Today, it can be a rare thing to love your job. Although the American dream is to turn your passion into your profession, the truth is that a lot of people are influenced more by their paycheck than by what they truly want to be doing.
Of course, for every person who settles, there’s another with a fearless “sky's the limit” attitude and the determination to make a career out of something they love. Sometimes this may mean pursuing a nontraditional career, but it also paves the way for future generations to go after the job they truly want and deserve.
To highlight the strength of women who are pursuing their passions in the skilled trades, Bustle partnered with Your Local Ford Stores to talk to ten artisans who went all-in on their passions — from baking, to woodworking, to jewelry-making. Read on to learn more about their inspiring stories, and how loving your job can be more fulfilling than just a paycheck.
1. Kristen: Founder & Principal Designer for Alma Homes
As a kid, Kristen loved art and math, and dreamed of a career that combined the two. When she was in the eighth grade, her dad bought her 3D modeling software, prompting her to spend the entire summer designing cabins and realize her passion for design and architecture. After graduate school and a stint working as a custom home builder solidified her decision to stay in the design and construction business, she eventually went on to start her own company, Alma Homes. The boutique firm specializes in the design and construction of high-end new homes and large-scale remodels. While there are so many things to love about her job, the first that comes to mind is its tangibility.
“At the end of the day, you can physically see the fruits of your labor and walk through a house that you dreamt up in your head, which is a very surreal feeling,” Kristen says. “My other favorite part is getting to work with amazing clients and bring their ideas to life in a way that is not only beautiful, but practical and enhances their daily life.”
2. Dana: Pastry Chef & CEO of Dana’s Bakery
Despite studying photography in college and going on to have a successful career as a photo editor, Dana realized she ultimately wasn’t passionate about her profession. Knowing she loved to bake, Dana decided to explore the trade by quitting her job to enroll in culinary school. There, she fell in love with French macarons, but knew there was a way to leave her own stamp on the popular desserts.
Today, the trained pastry chef is also the CEO of Dana’s Bakery, a bakery specializing in the beloved French treat — but with an authentic, American twist. Her career allows her to create original desserts on a daily basis, and serve them nationwide.
“I love waking up everyday and loving what I do — even though I work 24/7,” Dana says. “I enjoy it because I’m crazy about the work my team and I are doing. And speaking of team, I surround myself with people who are as passionate about Dana's Bakery as I am. There are no words for how inspiring that is.”
3. Erin, Electrical Apprentice
Erin is in the fifth and final year of her electrical apprenticeship as an Inside Wireman, where she works mainly in industrial settings. Though her day-to-day work constantly changes, in general she installs, replaces, maintains, and troubleshoots electrical equipment. Before joining the apprenticeship, Erin was working as a kayak guide. She was encouraged to apply for the position not really thinking she’d get in, but knew she had to give it a try once she was accepted. Shortly after beginning, she realized she loved the work.
“I like working with my hands and moving all day and facing new challenges,” Erin says. “One day I could be wiring a control cabinet at a paper mill, and the next I’m setting switchgear in a mine or running conduit in a powerhouse. I can’t imagine going to the same place every single day for years, sitting at the same desk, and doing the same task.”
Before joining the apprenticeship, Erin felt her options were super limited and encourages other women to explore their options beyond a college degree: “[An apprenticeship] is an unbelievable opportunity and I think young people should be better educated on apprenticeship options.”
4. Alexa: Leather Craftswoman
After graduating with a degree in art history, Alexa realized she wanted to create art of her own and decided to enroll in a furniture design program. Today, furniture-making has evolved into leatherwork: Her handmade creations including bags, home decor, and belts are available for purchase in select stores and online. The leather craftswoman is unsure what she’ll create next, but the more she learns, the more passionate she becomes and the more her creativity grows.
“I love my job because no two days are ever the same,” Alexa says. “I get to be an artist, designer, and maker. I find my work both challenging and fulfilling, and the breadth of creativity I am required to call upon day-to-day keeps my work exciting.”
5. Kristine: Designer, Founder & CEO of K-DEER
As the founder, CEO, and designer of K-DEER, an American-made, high-performance activewear brand, Kristine is both the creative visionary and the business backbone of the company. After studying fashion in college, Kristine worked in Manhattan in various positions before eventually losing her job. She took up hot yoga as she looked for her next role, prompting her to design a style of shorts for the sweaty practice that turned out to be a hit with her friends and others in the yoga world. Her business, K-DEER, was born from a personal need and the lack of options in the new activewear market.
At the beginning, Kristine wore all the hats of her company — hand-cutting and sewing each pair of shorts ordered, while also managing the operations, shipping, customer service, and marketing. Going all-in on her passion wasn’t as much of a decision as it was a calling, she says: “As soon as I began getting feedback that what I made was making others happy, I knew I was onto something. … When your career allows you to do something you love, you wake up fired up and go to bed satisfied.”
6. Erica: Jewelry Maker and CEO
Sometimes it takes knowing what you don’t want to realize what you really want to do. For Erica, it was working crazy hours in corporate fashion that left her feeling burnt out. She found solace from her job and her failing marriage by spending time at home, making jewelry. Soon, people were asking to buy her creations.
She left her job for good, switching gears completely to start her business, Erica Sara Designs. Today, she designs and creates jewelry, often fulfilling custom orders so her customers can have unique, memorable pieces.
“When I realized I could support myself doing something I loved, and answer to myself and my customers, I knew it was time to go all-in,” she explains. “I love creating… I love that I get to turn [my ideas] into something real, and share that with others.”
7. Jen: Pastry Chef & Founder of Piece of Love Pastries
After working for years in an office job at a non-profit company, Jen realized that while she loved helping people, sitting at a desk all day left her with a void... which she filled by baking. She’d bake cakes for office birthdays, and for all of her friends and family. Baking had become her creative outlet, and she felt happiest in the kitchen. Eventually she realized she wanted to go all-in on her passion, retiring her office wardrobe and permanently replacing it with aprons and oven mitts. Today, Jen is a pastry chef and the founder of Piece of Love Pastries, a small business focused on custom baked goods of all kinds.
“I love the challenges my job presents me, the creativity it forces me to exercise, and the joy baked goods bring to other people,” Jen says. “Being able to concoct a crazy cake, confection, or pie and know I'm making someone's day brighter makes [all the hard work] totally worth it.”
8. Laura: Woodworker
Laura trained as an architect and went to art school for a year, but after graduating and settling into a job that seemed perfect, she found herself dissatisfied. Almost by accident, she discovered a woodworking program and was drawn into the craft: The immediacy of feedback, the interaction with the material, and the blending of function, material, and technique. She fell in love with woodworking, and eventually turned her break from architecture into a whole new career. Today, she works as both a designer and maker of one-off wooden furniture at Yaffe Mays, and as a teacher, sharing her knowledge of woodworking with others.
“I love the making process, from an inkling to an object,” she explains. “I love the problem-solving along the way — making a bunch of parts and fitting them together into something meaningful, something that can communicate with others. I also love teaching, guiding others on their
9. Alyssa: Leathersmith & Founder of Grooves & Grain
Though she'd always worked in retail positions and maintained art as a hobby, Alyssa stumbled across a dusty little leather shop while visiting her parents in South Carolina and was inspired. After talking with the shop owners about her passion for sewing and fashion design, she made the decision to move to the south to become their apprentice. Once she felt she had acquired the skills to move forward, she moved back to Vermont and started her own business. Now as the single pair of hands behind handcrafted leather goods company Grooves & Grain, Alyssa approaches leatherwork from a groovy, wearable art perspective while also maintaining a focus on fashion, and sustainability. Owning her own business gives her the freedom to be creative, and provides the opportunity to collaborate with other female entrepreneurs within Burlington’s art community.
“Totally going your own way can be really scary, but also amazingly rewarding when you feel yourself getting somewhere,” Alyssa says. “When you absolutely love what you are doing, those challenges and scary moments are welcomed and exciting.”
10. Bronwen: Designer & Owner of Bronwen Jewelry
Bronwen has been rooted in the outdoor industry for as long as she can remember — she spent many years working as an instructor for wilderness schools. But after falling into jewelry-making purely as a hobby, she started selling her pieces, slowly gaining the traction and confidence to pursue her passion full-time.
With Bronwen Jewelry, Bronwen creates jewelry for active women like herself — those who love to wear jewelry, but need what they wear to be durable and mesh with their love for outdoor pursuits. Although the challenge of running a small creative business in a highly competitive space can be difficult, it’s an equally thrilling endeavor.
“I love that my profession is also the source of my creative energy flow,” Bronwen says. “Along with being a mother, this creative outlet is a life-sustaining force, and without it parts of my spirit would be diminished.”
This post is sponsored by Your Local Ford Stores.