Sarah Brobst, owner of Sarah Brobst Designs, talks hubcaps, sustainability, and making her hobby a profitable side-hustle.

 

By: Payton Boyd

Sarah Brobst first tapped into the craft scene as a college student by collecting hubcaps that detached from cars during rain storms. “ Backstory–When I was in high school, me and my friends collected hubcaps…we would watch somebody’s hubcap fly off their car

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Knoxville Entrepreneur Sarah Brobst

and we thought it was the funniest thing.” She hung the hubcaps on her dorm room wall, some of them eventually being featured in gallery shows.

Eventually, Brobst began to focus on creating jewelry and brooch bouquets in her spare time. “Mostly what I do is jewelry but before that, it was big mixed media sculptures and collages and the painted hubcaps, and it morphed into this.” By finding a gap in the fine jewelry market of Knoxville, Brobst found her success by creating her pieces through sustainable practices, an idea that she carries with her throughout her daily life.

With a love of re purposing objects often seen as trash by others, Sarah had little-to-no startup costs for Sarah Brobst Designs. Once Brobst began to book gallery shows, she obtained her business license for both the county and city, costing her fifteen dollars each, and obtained a website. Her business license qualifies her for tax exempt status, and she is now able to purchase some of the specific items she needs through wholesale accounts, though her mission of creating her pieces from mostly recycled objects allows Sarah to dig through scraps to find most of the materials she uses rather than creating large overhead costs.

Brobst takes items such as broken watches and an earring missing its match, takes the items apart, and makes statement pieces out of the material. “My people like to wear something a little bit funky, but not too over the top that they couldn’t wear it every day”.

Her business is nearly ten years old, and she maintains a local presence by setting up a booth at both the Downtown Farmer’s and Holiday Markets here in Knoxville. “Over these ten years I have learned the whole gamut of what it takes to run a business and be a single person business owner and how it should be run and what not to do.” Brobst advises soon-to-be entrepreneurs to “learn all that you can about running a business, like taxes…don’t always go with friends.”

She says that finding out who your buyers are, and determining the price points you feel comfortable with is important in learning what does and doesn’t work when owning your own business…as well as having a reliable accountant.  According to Brobst, having an online presence is important, because people are buying a lot of things online now.

Brobst spends around twenty bucks a month to keep her website up and running, but promotes social media as a free way to build up clientele. Sarah Brobst Designs tends to have an audience of customers who are in their thirties, forties, and fifties. She flourishes as a business owner through being accessible to all budgets, with her own price points for jewelry ranging widely to diversify her audience demographic.

In addition to jewelry, Brobst found a market for brooch bouquets.

A few years ago, Brobst began to create brooch bouquets with leftover gems and parts of materials that she typically used for her jewelry products. Brobst allows her customers

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Screen grab of a brooch bouquet, Sarah Brobst Designs page

the option to provide their own materials that she uses to create the bouquets, which allows customers to cut down on the cost of personalized pieces.

Soon after beginning to create brooch bouquets, Brobst was given a booth for fashion week, and her brooch bouquets were used in the bridal runway show. Bouquet orders continue to come from places across the country, and HGTV recruited her to host a tutorial on how to create your own brooch bouquets.

Brobst stated, “My high point was when I was focused 110 percent on it (Sarah Brobst Designs), I was making more making jewelry and art than I was at my full-time job. Now my full-time job pays bills, and my business profits are a bonus.”

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