Turning a hobby into a business

Reading: Turning a Hobby Into a (Booming) Business

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Turning a Hobby Into a (Booming) Business

This stay-at-home mom gave homemade condiments to friends. Then she caught the reinvention bug

By Lisa Kava

Like many women who find themselves at a crossroads in midlife, Claire Gorayeb has her own reinvention story where she successfully turned a hobby into a business. A single mom of two, she left her successful marketing job when her girls were young to immerse herself in full-time motherhood — walking the girls to and from school daily, investing her time in school activities, volunteer work, and attending their performances and sporting events. 

Then, just as her girls became young adults, and it seemed her caregiver days were over, Gorayeb’s parents began to suffer from health issues, each needing her daily care. When her parents passed away, after 25 years of caring for others, she needed something of her own. It was time for a new beginning and she was ready for her next chapter.

As someone who enjoyed creating preserves and sauces simply because she liked “capturing something special and putting it in a jar,” it was a natural choice to turn this interest into a full-fledged business. She went from making homemade jam from berries she picked in the summer to launching ClaireMade in September 2023. Thanks to a very supportive community, Gorayeb was able to completely rethink her career path and follow her passion.  

ClaireMade features homemade condiments — za’atar blend, chili crisp, and spicy catsup — all made from organic ingredients and cooked by Gorayeb, and sold online or shipped nationwide. If you’re in New York City, you’re in luck: She also sells in person at a local Sunday market called Grand Bazaar near her home on the Upper West Side.

CoveyClub caught up with Gorayeb to learn more about her reinvention story. The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

CoveyClub: How did you decide the time was right to start a small business? 

Gorayeb: I hadn’t had time to even think about my own interests for years. My mom got sick when my older daughter was in high school. She had some heart issues and declined quickly. After she passed away, my dad started to show signs of dementia and ultimately moved in with us. He lived with us for four years. When he died I was shell-shocked. The girls were off to college. I spent a few months during the summer of 2022 in Sea Ranch, California, to recuperate. I walked daily on 10 miles of bluff trail along the Pacific Ocean. There it dawned on me that it was time for me to find something of my own.

CoveyClub: How did you come up with the idea for ClaireMade?

Gorayeb: Being in California was meditation time for me. I needed to clear my head. I walked and I thought. I let things percolate. I knew an idea would come to me and one day it did. I said to myself, “You love to cook!” Nobody ever left my home without a jar of something. I knew I had a family recipe, the za’atar had been passed down from my grandfather to my uncle to me. And I thought it would be fun to create my own recipes. I always liked chili crisp. I saw a recipe and started tinkering with it until I got it right. I liked catsup but didn’t see one out there with the right amount of spice. I thought I would experiment and create one.

CoveyClub: How did you get started? Was it overwhelming to turn your idea into an actual business?

Gorayeb: I learned everything I could about the food business. I took a two-day food preservation course in Geneva, New York, given by Cornell professors. I took recipe development classes and got a food prep certificate online. I talked to friends and neighbors about my idea. I created recipes in my kitchen and had neighbors and friends act as taste testers. They would give me feedback. Then I went back and changed the recipes a bit. I kept going back until I got it right. The process took me about 4-5 months. Chili crisp is hard to make because it is oil and solids, but you cook it together and then separate. 

I did some research on how to cook in large quantities and how to package. Through my outreach I found a large commercial kitchen (East End Food Institute) close to my home where I was able to cook. I got licensed in New York State to sell preserved food.

CoveyClub: What were your next steps?

Gorayeb: I found a website designer through a friend. I purchased jars in bulk. I walked over to my local FedEx, where they offer design and print services. I was able to design labels for the jars right inside the store. They print beautiful labels on site. Tamia, a store clerk, is a miracle worker and helped me create both labels and cards. She is really special and will bend over backward for me to get the labels done quickly whenever I need them. There are so many printers in New York City that cost an arm and a leg and I am grateful that my local FedEx made this affordable.

turning a hobby into a business

I knew I needed to set up an organized shipping system so customers could order my products online. So I went to the UPS store in my neighborhood. I told them I am a brand-new company, and that I live a few blocks away. I was able to negotiate shipping rates with them. They were eager to help.  

CoveyClub: How did you get a spot as a vendor at Grand Bazaar’s Sunday market?

Gorayeb: From living in the neighborhood, I always knew about Grand Bazaar and had frequented it. So I walked over one Sunday. I looked for the people holding clipboards, I asked who ran the place. I was persistent until I found the right person. I told her about myself and my new company and convinced her to give me a chance. I was able to sign up for a block of  Sundays and I hope to add more.

turning a hobby into a business

CoveyClub: How has the community feedback been so far?

Gorayeb: Really great! One woman who bought my products returned the following Sunday with three friends. Another customer came by to tell me he puts my chili crisp  on everything. That was so nice to hear. The beauty of making something that people are fans of, food that makes them happy, that feels really good. 

CoveyClub: What do your daughters think?

Gorayeb: They tell me they are proud. My older daughter often accompanies me to the Grand Bazaar on Sundays and helps me sell. My girls say they have always loved my culinary creations at home and that they are happy others can now enjoy these creations. They have been telling friends and relatives how exciting it has been for them to watch me launch a business. 

CoveyClub: Do you have expansion plans for ClaireMade?

Gorayeb: Not right now. I want to start slow and keep the quality top notch. I want to get everything where it needs to go. I don’t want to disappoint anyone. I definitely wouldn’t want to lose orders or the quality to suffer if I expanded too quickly. 

CoveyClub: What advice would you give to other women in midlife looking toward the next chapter, to reinvent their careers, or to just start something new? 

Gorayeb: I’ve used and recommended the book What Color is Your Parachute. It’s a series of exercises that helps you pin down what you really enjoy doing and what you don’t, and it forces you to get into the nitty-gritty of tasks, like talking to people about recipes and exchanging ideas about how to use cooking products. I had never thought about putting chili crisp on pizza but this came up in conversation. I really enjoy measuring spices and ingredients to guarantee consistency. I would also say know what you like and what you don’t like to do and look for something that lets you do more of the first, and less of the second. For example, I love to cook, and I like one-on-one encounters where I get to show what I make and promote it. I love puzzles, so figuring out the best way to ship my products using recyclable materials like cardboard was a fun project. Just keep learning and growing and have fun!

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