My name is Julia and I'm the owner, maker, and solo-preneur behind Topaz & Pearl jewelry. Two weeks ago, I started traveling full-time while operating my business from my tiny home on wheels (a Ram Promaster self-converted into an RV).
So, what's it like to make jewelry and ship orders from a van?
- Organization is KEY - It's a big difference from having a stationary studio with space to spread out. When I work, everything has to be brought out and put away again. I thought about how I'd organize my business stuff for months before we packed a single thing inside Bertha (that's the name of our van BTW!). I organized all of my supplies by task and what is frequently used together. This saves me so much time and the hassle of opening every single one of our storage bins looking for a tool!
- Weather impacts ability - Luckily for me, I haven't had any issues yet but I can see how a streak of bad weather could be difficult. I'm on a schedule of shipping orders 2-3 days per week, and each time I need to open up our back doors to retrieve my supplies, bring them around to the side door where I can easily move in and out of the van and use my counter space for working. If it were to be raining or anything that prevented me from working in this semi-outdoors environment, I'd have to put off my work until the weather improved.
- Inventory matters - I keep a mix of ready-made and made-to-order inventory. This will be different for every business, but I've found that there are certain things that just don't make sense for me to make-to-order. I have to be conscious that I don't make too many of those where I run out of space, but enough that I can ship them regularly for several months before making another big batch. Other items (like my custom birthstone necklaces) must be made to order every time.
- Widdle it down - Speaking of inventory, have I told you that a van is a TINY space to live in, let alone run a business out of? I have to be super careful with my inventory which includes finished products and raw materials. I keep a smaller amount of materials on hand than I used to in my studio, and in turn, have made my designs more focused on using a common core of materials. This might sound limiting but in fact has been great for my business. I've made my designs more cohesive and retired some pieces that no longer fit with my vision moving forward. K.I.S.S. method!
Living in a tiny, mobile home doesn't mean you have to give up the things you love, and I definitely wasn't going to give up Topaz & Pearl. Running a product-based business from Bertha has been a unique challenge, but I'm glad to take it on. This lifestyle is teeming with adventure, activity, and inspiration which is great for a creative entrepreneur. So if you're considering van life, I hope this helps you see that it is truly possible to break away from the societal mold and create the life you dream of. No lifestyle or life is free of challenges, so choose which challenges you want to tackle.