Inspiring Maltese Women Who Turned Their Passion Into A Business

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Inspir­ing Maltese Women Who Turned Their Pas­sion Into A Busi­ness
Be your own boss

Most of the time a hobby stays with­in its set time con­straints, but on rare occa­sions – when a love for some­thing grows and a fine tech­nique is estab­lished – a pas­sion can grow into a solid busi­ness plan.

Lov­in Malta spoke to five inspir­a­tion­al Maltese women who quit their day job to go at it alone. They’ve shared with us – in their own words – some of the struggles, and the high points that have kept them motiv­ated to be their own boss.

1. Char­le­ne Charly’ Mer­cieca – Soap Café
Soap Café
My pas­sion for nat­ur­al and hol­ist­ic altern­at­ives fired up at the age of 16. By this tender age, I had already exper­i­enced vari­ous ail­ments includ­ing eczema, severe alo­pe­cia, IBS, extreme weight loss and weight gain, res­ult­ing in ill health. When all con­ven­tion­al treat­ments failed and I had noth­ing else to lose, I was intro­duced to the beau­ti­ful world of hol­ist­ic ther­apies. Thir­teen years later, and as a a qual­i­fied beau­ti­cian, pro­duct design­er, herb­al­ist, make-up artist and spa con­sult­ant, Soap Café was cre­ated – bring­ing togeth­er hol­ist­ic health, beau­ty, art and design.

I star­ted out by mak­ing my own nat­ur­al products for per­son­al use, and would give them out as gifts. Then friends star­ted to place orders. After that I star­ted selling in mar­kets and a couple of years later I decided to open up a shop, not necess­sar­ily because there was a huge demand for it but because it was a dream of mine to do it and to share these bene­fi­cial skin­care products. It took 5 years until I could break even! Nine years ago, things were very dif­fer­ent. The word vegan’ was some­thing com­pletely new for Malta and even though through­out the world nat­ur­al cos­met­ics were the norm, we only star­ted to see this interest in Malta in these last 3 years. So yes, it was tough, but I per­sisted.

Today we pro­duce over 50 dif­fer­ent hand­made soaps for all skin types and ail­ments, and offer vari­ous lotions, balms and scrubs for health­i­er, more beau­ti­ful skin. Most of our products are made with loc­al ingredi­ents like olive oil, goat’s milk and purées of sea­son­al loc­al fruit like prickly pear and pump­kin. Our eth­os is – Only pro­duce and use goods that are bene­fi­cial for humans, anim­als and the plan­et.”

We send our goods all over the world via our web­site, includ­ing Europe, USA and Japan. We sell goods to spas, boutique hotels and any­one look­ing for a unique pro­duct to treat them­self and their loved ones.

2. Yana Azzo­pardi – Yana’s Jew­ellery
Yana Azzo­pardi
Jew­ellery mak­ing has always been part of my life. It’s in my fam­ily his­tory – my grand­father was a gold­smith. It was a hobby through­out my teen­age years, I star­ted tak­ing jew­ellery-mak­ing ser­i­ously in 2010. Back then, hand­made jew­ellery wasn’t pop­ular in Malta so it took a while for people to appre­ci­ate hand­made designs. I took part in every single artis­an mar­ket that took place, and made sure my brand was pro­moted on the best loc­al magazines, in fash­ion shows, and through pho­to shoots.

Face­book has been an import­ant tool for expos­ure and growth. Brand­ing was another import­ant factor. Hav­ing no back­ground in this field, I teamed up with 2point3 stu­dio and they defined my image.

Back in 2013, when I was selling from home and loc­al fairs, busi­ness star­ted pick­ing up very fast. I had no base or work­shop, so I used to work from my bed­room. I was still work­ing as a social work­er, so I was jug­gling both at the same time.

My father came across a shop in Msida that seemed ideal because it was close to Juni­or Col­lege and quite a busy area. He encour­aged me to open my shop and motiv­ated me to take the next step. I took the plun­ge and star­ted sav­ing in order to set up my out­let. I spent a few months for­mu­lat­ing a busi­ness plan and when I was finally ready – I opened.

Still jug­gling a full time job and work­ing till 11pm every­day I decided that my jew­ellery busi­ness had become my pri­or­ity. I quit my job 5 months later and Inves­ted every speck of energy into it. Being your own boss is no easy task – it requires com­mit­ment, and a lot of invest­ment and plan­ning. I can say that the feel­ing is very sat­is­fy­ing when you real­ise that this only star­ted as a hobby.

Last year I exten­ded my shop and inves­ted in my dream stu­dio space. I now have a full timer and I’m in the pro­cess of employ­ing a part timer too. We will def­in­itely keep grow­ing, and hope to launch our online shop in the com­ing months.

3. Nicole Vel­la – Bobs
Mobile Upload
I’m based in my stu­dio home in Gozo, and paint mur­als, design logos and wed­ding invit­a­tions; but what I am most proud of are my Bob­let greet­ing cards and my fully cus­tom made to order, one-off ted­dies called Teddy­bobs. In the last year have I focused mainly on my art for my income. I actu­ally stud­ied Bio­logy and Chem­istry at Uni­ver­sity and worked for 3 years as a phar­ma­ceut­ic­al lab ana­lyst after fin­ish­ing my degree. But after a year of trav­el­ling, I decided to focus on my art and try to expand my busi­ness fur­ther.

Bob­lets star­ted off as doodles on my uni­ver­sity fools­caps as tiny bubble headed creatures. After a good respon­se to fam­ily greet­ing cards, I sold them at loc­al artis­an mar­kets like Patches, and later in inde­pend­ent stores. The last step was tricky as vendors see it as a risk to take in small amounts from loc­al makers, and there is also a lot of com­pet­i­tion from inter­na­tion­al sup­pli­ers.

Teddy­bobs were also born from sketches that I figured would look cute if rendered. All I had was a €20 sew­ing machine, an old pair of jeans and a lot of patience! I sell the Teddy­bobs mostly via Etsy which is an online selling plat­form focused on artis­an crafts. I work to cus­tom­er spe­cific­a­tions, and to keep the pub­lic (but mostly myself) intrigued, I nev­er rep­lic­ate a bear. That is my only rule and they are all con­sec­ut­ively numbered. I have just passed my 100th Teddy­bob. They most expens­ive Teddy­bob so far went for €170.

Pro­duct pho­tos are very import­ant as they have to catch the atten­tion of buy­ers with­in a whole search of oth­er sim­il­ar products. I’ve had to learn for myself how to mar­ket my pro­duct, find and com­mu­nic­ate with stock­ists and source and obtain afford­able mater­i­als – the actu­al design­ing and cre­at­ing my Bobs is usu­ally the least of my prob­lems. Also, sadly, it seems that artis­an appre­ci­ation in Malta is still a bit lack­ing. At artis­an mar­kets where I used to sell my ted­dies at half the price of today, I would get people try­ing to haggle and oth­ers say­ing that for that price they would rather get a Me to You’ teddy… Online plat­forms and social media allowed me to reach the right cli­en­tele.

The best part of my work is deal­ing with a new request. Under­stand­ing a demand usu­ally goes above and bey­ond com­mu­nic­a­tion – it’s a mat­ter of form­ing a per­son­al con­nec­tion and get­ting a prop­er feel for the per­son. I feel par­tic­u­larly proud and ful­filled when I get com­ments like No offence, but I think mine is the best one you’ve made so far!”.

4. Sef Far­ruġia – SEFFARRUĠIA
Sef Far­ru­gia
After tak­ing art at sec­ond­ary school, I enrolled at MCAST Insti­tute for the Cre­at­ive Arts, fol­lowed by Lon­don Col­lege of Fash­ion, and com­pleted my BA (Hons) at Ravens­bourne Uni­ver­sity in Lon­don.

As part of my end of year col­lec­tion for my degree, I pro­duced silk scarves and this grabbed the atten­tion of my peers, who sug­ges­ted I pitch these products and see how it goes. Whil­st still liv­ing in Lon­don, I gained quite a bit of interest and star­ted selling a few lux­ury accessor­ies, but after a while I decided that I needed to come back to Malta and base myself here.