Turn your hobby into a business: Step two — Refining your skills

By Michelle Ferguson November 2, 2018

In this three-part series, we look at how you can turn your hobby into a business. Part two: Refining your skills (without breaking the bank).

Part one: Finding the right hobby and learning the skills you need.
Part three: Start your business.

After a decade of sitting behind a computer, Mark Robertson decided it was time for a change. He quit his industrial design job of seven years, took carpentry at NAIT, and began apprenticing as a cabinetmaker. There was just one problem: he didn’t actually want to be a cabinetmaker.

Robertson’s goal was to own a woodworking business. He just wasn’t quite sure how to get there. Though he’d gained enough knowledge, he was nervous about diving right in — bank loan and all.

Luckily, he didn’t have to. Two years ago, Robertson leased a spot in Timbre — an interdisciplinary co-working space featuring traditional office space and a woodworking studio.

Robertson, who had always been honest about his aspirations with his employer, started working three days in the cabinetmaking shop. The rest of the week was dedicated to completing jobs for friends and family.

About six months had gone by this way, when his boss casually asked when he was quitting. It was the push Robertson needed. He responded with “a month from today.” And in April 2017 — a month later — he incorporated Bellows Design.

“If Timbre hadn’t been there, I don’t know if I would have been comfortable quitting my job and taking out a loan to start my own wood shop,” says Robertson.

The shop gave him access to a network of experienced woodworkers, as well as tens of thousands of dollars in equipment (for an affordable monthly fee).

Overhead cost is one of the biggest barriers to entry when it comes to woodworking, says Timbre founder Jordan Tomnuk. “Buying a $7,000 planer and a $7,000 jointer isn’t necessarily something you can do when you’re first starting out,” he explains. “But not having them impedes the quality of work."

'If Timbre hadn’t been there, I don’t know if I would have been comfortable quitting my job.'

Mark Robertson

Tomnuk should know. Four years ago, he found himself in that exact situation — struggling to access affordable space and equipment. Until he found a building owner willing to lease him both. Together they grew Timbre into what it is today.

Over the summer, Timbre relocated to a former frozen dough factory in Edmonton’s east end. The new 6,000-square-foot shop space will accommodate twice as many woodworkers and help diversify Timbre’s offerings. In addition to artist studios, Tomnuk will start offering workshops and drop-in programming.

Timbre isn’t the only place in Edmonton where aspiring makers can refine their skills. Here’s a list of resources for the creatively inclined entrepreneur:

DIY Workshop: This family-run shop runs workshops and provides space for all kinds of creative projects. It is equipped with a vehicle maintenance bay, full woodworking shop, metalworking facilities (welding, cutting, grinding), CNC equipment and a 3D printer.

SNAP Gallery: In addition to offering classes and workshops, SNAP offers drop-in sessions and printshop rentals to its members. SNAP’s facilities include intaglio, offset lithography, relief, silkscreen, a digital media room, a darkroom (for photographers), and the only publicly accessible letterpress in Northern Alberta.

Bedrock Supply: Not only can you pick up all your jewelry-making supplies at this retail shop located off Argyll Road, but the studio space is open to the public during non-class hours for a very reasonable price. Available equipment includes: soldering torches, casting equipment, polishers, kiln.

House of Sew: The House of Sew offers affordable studio space rentals with or without equipment.

Art Gallery of St. Albert: On select Sundays during the winter the AGSA offers open studio sessions to current or previous clay program participants and guild members.

Be sure to check out Part one and Part three for the full story!

Next month, in our third and final installment Edmonton Made will highlight resources for setting up your full-time business. Can’t wait? Our friends at the Graphic Designers of Canada Alberta North chapter are hosting a workshop and talk on how to transition into a full-time creative career on Thursday Nov. 15. For more information visit their website.

Bellows Design
Bellows Design

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