Work-life balance is the proverbial white whale for everyone over the age of 16. The pressures of capitalism loom large in the rearview of all our decisions. Professionals and charlatans have staked entire careers on promising a “12 Step Guide to Perfect Home-Career Equilibrium,” and demanding that you quit your job yesterday lest your dreams become regrets. Kamilah Campbell has freed herself from this chase and has somehow achieved an even more perilous balancing act – she’s opted into another full-time job.
Mrs. Campbell would immediately correct me by saying that she had a choice. By day she’s a business analyst, but by night, she’s a renowned jewelry maker; the one-woman show behind the boutique outlet, The Pink Locket, whose work has been featured in a handful of films and editorial websites including Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post.
The Pink Locket was created as a necessary outlet from her day job, which flirts with monotony. “Corporate America takes a toll on everyone,” Kamilah explains. “There’s limited room for your creativity.” She remembered how her aunt would take her, her sister, and their cousin into the garment district in New York City, introducing her to the world of craftspeople and wholesalers. Diving into jewelry was resuscitating a part of her life that was dormant for too long.
The transition from hobby to side hustle came with the 2008 recession and the Etsy boom. After hearing time and time again that she should sell her wares, she finally followed through.
“There’s always a danger in monetizing a hobby. There’s a risk of siphoning the joy out of it,” Kamilah says. For her, it was additive. “If it doesn’t make dollars, it doesn’t make sense,” she jokes, but she admits keeping the hobby from feeling like a burden. She insists, “It takes a lot of intention and refocusing. You have to make peace with the lulls and plateaus.”
Campbell keeps things fresh by constantly experimenting. She is always on the lookout for new design challenges, piecing together inspirations from lookbooks, museums, and anywhere. She’s constantly broadening her comfort zone – her foundation was in bead and wire work, but when she hit a wall, she dived into metallurgy and never looked back.
The question however remains, how does she balance a 9-5, family time as a mother and a wife, and this successful second career as a jewelry maker?
“I’ve gotten better at it over the years,” she laughs. “A lot of early days, and some late nights.” Kamilah starts her day with a morning workout and journaling. She takes an hour to “get her mind right.” She insists this is the most important step of her day as it sets the tone for what’s to come. “If you’re starting a second business, you need to identify why it’s important to you,” she continues. She explains that you have to know your scope and be realistic. “A lot of people don’t realize you’re a slave to that (the second business) too. You can’t feel like you’re wasting your time. You’re taking time out of your personal life to grow something.”
She admits that she wasn’t immune to the “quit your day job stories” but quickly realized that everyone’s situation is different. “Everyone is paid differently,” she starts. “If you have a family, you need benefits, you need health insurance. If you quit your day job to run a business, you have to have a multi-step plan.”
Instead of quitting, Kamilah made both of her careers work for each other. In Pink Locket, she had a creative outlet that exercised parts of her brain unchallenged by her day job. The stability and income from that day job fed directly into Pink Locket allows for steady growth and investment. She’s maintained this balance for over 15 years now, with no signs of slowing down although she admits, she’s not relentlessly chasing growth. Something would have to give. Advancement in her day job would leave her with less time for Pink Locket, and she’s just about at capacity with what she can do with jewelry-making at this scale.
While it’s a business now, Pink Locket remains a gift. Jewelry-making was something her aunt shared with her, and she pays it forward. Every summer she takes on a handful of high school interns. They’re paid a decent wage and help with the simple things – packaging, etc. She’s watched teenagers come into her workshop and after a month or so, their reach had broadened significantly. They were now excited about creative careers free from cubicles. “There’s no such thing as balance, it’s about being intentional with where you’re spending your time,” she said, revealing she has no cheat code. But with this upcoming generation, maybe they can get a headstart on having one career and have it be a passion.