How I Turned My Hobby Into a Business & Did Something For Myself

Jana Blanchette is a Sudbury, MA-based mother of three who sells custom memory quilts on Pepperlane. She takes articles and pieces of clothing important to you or even of loved ones you've lost and turns them into memory quilts that last a lifetime. We spoke with Jana about how she got her business off the ground and how Pepperlane has helped her do what she loves and still have the flexibility she needs as a mother

....when I started doing my custom quilts for people I found this new energy inside of me. And in a way it almost, I think, made me a better mother. Because I had more to focus on than just my kids and my family. I was doing something truly for myself for the first time in 12 years.
— Jana

PL: How did you get your start with your quilting service?

JB: I started sewing at a young age. I was taught by my mom and I actually took a few lessons, mainly on clothes construction. But that’s not something I was truly interested in—I went to high school, college, never touched a sewing machine. After I graduated from college and I got my first tax refund, I actually spent it on a sewing machine and quilting lessons twenty years ago—I’m sure that’s what most people do with their tax refunds when they’re 21 years old. But that’s what I decided to do and I’ve been sewing ever since.

I made a lot of quilts for friends and family. Going through the baby boom with friends having kids, I was making a lot of baby quilts. But it wasn’t until four years ago when a friend reached out to me and said, “I have a friend that would like a t-shirt quilt, is that something you can do?” And I thought “Sure. I’m sure I can figure it out. How hard can that be?”

I then met the woman and she had t-shirts ranging in size from 4 inches to XXL when her son was in college. And I thought, "I can’t do this. I can’t make it like the way every other internet quilt company makes it—just cutting it the same size." I had to do something different. It forced me out of my comfort zone—and yet I did it—and it turned out beautiful and the mom and the son loved it. 

I don’t want to just make you a quilt. I want it to be something that reminds you of those special moments in your life that mean something to you, and will continue to mean something to you down the road.
— Jana

And then I just started posting things on Facebook and through word of mouth. And the next thing you know I got another client, and another client, and another client.  I think what I love about what I do is I really try to connect with the people that I’m working with. I don’t want to just make you a quilt. I want it to be something that reminds you of those special moments in your life that mean something to you, and will continue to mean something to you down the road.

A few weeks ago I was having dinner with a friend and he said to me, “Well it’ll be great when you stop making quilts for friends and you have actual customers.” And I looked at him and said, “I haven’t made one quilt for one friend. These have all been customers.”  And he’s like, “I didn’t realize that; by the way you post these things it sounds like you know them!” And I was like “Good, that’s the point, I want to get to know them because I want them to be unique and special.” So I hope that’s what I’m providing for people. And I’m loving every minute of it.

PL: How did you find out about Pepperlane?

JB: I found out about Pepperlane through a Facebook post by my friend Charlotte. My husband was out of town that night, I had a glass of wine, I read about it and I thought “Why not? I’ve got a service to sell. I think I can do this.” Business had started picking up for me, word of mouth was going well for me,  so I did it, and it’s the best thing I could have done for myself.

PL: How has Pepperlane helped your business?

JB: I feel like the exposure that I’ve gotten has been priceless. I’ve already had two customers and I’ve spoken to many more potential ones. So for me it’s been the best thing I could have done and I’m so grateful Charlotte decided to post that night.

PL: Were you planning on building a website for your business?

JB: It was one of those things that always felt too big for me. I don’t consider myself a techie and was completely overwhelmed by the thought of doing it on my own. Having this Pepperlane platform was huge for me. In the past I’d send people to my Facebook page. It wasn't a business Facebook page; it was a personal page. My quilts would get lost in the process, but doing my own website felt way beyond what I was capable of.

PL: Tell us a little about work-life balance between your family and your service business?

JB: So for so many years I’ve been a happy stay-at-home mom doing the carpool, the cooking, the cleaning, all the kids stuff. And it’s been wonderful. But when I started doing my custom quilts for people I found this new energy inside of me. And in a way it almost, I think, made me a better mother. Because I had more to focus on than just my kids and my family. I was actually doing something truly for myself for the first time in 12 years.

Jana's custom quilting is one of over 52 unique types of services sold by mothers on Pepperlane, an online platform that provides all the website you need to get off the ground and connect you with a likeminded community of people excited to support moms. We make it easy for mothers to create businesses that fit into their lives and allow them to embrace the skills and passions they already have. Do something for yourself today.