We had the good fortune of connecting with Jessica Lopez and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Jessica, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
It’s quite a long story, but the short version is, the pandemic, and circumstances that arose because of covid during the time frame of March 2020 to June 2021 caused me to re-evaluate my life and career path entirely, after being an educator for over a decade. I learned how to crochet right before I got married in 2010 and absolutely loved it. A few years later, I started a Facebook page for my “hobby business” and began selling items here and there to friends, family, and co-workers. As time went on and I continued furthering myself as an educator by obtaining additional degrees and other credentials, my free time became less and less, and I didn’t crochet as often. When I was forced to stay home during the pandemic, due to severe risks posed to me should I contact covid due to an underlying health condition, I picked my crochet hook back up and started creating and selling handmade creations on a larger scale. Eventually, during that time, I opened my Etsy shop and started to grow a following on Instagram and TikTok as well. In June 2021, I left the classroom and began pursuing my crochet business full time. It became clear to me during the pandemic that I needed to step away from the career field that I loved so much but that didn’t “love me” the same way in return. Starting my own crochet business had always been a dream of mine that I would joke about, but I didn’t ever actually plan on it coming to fruition. Now, just about to hit the one-year mark of being a fully actualized small business owner and a full-time crochet artist, I am happier and healthier in every respect. While I still have a long way to go in growing my brand, and in finding my way in the world again at 37, the main goal behind my business was to allow myself the space to heal after a very traumatic time in my life, while still being able to spread kindness and happiness, which I feel I am able to accomplish in creating and sharing my works of fiber art.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
As I shared in an earlier question, crocheting has been a passion of mine for quite some time, and my move to pursue it full-time came when I left the teaching profession in 2021. It was simultaneously the hardest and easiest decision I’ve ever made. Taking a risk on yourself and being able to control your entire life is actually harder and scarier than some people may think.

I create a wide variety of crocheted items: stuffed animals, items for home use like coasters, can koozies, dishcloths, wearable items like hair scrunchies, scarfs, and hats. I do take custom orders and love to help bring creations to life through the medium of crochet that people have a vision of in their minds. My favorite things to make by far are stuffed animals because those are usually for children, and I love seeing their eyes light up when they’re able to take one of my creations home and they know that no one else in the world has one that is exactly like theirs. In crochet terminology, “a stitch” is referred to as the unit of measure when you are creating things. At xoxoJLo Crochet, my mission is to “spread happiness, one stitch at a time.”

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
While Columbia, SC may not be that big of a place, or that well known around the country, it should be! We have some incredible sights to see, events to take part in, and restaurants to eat at! Let me break it down. You need to start by coming to NoMa Warehouse on a Friday night for their weekly event, The NoMa Flea! This was the first event I was a vendor at and it was so much fun! There are anchor vendors who are always part of the warehouse, and then weekly rotating vendors in the middle of the space. All vendors make their own items or repurpose/revamp incredible vintage items and clothing. There’s always something new to see! While you’re there, you’ll want to order a wood-fired pizza from the best little joint in town that is within walking distance, il Focolare Pizzeria. Get that pizza and come back to enjoy it while listening to music that is most likely to be playing next door at the most chill local coffee house, Indah Coffee.

Saturday morning you HAVE to go to Main Street in downtown Columbia to fuel your brain, body, and belly with incredible local fare during the Soda City Market. This event happens every single Saturday, rain or shine, from 9 am-1 pm. I send anyone there who is coming into town for a visit.  Next, you should take a walk down the Devine Street corridor and check out all the fun shops, then pop into my favorite “watering hole,” Craft and Draft.  This locally owned and operated tap room (featuring 12 rotating taps) and beer market, curates the best selection of draft, bottled, and canned beers from both local craft breweries, craft breweries across the country, and even selections from around the world.  They also have a diverse lineup of wine selections, if that is more to your liking.  This is truly a place where everyone knows your name, and they’re pet friendly too! You won’t find better service or atmosphere anywhere! They often have food trucks out front or back, so plan to grab a bite for lunch here as well.  Saturday night, you need to do go to Hendrix Restaurant for appetizers and a drink at their rooftop bar and then head just down the street to the local indie movie theatre, The Nickelodeon (we just call it The Nick for short.) After that, I highly recommend you take a short trip across the river to West Columbia for dinner (and more incredible cocktails) at Black Rooster, a “french-ish” restaurant owned and operated by renowned local chef and restaurateur, Kristian Niemi. If you want to keep the party going a little bit more “late night,” head to the Art Bar, one of the most eclectic spots around, with lots of live music, and illuminated robots. Yup, you don’t want to miss taking a selfie with those!

Sunday morning, you’re going to need brunch, so you’re going to need to go to The War Mouth and get fueled up on classic Southern comfort food with a slightly upscale twist. Crawfish eggs benedict anyone?….enough said. Just get there. Afterward, take a short drive down to Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Gardens to walk off that full belly. Our zoo is nationally renowned and has over 2,000 animal species. The zoo has been recently renovated so this is the perfect time to stop in. There’s a lot to see in just one day, so you might want to find another day during your visit to cover it all.

Other fun places to go if you’re staying longer than just a weekend include: Vino Garage, an excellent local wine shop that tailors to any palate or budget. They usually have a $1 wine tasting every Wednesday to impart some knowledge and excite your tastebuds! You can also hang out on their lovely patio and have a glass of wine off their rotating wine list or a beer on draft, often featuring local selections. Speaking of local brews, make sure and check out Savage Craft, one of Columbia’s newer local breweries with killer views of the city and a delicious menu of small bites! You can also check out the Columbia Museum of Art, the South Carolina State Museum, and Edventure Children’s museum, if you have little ones with you, or you’re just a kid at heart yourself.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I truly have to give credit to my husband of 12 years, Vinnie, for encouraging me, cheering me on, and helping me get my business going. He has been with me at every craft and art show event and has celebrated my successes and cheered me on when things haven’t gone as planned.  Additionally, my incredible mother, Angel, has always been an example of how to face life’s challenges with a positive attitude and a grateful heart, despite the hand life may have dealt you, on any particular day.

Also, I could not have survived the deepest, darkest, hardest parts of the pandemic without my incredible group of friends who I call “my tribe:” Jenna, Jakki, Allison, Sheryl, Courtney, Caitlin, Melissa, and MaryPaul. These strong, empathetic, kind, and loving women encouraged and supported me as I embarked on this new life and career path, and continue to do so each day. I couldn’t have been brave enough to do so without all of them by my side. Anyone who has seen you through to the other side of a pandemic is absolutely a friend for life, and more than that, they are your family.

Last but not least, I want to thank the amazing humans who run NoMa Warehouse in Columbia, SC. I felt so lost when I stepped away from the teaching community, but the art community swooped in and made me feel welcome the second I walked into this life. NoMa Warehouse was the first place I ever sold my items in person and I feel like such an important part of the family there. It’s so nice to walk into a place and be greeted with so much warmth and appreciation for what I do and who I am, just by being myself. I have taken part in many events that they host since June of 2021 and I look forward to continuing to be there for a long time to come.

Website: https://linktr.ee/xoxoJLocrochet

Instagram: @xoxojlocrochet

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/xoxojlocrochet

Other: TikTok: @xoxojlocrochet

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