A crafter and mom turned entrepreneur and professional craft designer.

I am the founder and creative behind Smart Fun DIY and have made it my mission to help others DIY their lives with a whole lot of fun!

How Jennifer Priest Got Started Crafting

I'm often asked how I got started doing crafting as a full-time business. A lot of people dream of quitting their day job and becoming a crafter. Maybe you have that dream too. If you work hard and invest in yourself by taking classes, reading, and doing research, you absolutely can create whatever kind of business you want doing whatever you want. I'm sharing my story in hopes that it inspires you but also gives you a real view that everything wasn't smooth from the get-go and the path wasn't always clear. At the end of this story I share and invite you to contact me if you have any questions.

I assure you, you can take me seriously … but how could I resist buying this burger phone while thrifting in Tennessee with my pal Heather Mann of Dollar Store Crafts?!

If you want to know more about how I got my start and how this became my business, then keep reading. If you want to know more about how Smart Fun DIY works, about my social media consulting business, Smart Creative Social, or about SMART Pin Pro™, then you can click these links to find out more about those businesses.

Let's get started:

For as long as I can remember, I have been a crafter. The first time that I sold anything was when I was 9 years old and I had a table at a craft fair in our local community. I was selling earrings that I had made out of mini glass Christmas bulbs. From a young age I always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I ended up going into the Army, getting married, having my daughter, getting divorced, and just experienced a lot of life things that led me down a path that did not involve being an entrepreneur … but the call was always there in my heart. While I was in college, I signed up to be a direct seller for a multi-level marketing scrapbooking company. I got a full-time job and tried to do my scrapbooking business on the side. I met a lot of resistance from people when they learned what I was doing, including my boss at one of the jobs.  I later learned that this kind of resistance from friends, family, and co-workers was a combination of their fear for my failure and their disappointment at their own fear of taking risks and living their dream. But I was determined to make it work. I frequented the local scrapbook stores and even taught classes during my time off. In 2005, I ended up getting a promotion and getting a job with a longer commute. I had to give up teaching the classes.

The department that hired me, which was a government agency, was corrupt. If you have had any experience with me then you know that that's not something that I would roll with. So it's not surprising that two and a half months into that job they fired me. Obviously I was not a good fit for a corrupt, crooked government agency such as that. 

I was getting my master's degree in Public Administration at the time and I tried to go to class the night I was fired but I kept bursting into tears. My pride was definitely wounded because I was very proud of how I had worked my way up in such a short amount of time to a position that usually takes a couple of years to get. But I was also very worried about how my family would get by since I was making the majority of our income at that time. My professor sent me home and instead, because I didn't want to be lonely, I went to the scrapbook store to hang out with my friends. As soon as I told the scrapbook store owner what happened, she told me that she was glad because now I could teach more classes. I felt like it was a small vision and a temporary solution. I mean, how could you make enough money to replace a full-time income by teaching craft classes?

During the time that I was in college through this point, I was also selling products and handmade items on Ebay. Because I had been doing the direct sales company classes for a couple of years, I had amassed a pretty decent-sized email list. So when I couldn't find a job because the job market was terrible at this point, I started taking teaching scrapbooking classes more seriously. I used my email marketing skills to reach out to my customers and get them to come to the scrapbook store. I tried to think of different ways to get people into the store and taking my classes. I went to lots of events and tried to be very present so that any opportunity there was to market my classes or to market the direct sales company I was selling with at the time, I would be able to take advantage of it.

I also got remarried to my husband shortly after I lost my job. That's a whole ‘nother story!

Fast forward a couple of years and I ended up teaching classes at multiple stores. At one of those stores, I saw a lady die cutting lots of shapes from the store die cut machine. She was die cutting shapes out of all different kinds of materials such as acetate and chipboard. I asked her what she was doing and she said she had a store on this new site called Etsy. I started an Etsy shop that day. After talking to some of the other instructors at that particular store as well as my clients, everybody said that I needed a Blog and a Facebook page. At that time there were only Facebook profiles and you couldn't have a page for your business so everybody just called everything a “Facebook page”. In 2007 I started my first Etsy Shop, my first blog, and my first Facebook account.

I set out to try to learn as much as I could about how to use these tools to promote my business. The main goal of my blog, my email list, and my Facebook profile we're all to promote my Etsy shop and my classes. As I learned more and more, other people in the industry started to come to me for help when they had questions about social media, blogging, and email marketing. I started to become an expert in email marketing as well. I was named a Constant Contact All-Star 6 years in a row, which meant that my emails had higher open and click-through rates than the vast majority of all of the emails sent through Constant Contact that year. I had a knack for this marketing thing!

In 2009 I got my first client. 

As I took on more and more clients, managing their social media accounts, I learned more and more about what works and what doesn't work. All of their businesses were vastly different in how they sold their product, who their target market was, and how they measured success. I also learned how to be really resourceful on a small budget as far as finding and sourcing content to share on social media. I started investing in going to conferences, attending classes, and in memberships to trade and industry groups. My entire business was built on word-of-mouth. 

In 2009 I started teaching online on a platform which is now closed. I was one of the first people teaching how to use the Silhouette electronic diecutting machine in an online space. When the platform finally closed in 2014, I had taught over 30 different classes on topics ranging from social media marketing to handmade flowers and to scrapbooking.

Over those years I was still blogging, still selling on Etsy, and even selling in person at craft fairs. I was also teaching craft classes across the United States. This visibility created lots of opportunities such as brand ambassadorships and design team positions for some of the top craft brands in the industry. As my experience as a brand ambassador expanded, I started taking on roles as design team coordinator and influencer program manager for brands.

Jennifer Priest in the ilovetocreate booth at CHA

In 2011 I ran a huge craft retreat event with a couple of business partners in Palm Springs. That event was a turning point and a big learning lesson for me; I started learning what things I really like to do and how to better use my talents to help other people. I really liked teaching other people how to do the things that I was doing. I started coaching others on how to grow their businesses with blogging, email marketing, and social media.

I started a YouTube channel in 2012, learning how to edit, produce, and distribute video online. I taught myself how to use Adobe Premiere Pro and other products in the Adobe suite, such as Photoshop.

I started a kit club to deliver scrapbooking supplies to crafters on a monthly basis. I had a lot of fun finding really unique and interesting items at an amazing price from unexpected sources. The kits that I put together for this kit club as well as for my classes were really exciting for me because people really enjoyed the generous amount of supplies in the kits as well as the special exclusive nature of what I was offering. In the interest of stocking the kits with color-coordinated, unique items, I amassed an huge inventory of supplies that took up 600 sq feet in my home plus more than half of our 3 car garage.

In 2013 our family was faced with a lot of health and personal difficulties that made me change my perspective on my business and the craft industry. I liquidated the inventory from my Etsy shop and essentially closed the shop. I stopped teaching classes. The following year, I closed my monthly subscription kit club.

In the summer of 2013 I did my first sponsored blog post. Previous to this, my blog had always been used as a way to promote my classes and my own products. In Spring of 2014, after a conversation with my friend Kathy, Crafty Chica, I started applying for sponsored posts and work with brands through networks. Within 18 months, I was named one of the top 5% performers for one of the top blogging networks in the world. In January of 2016, I was named one of the top 10 Latina bloggers to watch by NBC News . I received accolades in relation to the sponsored post work on my blog. Along the way I've met a lot of really amazing people and have been able to work with a lot of awesome brands on really fun campaigns.

Jen Cushman and Jennifer Priest at CHA 2015

In 2017 I turned my focus back towards providing education through online classes, speaking engagements, and social media. Over the last few years I've built several communities online helping businesses create videos, learn about blogging, make more money, and become experts at social media. I also transitioned from providing social media management services to providing social media strategy consulting and training. I work with a variety of clients, on contract, providing services from monthly coaching calls to managing their influencer programs to helping connect them to content creator and other brands who can help them meet their goals. I've had the opportunity to speak at lots of incredible events, such as Alt Summit, Craftcation, the Craft and Hobby Association annual trade show for over 5 years, and countless other events and conferences.   

In order to provide my clients with better service as well as to help my own business grow and flourish, I've invested in courses, conferences, and masterminds to learn and exchange ideas to stay on the cutting edge. I am currently a member of the Social Media Marketing Society, Association For Creative Industries (formerly Craft & Hobby Association), Craft Industry Alliance, and Internet Creators Guild. I regularly attend the Social Media Marketing World Conference, VidCon, and countless other conferences ranging across all types of digital media and digital marketing strategies.

On the craftier side of things, I currently work as a brand ambassador for Cricut and Adobe Express. As a freelancer, I create video and blog content for brands inside and outside of the craft industry, across food, travel, and other family related verticals.

In a three-part series on this blog I share the process that I went through I detail the transformation that I went through from being a craft hoarder to being an organized crafter. That process resulted in a philosophical change; I now have a mission to learn, share, and embody more purposeful living. The sponsors that I choose to work with, the companies who I choose to consult with, they all have a common theme; their products need to be useful, solve a problem, be respectful of the environment, and provide happiness and joy and the lives of the people who use them.

I renamed my blog Smart Fun DIY with this mission in mind. My hope is that the ideas that you see here help you feel excited about creativity, empower are you to make projects on your own, and help you to feel good about the products you're choosing to purchase with your hard-earned money. To read more about this Mission please click here.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story. My hope is that it has inspired you in some way to live your dream, to take risks, and to embrace the unexpected. You never know where you will end up! If you have more questions or you want to connect , please feel free to send me a message via Facebook.