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Turning 26 this year, Sparkle first ventured into jewellery-making as a teenager in 2014, when she was exploring her own personal style and identity.

“I’d spend hours after school browsing thrift stores, Carousell, and local shops hoping to find jewellery that resonated with me,” she shared. “Unfortunately, such pieces were difficult to come by, and my long searches often left me tired and frustrated.”

Of course, she found online options, but those brands were typically based abroad and had expensive price tags and shipping to boot, which 16-year-old Sparkle couldn’t afford.

But whenever she got a piece she truly loved, wearing it made her feel so much happier and more confident.

Thus, at one point, she decided to try making her own jewellery to match her preferences without breaking the bank.

“I practiced wire weaving till my fingers were bright red and sore,” she remembered from the early days.

In 2018, Sparkle set up an Instagram account named goodbyejohanna. Still studying video production in university at the time, she shared it was done on a whim. The name was chosen based on a Sweeney Todd song that she liked.

Image Credit: goodbyejohanna

“I didn’t have any plans, I just thought it would be cool to have a space to share the photos I took of my handmade accessories—and maybe make a few online friends who shared my interest,” she said.

Suffice to say, she’s made more than a few “friends”, with more than 26,000 followers on the platform today.

A full-time creative

In 2019, Sparkle’s polymer clay designs began getting traction online. It was then that she realised she could sell them.

But it was only when she completed her studies in 2020 that she seriously pursued it as a business. With the pandemic ongoing, she spent much of her homebound days on clay work. Eventually, she thought, “Why not just give full-time a try?”

She confessed that she isn’t sure what gave her the confidence to make that decision, but believes that the support online definitely played a part.

“I still have a lot of imposter syndrome even to this day, though,” she shared. “I have this little fear at the back of my mind that customers will stop liking their purchases once they receive them, that they’ll discover my work isn’t as good as they had assumed.”

But it’s not a rational fear, as Sparkle has welcomed back many repeat customers over the past five years. She’s also participated many pop-ups and collaborated with other brands, such as FATfreq to make uniquely designed face plates for their in-ear monitors.

Making the shift from casual hobby business to an actual full-time job was not easy at all, though.

Image Credit: goodbyejohanna

As a student, any money she made felt like a lot. But running a business for extra pocket money is very different from relying on it as a primary source of income. Now, Sparkle feels a lot more pressure to make money, to keep the business sustainable.

“Running the business almost entirely on my own means that everything depends on me,” she reminded. “If I don’t work, I don’t earn money. If I’m not doing something, it doesn’t get done.”

Although entrepreneurship can be stressful and overwhelming, it’s a challenge Sparkle said she looks forward to tackling every day.

“I’ve invested a lot of time working on marketing, business strategies, pricing, finances, branding, and all that,” she proudly shared. “I’ve also invested a lot more money in business expenses and opportunities, when previously I was unwilling to spend much since my business was just a hobby.”

Standing out against the competition

Compared to other polymer clay artists, Sparkle said she is extremely slow. This may be because of her perfectionism, though that also manifests as attention to detail—something that likely draws customers to her work.

“But it can also become incredibly frustrating for me,” she said about her trait. “And it does make my process painfully slow.”

Most of her earring designs take one to three hours for the raw clay part, then another 10 to 40 minutes post-baking for drilling, sanding, and assembling.

“I also embed my earring posts within the clay instead of glueing them, as not only does it provide a neat and clean finish, I find embedding to be an extremely secure method of attaching posts,” she said.

Image Credit: goodbyejohanna

At pop-ups, Sparkle has heard people say her designs are very intricate, unique, and striking, and that they have never seen polymer clay jewellery in a darker style before. She believes it’s her recognisable style that makes her stand out, at least to her particular brand of consumers.

“While darker-style polymer clay jewellery is not unique to me of course, I do think such things are more on the uncommon side in Singapore, and people who are more into that aesthetic may gravitate towards my brand,” she said.

Sustaining her business in the long run

One of Sparkle’s biggest challenges as an entrepreneur is having to manage almost every aspect of the business on her own while also avoiding burnout.

“I don’t think I’ve fully overcome this. It’s still something of a tightrope walk for me, struggling to maintain work-life balance while still doing everything I need to do to keep the business going,” she said.

Other than time management, Sparkle is also working on expanding her product range, further delving into items such as pins, brooches, and even custom pet tags. She’s also testing out bag charms and small ornaments.

Image Credit: goodbyejohanna

She also said that she’s dreamt of getting into metalsmithing for a decade, but always gets intimidated by the huge learning curve and somewhat high cost.

“However, I recently took the plunge and tried a beginner metalsmithing course, and absolutely fell in love with the craft,” she shared.

For now, she aims to practise what she’s learnt and eventually pick up more advanced techniques. In time, she hopes to incorporate certain metal components with her clay pieces.

“I’ve got a long, long way to go before I can even think of selling what I make, but if I do end up developing my metalsmithing skills to that point, I would love to someday branch out into fine jewellery as well,” she added.

However, Sparkle admitted that she doesn’t know how long this type of job will be sustainable for her.

“I don’t know what the future holds for me and the brand,” she opened up. “Although it’s a lot of work and it can be very exhausting, this is my dream job. I love what I do, I’m having a blast, and ideally I would like to continue for years and years.”

  • Learn more about goodbyejohanna here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about startups here.

Featured Image Credit: goodbyejohanna

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© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)

Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)