From 9am to 5pm, Becky Dennison is a social worker. But outside those hours, she is her own boss, and among a significant number of millennials venturing into entrepreneurship through a side hustle – a business they run alongside full or part-time jobs. Rebecca Ryan finds out more about Becky from Betty’s NZ.
Becky Dennison has always had an entrepreneurial spirit.
As a child, she enjoyed making arts and crafts to sell to family, friends and teachers.
Now aged 25, she has made it a business, selling small-batch, New Zealand-made jewellery through her online accessories store Betty’s NZ and hand-making floral wreaths and decor for Floral by B.
She fits it all in around her full-time job as a social worker.
Miss Dennison is among a growing number of young entrepreneurs running a business alongside a full-time job.
According to The Purpose Business’ NZ Shapers report, a third of New Zealand millennials – people born between 1984 and 2000 – had a side hustle in 2019.
For Miss Dennison, it is a way to funnel a passion outside of social work.
From when she gets home from work to when she goes to bed, her focus is on Betty’s NZ and Floral by B.
She works from home, on her family’s Hilderthorpe farm, where she has taken over a spare room with her stock and floral creations.
She spends a lot of her time online – posting to social media and connecting with customers – or packaging orders and creating floral wreaths and decor.
And she often spends her lunch breaks at the post office sending away orders.
“I know the post office ladies really well,” she said.
Running two businesses alongside her full-time job kept her very busy, but she enjoyed it – and it did not feel like work, she said.
Miss Dennison has a master’s degree in social work from Otago University and has been working with children as a registered social worker in Oamaru since 2017.
Betty’s NZ started in June last year, after she saw someone selling scarves online.
She started importing some of her own, then jewellery, and selling them online through Facebook marketplace.
She now has a successful website store and has changed her focus to stocking small-batch, New Zealand-made, and ethically produced jewellery.
“That’s something that has always been important to me, but it’s become more and more so.
“It’s also becoming more important to the consumer.”
Betty is Miss Dennison’s nickname and, coincidentally, her Grandmother’s middle name.
“I work with kids under 5 and they can’t say Becky, so they call me Betty,” she said.
“Then my partner and my family started calling me Betty.”
Miss Dennison has always had an interest in fashion, and a lot of her inspiration for Betty’s NZ comes from Instagram.
“Just following lots of different fashion accounts, international pages, a lot of influencers and just friends, other businesses – all of that feeds into an idea of what’s popular now and what’s going to be popular in the next season,” she said.
“Other than that, I just pick what I like and what I think will sell well.”
She was proud of the online community she had built with Betty’s NZ, with more than 4000 followers on Instagram, and grateful for the connections she had made with other young women in business in Oamaru.
“That’s what I get the joy from – messaging people, seeing their lives, them seeing mine,” she said.
“It definitely feels like [a community].
“There’s people who I’ve never met before and now I’m friends with them on Facebook and we message and it’s a really positive community.”
Starting her own businesses and being in control of every part of them had been a steep learning curve.
“Online marketing was quite a different world, but that’s been a skill set that I’ve slowly developed.
“People are really supportive, even people who are competing with you.”
It had been a year of trial and error.
“The main thing I’ve learned is to be yourself – because people love that, even if you’re a bit weird.
“People want to connect with someone who’s real. They don’t want to just buy from someone who’s selling at them all the time.”
Ultimately, she would love to make her side hustles her full-time job.
“That would be the dream,” she said.
“I’d love to work from home and have some more freedom around work hours and work space, but then again it’s a huge risk. The income does vary a lot. Some days it’s mental, and some days there’s none.”
With the addition of Floral by B and some freelance work in social media management, that is getting closer to becoming a reality.
Moving home to Oamaru in 2017 was never her plan, but she was drawn back by her family and a job opportunity.
“There’s no other place that feels like home and the more time I spend here the more I like it,” she said.
“It’s definitely got a lot of character.”
Because she went to secondary school in Timaru, she only knew a handful of people from primary school when she moved back to North Otago.
“It is a small town, it can be quite hard – but people are friendly.
“I’ve actually become friends with a few people through the business and through sport and just reaching out to people and being like to have a coffee and catch up?’.”
And, as if she did not already have enough to keep her busy, she would like to start a young professionals group in Oamaru to help others make those connections.
“It is hard to meet people, especially in a small town.
“Having that forum would be quite cool.”