Before coming to HBS, I thought of entrepreneurship as a solo endeavor – something you take on only if you have a newsworthy idea, unshakeable self-confidence, and a closet full of black turtlenecks. In my time in consulting and then at a rapidly growing startup, I had come to see myself as the ultimate team player and not at all as the type of person who would strike out on their own. I love getting dropped into new situations and diverse teams to solve new problems and this interest in team dynamics, problem solving, and rapid change made me think that the entrepreneurial path was not for me.

Slowly but surely though, at HBS I started to get the entrepreneurship bug. I’d be sitting in class thinking about the decisions I would make in the case protagonist’s shoes and realize with total shock that…I would want to be in that person’s shoes. Since when did I become this person that wanted to make tough decisions rather than the fixer who puts out fires and makes things happen after those decisions are made?

This slow, steady creep towards testing an idea of my own was greatly accelerated by the pandemic. The timing made for this insane combination of craving connection with friends and family, wanting to spread a little joy where possible, and feeling ready to test out some big epiphanies I’d had in the fall semester. In the HBS course Authentic Leadership Development (ALD), I had two major realizations that really changed the course of my career and honestly, I think my life in general.

  • Firstly, my job will not be the thing that fulfills me in all aspects of my life. I want to have a balance between my work, my friends, my family, and my hobbies. This is what started to get my brain ticking on the idea of a “side hustle”.
  • Secondly, I need to seek out things that I not only excel at, but that I enjoy doing.

After a year and a half of HBS cases, eight months of a terrifying pandemic, and a whole lot of introspection, it felt suddenly the next step was totally obvious (but I think the idea had been brewing for QUITE a long time). I was going to start my own side hustle and I was going to sell my favorite thing to make: greeting cards.

Plot twist! I’ve saved most of the greeting cards I’ve received, and I’ve always loved making cards for friends and loved ones for birthdays and special occasions. But… now I was going to actually put them out on the internet? For the world to see?!?!? This is where my team came in. I had thought entrepreneurship was a lonely endeavor, but in fact it did nothing but solidify who my true team is. I had to reach out to trusted friends and advisors for ideas, feedback, and advice. I had to open up in ways that were totally novel to me and to share a side of myself I hadn’t really shown before. I had to ask for help – something I historically avoid at all costs.

However, instead of feeling like a burden on those friends and family members, I feel like I’ve strengthened those relationships. In order to ask someone to trust you, you need to be vulnerable with them as well, and there aren’t a lot of ways to be more vulnerable than putting your glitter-covered doodles on the world wide web for sale. So, I got a Shopify account, made up a “punny” name for my new shop, and ordered a printer and some cardstock. That’s how Maker Scholar was born! Now I’m selling greeting cards, custom art, and really a whole lot of other stuff I make with my hands and some art supplies via Shopify and Instagram from my little home “studio” (aka my kitchen table).

It’s been amazing to see how something that started as a way to connect people over the holidays has morphed into a passion and I am so grateful for the professors and classmates at HBS that helped bring me to this point. There’s nothing I love more than getting a text from a friend who sent my cards to a loved one, telling me just how happy it made them. I have a saved photo from a friend whose grandfather has my cards displayed proudly in his home and shows it off whenever she comes over. It is so incredibly special to be able to spark those connections with a piece of cardstock that I loved making.

HBS courses like ALD, Managing Service Operations, How to Talk Gooder, and eCommerce gave me some critical hard skills to be able to start and run this small business, and I am so grateful to the professors themselves for being the people they are in and out of the classroom. When I would mention (nervously) that I had started an online greeting card business (who buys greeting cards online?!?!) I would be terrified to see an expression on their face that says, “Oh... I see.” But it was always the opposite. They jumped in head first and showed a level of excitement and commitment that really pushed me to keep going. Again, this was just another lesson in how entrepreneurship is truly a team sport.

My time at HBS has changed the way I think about the world and myself. In my first year, I started to realize that a lot of the things I enjoyed most about my work thus far – being a generalist, meeting lots of new people, asking hard questions, getting my hands dirty on a really granular project – were all elements of entrepreneurship. The issue was that I had become accustomed to a specific archetype of an entrepreneur and that archetype looked nothing like me. I didn’t want to be building the next huge international organization and I still don’t. But as my world grew with each case protagonist we met, each classmate I got to know, and each new skill I learned, I started to think that maybe in fact there was a version of entrepreneurship for me. That version looks like a side hustle that fills up my cup, strengthens and broadens my connections in life, and asks me to explore a part of myself I have mostly left hidden up until now. I’m so looking forward to seeing where that perspective takes me and my small business.