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Two Gering craft vendors share how the pandemic launched their careers
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Two Gering craft vendors share how the pandemic launched their careers

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With holiday parties and get-togethers around the corner, a new conversation starter that has already become quite popular for small talk is asking about one’s “pandemic hobby” or “COVID project.” But the interesting thing is that many have turned into side hustles.

According to LendingTree’s study, 48% of those who started a hobby in the pandemic turned it into a side hustle, and those kinds of individuals can be found right here in the WyoBraska area. From soap makers to macramé artists, small, local businesses have been popping up all over, originally starting out as “pandemic projects” and blossoming into entrepreneurial careers.

Here are a few more local businesses that opened up while the rest of the world was shutting down.

K Mill Iron & Co Jewelry

Kassadie Rahmig, of Gering, is a full time student at WNCC, working toward her business degree. She started out her college career in at University of Nebraska, Lincoln, when COVID hit and sent her online. She moved back home to the family ranch south of Gering and was looking for a hobby to do during her downtime while remote learning.

“My boyfriend and I were walking around Hobby Lobby, and I was like, ‘I need to find something to do.’ So, I found this (jewelry) stuff. And I was like, ‘that sounds like a lot of fun,’” she said. “So, he came home one night, brought the starter kit said, ‘Here you go. Have fun.’”

Rahmig began to make hand-stamped jewelry and accessories. She started making stuff for family and friends, and then decided she’d build a website and sell her work.

“It’s just blossomed,” she said. “I still do primarily custom orders but I started, I think it was this summer in August, doing craft fairs.”

Rahmig, who had gone to all kinds of craft fairs as a child with her mom and grandma, said it was a different feeling to be on the other side of the booth.

“I’ve always been a crafty person,” she said. “My grandma Terry, she’s since passed, but she was a very crafty person. We’d go scrapbooking all the time. I learned how to knit in middle school, so I know how to knit. I always made those little knotted bracelets, and I always dreamt of setting up a little booth with the little bracelets, but I knew that was never going to happen, but I never expected this to be this big for sure.”

3 Dirty Boys

Sydni Closson, has been an insurance agent for the last five and a half years, has a family of three boys with her husband Alex in Gering. Her children have always had sensitive skin, so she had decided to look into making soap from goat milk to use for them.

As her family grew, she decided she would try selling the soap on small scale as a side business to make a little extra cash to put toward buying a house or family vacations. She began to sell her soaps on March 1, 2020.

“My main intent was that we were in the process of buying a house, and it was a way to make some extra funds,” she said. “…It was never meant to be a full time job, but I told myself that I would revisit it if I ever was turning away orders.”

When COVID hit, she spent a lot of her time at home with her children doing as much remote work as she could; however, she still ended up with a lot of time on her hands, so she began to research other products.

“I did a lot of research … I like to bake, and it’s a lot like baking. The only difference is the chemical aspect,” she said. “I self-taught everything. It was a lot of trial and error and testing.”

Closson began making lip balms, soy candles, beard balms and dough bowl candles. With the extra time, she was able to try more things. She had never expected her business to boom like it has.

“It was supposed to be smaller, but then it exploded through COVID,” she said. “At the end of December (2021), it will be my full time job.”

Without the pandemic

Many of these business owners agreed that they wouldn’t be where they are today without the pandemic. Some wouldn’t have found the following and taken off the way they did.

“When I first started, I thought I was doing OK. I didn’t know how it would be perceived by everybody. But then the world blew up, and I was nervous because I had invested in lot of money in oils. But to be honest, I never had an issue; I’ve never had slow month.”

Some of them probably wouldn’t have even started at all.

“I don’t think (my business would have happened), Rahmig, of K Mill Iron & Co Jewelry, said, “because I wouldn’t have even thought about doing it, had it not been for the shutdown and me being bored at home.”

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Reporter

Olivia Wieseler is a reporter with the Star-Herald. She can be reached at 308-632-9051 or by emailing olivia.wieseler@starherald.com.

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