From secondary work to business generating $25 thousand a month

It’s Tuesday night and Liz Chick is in her studio in Brooklyn, New York, watching Ella Emhoff, the stepdaughter of US Vice President Kamala Harris, teach twentysomethings how to do something called dot painting.

Running the studio, called RecCreate Collective, is Chick’s dream job, he says. Several nights a week, Chick, often sporting a quilted jacket she dyed with avocado pits, hosts instructors who teach knitting, collage, painting and sculpture classes for up to 45 people.

It’s also the most lucrative job he’s ever had, says Chick, 27. In January, just ten months after hosting its first class, the studio made $25,000 in revenue, according to documents reviewed by CNBC Make It. RecCreate has been profitable since December and Chick pays herself a salary of about $5,500 per month, he says..

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To get his business off the ground, Chick took “windowless office” jobs, transported art supplies back and forth to his fourth-floor walk-up, and hoped he would eventually get paid for his art.

She also had abnormal luck. In 2022, Chick won $50,000 in a drawing that she didn’t even know she had entered, providing her with the start-up money she needed to rent the physical studio space and launch her business.

The unexpected injection of cash was a lifesaver. “I would never work in an office again…I hope I never have to,” Chick says. “It feels amazing to be able to make a living doing my dream job. I think there are very few people who can say that.”

Creating a balancing act

As a teenager in the Chicago metropolitan area, Chick saved, bleached, and sold high-waisted jean shorts to YouTube influencers, he says. “I always wanted to be an entrepreneur,” she says, adding, “I’ve been doing creative projects on the side, trying to turn them into a business for years and years and years.”

At age 18 he moved to New York to attend Parsons School of Design. When she graduated in 2019, entry-level design strategy jobs were difficult to find, so she took a salaried desk job at a local park. The pay was poor and the office was dimly lit, Chick says.

Liz Chick at RecCreate Collective’s Brooklyn studio

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Without a professional creative outlet, Chick created a personal one. He began dyeing fabrics using natural elements such as avocado pits, onion skins, and dried flowers. He set up a pop-up shop in his 12-by-14-foot bedroom, selling dyed beeswax wraps—like saran wrap, but made of wax-coated fabric—to his friends.

Soon, Chick was selling tie-dyed patchwork jackets and bags at pop-up flea markets in New York on weekends. She hopped jobs to finance those artistic endeavors: first she worked in marketing and then as an environmental educator, tutor and babysitter.

“I really needed to work because I’ve always supported myself,” Chick says. “[But] “It was so clear to me… I felt like I had to find the jobs with the least resistance while working on my own things.”

lucky breaks

Chick’s artistic side hustle cost him most of his free time and salary, and required manual labor. At night, he dyed fabrics in 20-quart pots, which were so heavy that he had to ladle the water out instead of pouring it into a strainer, he says.

After a breakout event in 2022, it reached a breaking point. “I carried all my stuff up to the fourth floor and laughed ridiculously,” she says. “When I walked into my apartment, my roommate said, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ Yo [realized] the number of hours of unpaid work I had been doing for years.

Chick needed a physical space. When he started looking for studios to rent, he had a great opportunity: he received an email saying that he had won $50,000 in a sweepstakes organized by Earnest, a San Francisco-based private student loan provider and refinancer.

She unknowingly entered the competition while researching possible rates to refinance a student loan, she says. After taxes, she pocketed approximately $30,000, what she calls a “life-changing amount of money.”

The funds came in handy when, nine months later, he found the perfect studio space. She began renting it for $2,800 a month in March 2023 and was subletting it while she worked out a plan for RecCreate Collective.

“I’ve never had jobs that allowed me to have savings, much less a sizable fund to invest in something,” Chick says.

‘Vibrations are expensive’

Back in the studio, Chick watches Emhoff teach assistants how to use duplicate stitches, which are placed on top of existing ones, to embed images into knitwear. They sit on folding chairs in front of brightly colored taper candles, drinking tea and chatting as they work.

It was expensive to make the space look welcoming and creative. “Vibrations are expensive,” Chick jokes.

RecCreate Collective attendees in dot painting class

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I started Insomnia Cookies in college and it now generates over $200 million a year.

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