Meet the woman making millions creating concert backdrops

Story highlights

  • Megan Duckett designs concert backdrops for rock stars
  • She changed her career when she earning more from her hobby than job

(CNN)It was when she started earning more money from her hobby than her job that Megan Duckett knew it was time to take the plunge.

The Australian, who first arrived in Los Angeles in the early nineties, held a variety of roles in entertainment and event planning.
    But it was an unusual request that set her on the path of founding a theatrical draping company, Sew What?, which provides concert backdrops for A-list stars like KISS, Rod Stewart and John Legend and helps her clients' designs come to life.
    "One day somebody said to me 'would you like to sew some coffins for a Halloween event?' And I said, 'You want me to sew what?' That's where the company name comes from," says Duckett.
    She took on the challenge, taught herself to sew and discovered that not only was she very good at it, but she also enjoyed it.

    Million dollar hobby

    Opportunity struck. Duckett identified a void in the market when it came to concert backdrops.
    "It just seemed that there were stock items. There was nothing and nobody being particularly creative, creating the custom-made elements," she admits. "With a little creativity and the incentive to go digging around to find the clients, I knew that there was an opportunity there," Duckett adds.
    Fast forward 18 years and Sew What? -- which started as a solo operation with Duckett sewing and taking orders over the phone -- is today a business with $7 million in annual revenue which employs 35 people.
    Some of Duckett's lofty creations include massive fabric chandeliers crafted for a New Year's Eve party at the Mirage in Las Vegas, and a gigantic towel made for a promotional event. It weighed 1,200 pounds and had to be hauled out of the beach where it lay with a forklift.
    In spite of her success, Duckett doesn't hide the fact that leaving a full-time job for what was at the time just a hobby was terrifying.
    "We didn't have a business plan, we just did it," she confesses. "There were questionable moments when we said, 'Whoa! Been up for seven days straight. Had no sleep. Can't make the bills. This is a little frightening,'" she adds.

    Master of your destiny

    She still occasionally loses sleep thinking about the business, but the anxiety is balanced with the excitement of the challenge at hand.
    "It's certainly very invigorating to own a business, to manage a business, to be in charge of the decision-making," she says. "For me, the independence of that is what's really key. I like to kind of be the master of my own destiny."
    The entrepreneur has a few tips for those in the transitional phase of switching careers: remain focused, believe in themselves, but always remain open to criticism.
    Duckett advises: "While it's often hard to take advice from others when we're in that passionate phase, there are usually snippets of really wonderful grains in there. You know, take a little from everywhere, and bring it in to what you're doing. Don't give up. Keep at it."
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