Ten Things To Know About My Career

Ten Things To Know About My Career, Kelly Hogaboom of Bespoke Hogaboom

I am a designer, a writer, a Creative web developer, and a mentor and teacher for ethical artpreneurships. All four of these major branches of Bespoke Hogaboom contribute significantly to my income (2021 ratio: 31%, 7%, 18%, and 37% resp.).

So yes I am very busy – I also have a partner, two sons in college, I engage in volunteer work and a hobby or two! – and I rarely slow down enough to introduce or re-introduce myself, or give a status report as to how work life is going.

So here’s that status report – and some background!

I hope you learn something new.

  1. I started small. REAL small!
    I started my business officially in 2017 and initially I planned a family-friendly art side hustle. We raised our children and we lived our lives as radical unschoolers (we still live this way!), which for many years meant one income for four people and involved a move to find a lower cost of living – so we could survive.

    So when I started my business a few years after this move – and as our children began to require less of my physical and emotional labor – my goals were modest. I wanted to fund my art practice, I wanted to prove that a Creative, fair-wage and ethical business was viable, and I wanted to maybe bring in a little grocery money. When I got serious about business education two years later, everything changed and I quickly developed into a REAL business. Weirdly (but I should have seen this coming) my family-friendly entrepreneurship evolved into a business friendly to chronic illness, which amongst other things means it is a very strong business.

    This is where I sit today. It feels like things happened rather quickly – and wonderfully. You can see why I mentor Creative entrepreneurs and why I teach a course. I’ve built a paradise and I want to provide that blueprint to anyone else who’s interested – and truly ready to give it a go.

  2. I am more prolific than you can probably imagine.

    Yes, I am one of those people that regularly hears, “I don’t know how you do as much as you do!” I believe this is usually meant as a compliment. But some people use my productivity to make it about them: focussing on their own (perceived or real) lack of productivity. I find this discouraging, even rude. I don’t compare myself to others’ output and product, because ultimately to do that is to make their artistic life all about me. If there’s one thing I try not to do to another artist, it’s co-opt their work for my own narrative.

    My productivity and output are gifts, they are temporary as everything is, and I recognize them as such: direct functions of the health and physical security I am privileged to enjoy, as well as functions of my drive and resultant actions that connect very deeply to my purpose. I do not take my current abilities for granted, and the flip side of that is I allow myself to grieve my misfortunes and liabilities, before setting myself back on the path. This is why I can produce so much wonderful work. It’s not magic – or if it is, it’s magic deep within us all. No matter our circumstances each of us, over time, can move closer to our purpose, and – even though difficult, at times arduous or even tortuous or an inch-at-a-time – that is never wasted effort. Our life blooms, as a result. Productivity, quantity, even quality – aren’t really the point.

  3. My first-ever business advisor told me to “not bother”.

    In the early 2000s I went to my first-ever entrepreneur talk, by a white South African businessman who’d made his fortune in software before buying a multi-million dollar home to retire to in the white, affluent community where he now lived. When he went around the room at this business talk and I was asked what kind of enterprise I wanted to start, he flat-out told me my idea wasn’t viable. He said – and I quote: “Save your pin money!” He was wrong about that and he was wrong about me and I wish I hadn’t believed him, just because he had more wealth and status and spoke to me in this dismissive way.

    This is probably the only place in this piece I’ll venture into advice but it’s important; look far and wide and find a mentor who has a greater vision than men like this, a mentor who’s got a bigger vision than yours too, look for a mentor grounded in ethics – and look for a mentor who encourages you. Look for that person like your life depends on it! (It does!)

  4. I do exactly what I want.

    My Creative peers know I am constantly hewing my work life into what best benefits myself, my Creative drive, my family, my community, and the planet at large. Truly (as of this writing) I don’t want to give up any of it: the design and clothier work, the writing, nor teaching new entrepreneurs how to build their strongest, most thrilling fantasy business. I’ve occasionally been coached to pivot to the most financially lucrative arms of my business and let the other efforts go and I’ve crunched the numbers again and again (seriously, I use this big awesome spreadsheet) and I know this is exactly the mix I want. For now.

  5. I do a LOT of work at no cost.

    I was encouraged by several business mentors to refrain from saying I do things “for free” because then people devalue my skillset. Boy is that true, as much as I wish it weren’t so!

    This is a constant source of tension in my life because the truth is, an awful lot of my business structure is giving forward. I provide couture and expert sewing and design education through my kellyhogaboom Instagram accountVimeoTwitch, and Discord server (email me if you’d like a link)! I host high-caliber business education and discussion salons on my bespokehogaboom Instagram account and on my blog. And finally, I create custom couture and fashion gifts for trans, nonbinary, and gender expansive peeps at no cost to them (I call this last very small-scale, very awesome program THE TINY HORROR HUG CLUB).

    Because I do so much giving, I get the occasional person who sends me angry messages that I don’t do more work for free or dirt cheap. Seriously – it is rare but it happens! These kinds of individuals are in that perpetual-victimhood headspace, and they think nothing of splashing their misery on other people. Unpleasant as they try to make life for others, it’s also pretty unpleasant for them to live that way. I bless them and let them go, as the saying goes.

  6. I loathe social climbing – always have, probably always will.

    Most my clients are working-class. Others have disposable income. And a fair few trickling in are celebrities or on their way there: bona-fide, established blue-checkers with high visibility work and careers.

    But there is this kind of middle-ground of influencers or would-be celebrities trying to make a name for themselves (nothing wrong with that!) while trampling all over perceived underlings or stepping stones to get there (there is something wrong with that)! These people don’t slow down to focus on me as a human being, they don’t respect my process – they just grab at me demanding I make a bid for their dollar or take on their promotional opportunity (no thanks!). These are the types of people who will tweet me something like, “Kelly I NEED you to make me [dream garment or art piece], price is no object !!” and these are almost always, without fail, the same people who will ghost if I send them a link for a meeting. Some of them say things like, “Don’t you know who I am, I am [author] who wrote [book] that’s being made into a show on [streaming service]!!”

    I’m over it.

    For that reason – and others – I treat every single potential client exactly the same. I direct them to sign up for my waitlist, and everyone is on the same list. Like all custom makers, I sometimes slip people in off-menu too – because as a custom artpreneur my schedule will open up at random times due to supply chain issues, reschedules, or any number of things – but really anyone has a chance of that last-minute kind of opportunity. It could be that I’m excited to design for your film premiere. It could be that I’m excited to fix your jean hem because I’ve been feeling blue, and jean repair gives me some quick and easy dopamine!

    All this to say, while I love the opportunity to work with higher-profile projects and I know that high-profile projects may benefit me a great deal, my pulse doesn’t rise a beat depending on who reaches out. I’m too seasoned to fall for star-fuckers or deal-chasers.

  7. My dream would be to self-support via my writings.

    If you’re reading here, there’s a good chance you are already financially investing in my work on a regular basis. I appreciate that so much – and I fully express that appreciation regularly!

    If not, I hope you consider financially supporting my efforts. Becoming a yearly Member here, is my most ardent Ask. I am a faithful writer who provides weekly content that people find helpful. Perhaps even more importantly, when you support me you support a lot more than just me. I give forward to a lot of wonderful causes and a whole host of other Creatives (see #8). If I earn enough through my writings I will be able to more creatively and powerfully deliver my couture, website design, teaching and business mentoring skills to where it will make the most difference.

    If you won’t financially invest in my writings, my second ask (again, if you have the bandwidth) would be that you promote me as a guest on podcasts or press. In particular I’d love to talk about the topics of ethical entrepreneurship, art entrepreneurship, vegan entrepreneurship, Creative drive and Creative small business. I am a seasoned interviewee, and so to be featured on a podcast or in a press piece is a wonderful way to get the right people to know about my work. Please remember: I do not pay for ads and I do not do corporate sponsorships or affiliate codes. So word of mouth and organic reach, is the ONLY way anyone will see my work.

    Just know that your introduction and connection, could mean the world to me and my family.

  8. My Discord server is legendary.

    Founded in 2020, I’ve created a Discord community (BASIC BINCHES) that is an absolute gem. The reason it’s a fantastic and unique space, is that it’s a service server. Members are encouraged to think about what they’re giving to the group, instead of only what they’re getting. Because of the unique nature of this community, it has a healthy in- and outflow of people, and the most committed and invigorating people are the ones who stay. My goals for my server are for the environs to be healthy, not for it to have a huge membership. It’s an incredible ecosystem and I’m very proud of it: I feed, water and tend to this space with great care. It’s perfect like it is – but in case you’re interested, we have room for one or two more Creatives who are ready to invest in others.

  9. I would pay cash money to never again be tagged in an “it has pockets!” meme.

    Let’s get real, part of the reason women’s clothing doesn’t have pockets is due to sexism and patriarchal fashion norms etc etc which women love to talk about and tag me in on, but part of the reason women’s fashion doesn’t have pockets is due to the glut of exploitation of garment workers in the global south and our domestic marginalized workforce – a topic MOST Americans want to ignore. Let’s call a truce and please just leave me out of the pocket discourse. Yes, everything I make has pockets – unless the client doesn’t want them.

    Second to “it has pockets” the meme I’m most tired of, are the jokes about family using my good fabric scissors to cut paper. This may have literally never happened in my entire sewing career? My family respects my tools and asks before using them, because I deserve that respect – and I respect their properties, as well. It’s none of my business if other family structures don’t take the craft seriously, but we certainly do in my household.

    (If I sound a bit grumpy: that’s okay. I’m allowed to be grumpy sometimes.)

  10. Yes, I want to know you.

    The way my mind works, the best way to connect with me is in Zoom or in person in some way. I have a horrific time tracking people with usernames and handles. Once I meet and speak with someone for a while, I am usually far more connected.

    I owe my abilities to so many teachers and mentors and Creatives, but an early influence was the Sew-Whats-New forums as helmed by Mary Wilkins. This was a group of hobbyist sewists who were there for me every step of the way, who always demonstrated so much kindness while I was clumsily bootstrapping my way into a sewing education: when we were living without food security, when I was struggling financially and in my marriage and as a new parent trying to break toxic family curses. I will never, ever forget the welcome and the practical assistance I received on that forum. I will never abandon my mission to give forward and to give freely – on the terms that best work for me and for my larger aims. And I never want anyone to be afraid to reach out. I am a designer, a brilliant entrepreneur and Creative mentor – but I am also just a home sewist and I’ll never disconnect from that foundation.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for your support.

Note: this post was adapted from my January BMC post of the same title; you can financially support my work by becoming a Member, or simply hit Follow (it’s free!) to get my Friday writings (more personal in nature, usually, than this blog). Di