skills to take it from side hustle to full-time business.
Pricing properly: Sue shares that too many skilled craftspeople undervalue their time and thus, do not price their goods and services properly.
Inability to expand the business. Many who are able to establish and grow a craft-based business end up being the pipeline and the stopgap in the business. This limits your ability to grow and creates a lot more work for the solopreneur. Sue emphasizes the importance of scaling properly by bringing on the right people.
Biggest challenge Sue faces today:
Sue’s challenge is what many entrepreneurs face: finding the people who want what she offers in a crowded competitive marketplace. Specifically, Sue’s mission is to help those who really want to take their craft or hobby to the next level – those are the people she wants to continually engage and connect with.
Moving forward past that challenge:
It’s not a one-off solution. Sue has done everything from launch a podcast to speaking at tradeshows and more recently she has written her first book, Maker to Master. For Sue, it’s about diversifying the way in which she connects with her most ideal clients. Sue uses a “one focus” approach so that she doesn’t spread herself too thin.
Best tip for starting the online business or side gig:
Do something! Don’t be that person who talks about it forever and a year from now is still talking.
One practice that runs counter to conventional wisdom that works really well for Sue:
Sue is a workaholic. She loves what she does. Her children are grown and out of the house and so, she loves spending as much time on the business as possible. It helps that her husband is a workaholic too!
How is Sue moving forward today:
Sue is trying to have a little more balance now that the book is done. Despite being a workaholic, she wants to spend some time with the hobbies she loves.
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Who is Sue in five years:
Sue will be similar to who she is today, doing what she is today but more established. Sue recently launched a membership program and she envisions it to be one where most of her time is spent serving the people inside her community. Sue’s ideal is to have an automated sales funnel that leads the right people to the program so she can focus exclusively on helping those people grow and prosper.
“If you are a creator, there’s a whole world of people out there who can’t do what you do. When you make things or you create things, you think that everybody has that talent and it’s not true. So keeping it all to yourself doesn’t allow us to see and use and be happy with the things that you create. So please take action, build your business, take that next step so you can share with us what you create. Share it with the world.”
Connect with Sue:
Just for Moving Forward listeners!
Sue’s new book, Maker to Master