On a busy Sunday afternoon, Liz Scott chatted with customers about her wares at the Lakeside Local Makers Market.
Known as The Patchwork Punk, Scott creates handmade pillows, figurines and bags from her home in Mechanicsville and sells them at local markets around town.
It’s a far cry from her former job as a cake decorator at BJ’s Wholesale and, before that, as a shift manager at Taco Bell.
Scott was one of 47 million people who left or changed jobs during the pandemic, also dubbed the great resignation. But instead of starting a new gig, Scott used his stimulus checks to buy a new “fancy” Singer sewing machine and launch his business as The Patchwork Punk.
“I’ve been sewing since I was little,” Scott said.
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During the pandemic, she started sewing masks before they were mass-produced. Once the homemade masks were no longer in demand, she started going through her old sewing patterns and found a stuffed animal pattern. “I was like, Hey, I could do this!”
She started making stuffed animals with big eyes and brightly colored anti-pilling fleece. People responded. Then she learned to make the basic structure herself. Now her stuffed animals are more complicated — she makes dinosaurs, bearded dragons, crested geckos and more, selling for between $45 and $125.
Scott started selling his items on Etsy and local marketplaces, but stopped selling on Etsy when the site increased its prices. Now she sells her items on Instagram and on her own website. But she says she sees the majority of her customers at local venues such as the Lakeside Local Makers Market and the Safe Space Market.
“The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the job market. At some point, all non-essential businesses were told to close if employees couldn’t do their jobs from home,” said Chris Chmura, CEO and chief economist at Richmond-based Chmura Economics & Analytics. “Then, when it was safe enough for more businesses to open, time away from work gave people time to consider alternatives. Some chose to seek jobs with more flexibility. Others have found new careers, alternative employers, or even created a new startup.
“Workers often contemplate such changes during their careers, but the pandemic has given them a quiet place to incubate the next chapter of their lives.”
According to the US government, more than 472 million payments totaling $803 billion in financial relief have been made to households affected by the pandemic. In Virginia, more than $19 billion in stimulus checks have been paid out to households during the pandemic.
Most households spent their first stimulus check on basic necessities, according to data from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, while the second and third stimulus checks were saved or used to pay down debt.
And some recipients, like Scott, have used it to start their own business. But it wasn’t all easy for Scott. Now 37, she had to move back to her father’s home in Mechanicsville to make ends meet. And she works harder than she ever has before. But it’s worth it, she says.
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When she worked as a shift supervisor at Taco Bell, she said she drove to work one morning and was so fed up with the inconvenient hours and low pay that she dreamed of driving through traffic. coming in the opposite direction.
“I got off at the next exit, called, and left my job,” Scott said.
After that, she moved on to a job decorating cakes at BJ’s Wholesale. But again, she faced the same problems: inconvenient hours and low pay. Although she worked part-time, she said she had to work up to seven days a week.
“That was the breaking point for me. I was like, ‘This isn’t going to work for me,'” Scott said.
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She tried to look for another job, but couldn’t find one. “I realized, ‘I have to hustle,'” Scott said. It was then that she launched The Patchwork Punk.
Scott said she would like to make enough money to have her own home, but with rising rental prices around Richmond – which are now reaching $1,300 a month in the metro area, according to data from the CoStar Group – she does not. think it will happen soon.
Either way, the job change was worth it, Scott said.
“Before that, I had never been satisfied with the work I was doing. It was never something creative. It was catering and retail. I’m just sick of it,” she said.
Now she gets creative on a daily basis. Whether she’s shopping for hard-to-find fabrics at local quilting stores like Quilting Adventures on Lakeside Avenue or branching out into new merchandise like bags made from recycled materials, every day is a new challenge, mental and physical. Scott hopes to grow his business and is saving up to buy an embroidery machine.
“I work harder and longer for less money, but I don’t want to drive in oncoming traffic anymore,” she said. “And I’m starting to be close to making the same money as before the pandemic.”
PHOTOS: Punk Patchwork