Jessica Papp is thesidehustler

Jess Papp wears many hats. For this Toronto creative, a quarantine hobby turned into a full-blown side hustle and thriving small business.

maker

By day, Toronto-based creative Jessica Papp is an account supervisor at a major advertising agency. By night (and on weekends), she runs Hotpot Variety, where she sells painstakingly and passionately made crochet creations. Her accessories—an extension of a childhood spent crafting—are created to help people feel confident and empowered, no matter their circumstances.


With a full-time job and an almost-full-time side hustle, you’d expect Jess to be worn out. But her sunny demeanour and a seemingly endless supply of energy (a self-described superpower) have helped her launch a platform that celebrates the importance of slow making over fast fashion and prioritizes collaboration in a real, grassroots way. 

SL: How did your get your start?

JESSICA: I’ve always loved working with my hands. My mom sews, and I’ve always looked up to her creatively. I mean, she made our Halloween costumes growing up, for example, so that inspired me to look at the arts and take up crafts. I’m a more logical thinker when it comes to my day job and business, but I also love to make things with my hands.

I took up crocheting during the pandemic because I needed something to release my creativity—everything felt so mundane. So I taught myself how to crochet, made a couple of hats, posted them, and then people said, “oh my god, you need to launch something.” That’s how Hotpot Variety evolved—I just created this platform to channel all of my creative energy, exposed my work to the world, and it escalated from there into what it is today. 


SL: If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to the “you” that’s just starting out?

JESSICA: Definitely be a lot more confident and embrace your true self. I don’t care what other people think so much.

Photo: Eddie O'Keefe

SL: What is the biggest risk you’ve taken? Did it pay off?

JESSICA: During the pandemic, I took a lot of risks and made major life changes that took me out of my comfort zone and put me into a position where I had to pull myself onto my feet and just go. I left a five-year relationship and launched this side business while working a full-time job. I had no idea what was going to happen and if I was taking on too much, but I think so far, it has been an amazing journey. I’ve come full circle in realizing that everything I’ve worked for in my life has put me in the position to be where I am today. It’s all led me in the right direction.

Photo: Eddie O'Keefe

SL: Tell us about one unexpected place where you find inspiration.

JESSICA: I love Chinatown. And looking at the old Asian women in Chinatown, who remind me of my grandma. I love that they never care what anyone thinks. They always have a hustle. I get inspired by the street style in Chinatown—the colours in the stands and variety stores.

SL: How do you get yourself in “the zone” to work?

JESSICA: Clearing my schedule, making sure I have no interruptions, plugging in my headphones, and blasting music helps me focus on what I want to design next and get crochet done. 

I love Rihanna—Consideration is a power song. And there's this Instagram called Affirmations that makes you feel great.

"I took a lot of risks and made major life changes that took me out of my comfort zone...I had to pull myself onto my feet and just go."

SL: What do community and collaboration mean to you? How do these ideas affect your practice?

JESSICA: I think it takes a village to run an empire, so community and collaboration is the key ingredient to achieving success. My brand wouldn’t be what it is today without the support and collaboration of my beloved friends and family. I created Hotpot as a channel to sell my handmade crochet pieces, but I also wanted to create a platform to collaborate with local artists and also give others the opportunity to shine while creating something fun. 
Listening to others and bringing them into the process is essential—pumping each other up, raising each other up, supporting one another to create something.

SL: What changes would you like to see happen in your industry?

JESSICA: I would love to see more independent artists and up-and-coming designers being spotlit—and especially Canadian designers. Canada doesn’t have an industry as developed as the U.S. and Europe, and I would love to see more Canadian artists in the spotlight. There’s so much talent, and people here have such perspectives that would alter the industry and change that fast fashion mindset.

SL: What do you want to be when you grow up?

JESSICA: I would like to be an inspirational leader to somebody. 

"It takes a village to run an empire so community and collaboration is the key ingredient to achieving success."

Who is inspiring you
right now?

Jacqueline Ashton
@goodgyaljj

I love her work. She's so talented at photography and is starting to direct more things—she's killing it!

I love her work. She's so talented at photography and is starting to direct more things—she's killing it!

Kim Jasmin Monsalud Francisco
@paraluman.flora

I love her story of how she got into her craft, and it's inspiring to see people like her follow their passions while also making beautiful creations.

I love her story of how she got into her craft, and it's inspiring to see people like her follow their passions while also making beautiful creations.

Dani Roche
@daniesque

The owner of Kastor and Pollux is so talented and such a cool girl. Her work is so inspiring, and she's such a smart business owner.

The owner of Kastor and Pollux is so talented and such a cool girl. Her work is so inspiring, and she's such a smart business owner.

Veronica Gutierrez
@thiscandle.islit

She's one of my good friends who also launched a business during COVID. We've been business owners around the same time, so it's nice to have someone who is on the same journey with you that you can talk to and collab with.

She's one of my good friends who also launched a business during COVID. We've been business owners around the same time, so it's nice to have someone who is on the same journey with you that you can talk to and collab with.

What are your 2021 must haves?

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