Meet the mining operator forging fashion success

Abby Wilson works full-time as a heavy-machine operator at a mine in NSW’s Upper Hunter Valley and owns a thriving fashion label. 

Not only can a side hustle be good for your bank balance, it could also boost your mental wellbeing, especially if you’re pursuing your passion. A 2018 UK study from Henley Business School found that, despite working an average of 13 extra hours a week, side hustlers reported feeling happier and more content in their day job. Two in three said their side hustle “made life more interesting”.

Abby Miller, owner of Dust & Bullets Western 

“After school I went straight into mining but I’ve always been a creative person so I studied fashion on the side. Two years ago, I was recovering from knee surgery – for an old motocross injury – and staying with my parents. I was super bored but it presented an opportunity for me to start designing so I bought a Cricut machine and started printing T-shirts. Mum said, ‘This could be something! Get a plan together.’ 

I used those six months away from my job to work on my label, Dust & Bullets Western, and began outsourcing the production of T-shirts, hats and footy shorts. I turned a bad situation into something positive.

While I am social media savvy, I struggled with the admin so last year I joined The Entourage, a business mentor community. I was assigned a coach and had access to seminars and templates – everything you need to learn to grow a little brand like Dust & Bullets Western into a big business. 

Our orders are now into the thousands. Four retailers stock our products and my goal is to be in 10 shops by the end of 2023. I employ casual staff in seasonal pop-up shops and plan to get help with packing and stocktake once I have a warehouse. I’m still running the business out of my home!

Side Hustle

On the weekends we travel throughout rural NSW and Queensland, visiting rodeos to increase brand awareness. We’re a Western brand so we need to be in the Western scene.

Effectively managing my time is crucial as I work full-time in the mines and work on my fashion label on days off. I work in five-day blocks of 12-hour shifts at the mine and I get five days off at a time so I use that opportunity to knuckle down and put my effort into Dust & Bullets while endeavouring to strike a work/life balance. I’ll schedule social media posts for when I’m at work and plan product launches for when I’m home. And there’s always orders to pack so that’s what I do when I get home from work.

“Both jobs highlight bits of my personality. I love being around the diggers, dozers and trucks. But I also love fashion and creating.”

I’m fortunate to have my mining income and don’t need to pay myself another wage so I reinvest every cent into the business.

Both jobs highlight bits of my personality. I love being around the diggers, dozers and trucks. But I also love fashion and creating. One’s not better than the other.

Dust & Bullets has changed my life. It’s given me a purpose and allowed me to do something I really love. When I see other people loving the brand, too, it’s a pinch-me moment. We’ll be at a rodeo and I’ll see a hat or shirt and I’ll do a little dance."

Abby’s tips for turning a side hustle idea into a business

  • Do your research - listen and learn from other people. There’s so much to soak up and you’re never going to know it all.
  • Know your niche - ask yourself, ‘What problem am I solving for my customers?’

Ready to turn your side hustle into a small business? Start a business

This article was originally published in Brighter magazine

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