If “hula hoop” makes you think of a cheap plastic ring from the toy store, then you’ve never experienced hula hoops like Nina’s. From chance encounter to hobby, to online store, Nina’s story exemplifies how a new idea can grow into a unique small business. And if that small business involves streamers, LED lights, and independence from the usual 9-5, all the better!
“I’ve never been one to do the same thing for more than a few years,” says Nina. “But did I think I would make money with hula hoops? No way—I would never have imagined it” she says, glowing. Sometimes things just fall into place.
Nina’s twist of fate happened at a party: “I was invited to a party six years ago and there was a huge Hula Hoop, I tried it and had so much fun.”
At that time, she earned money with different jobs and had fun experimenting with different things. But literally overnight, Hula Hoops became her thing and “Project Hula” took off quickly.
From performances to products
“At first I ordered a hoop and experimented a lot,” says Nina. Then came the first performances with two girlfriends as “HulaGang St. Pauli.” They performed on the street or at parties, then festivals and workshops. Along the way, she started making Hula hoops herself.
After seeing her perform, people approached Nina wanting to try it themselves. “Most are completely surprised that they can still do it and enjoy it.”
And the small “marketing” pushes showed an impact. “As a result, more and more inquiries came in and many wanted to know where they could find these, what they cost, what size was right,” Nina reports. “So I needed a website with an online shop—which is how I landed at Jimdo!”
Making the leap from a hobby to a “job”
“I didn’t plan on making it a permanent profession,” she says. “Becoming self-employed was a process. It went on for a long time and grew gradually.”
When her maternity leave was ending in the fall of 2016, “it became clear I finally had to make a decision.” She knew she wanted to keep building hoops, planning campaigns, and giving workshops. And there was a dilemma: “If I went back to work, I wouldn’t have enough time for my own project. So I thought, should I become self-employed with everything that goes with that? Getting my own insurance, the uncertainty and so on?”
“Time for what I like to do”
Maybe she had already made the decision somewhere in the back of her mind. “Becoming self-employed was not an entrepreneurial decision for me,” says Nina. It wasn’t part of a perfect “get rich quick plan” or to grow my own company. “I became self-employed to have enough time for what I enjoy.”
Nevertheless, she entered self-employment with eyes wide open. “I’d already thought about what I would need financially and otherwise,” she says. “And the formalities worked out quite easily.” The trademark was registered, the health insurance company was informed, “and I have always done my own tax returns.”
From bright colors to LEDs and custom designs
Making hula hoops isn’t the kind of thing you learn in school, so Nina had to experiment quite a bit. “At the beginning, it was mostly ‘learning by doing’. I informed myself about the material you need for the hoops, which tape is the most suitable, what tube options there were and so on. This was countless hours and nights of internet research and testing.”
Gradually, she built and sold different types of Hula Hoops—different strengths for different “exercises”, different sizes for children and adults, beginners and advanced, various colors and patterns for every taste or hoops with bright LEDs. The hoops cost about 40 to 145 euros on her Jimdo website: www.hula-manufaktur.de.
Nina also occasionally receives some more unusual requests. “There was one company that wanted to use the hoops as obstacles for drones. Or diving schools that want to use the hoops for training purposes. It’s also come up for dog training … There are always bizarre misunderstandings that make the daily work funny and varied,” she says.
A performance project
Nina’s Hula performances and participatory activities are also more and more in demand—for example, at park and street festivals, company and club events, as well as in museums and theaters. Here she performs solo as “Nina Hula” or with the support of her “Hula Family & Friends”. “I like to be among people. I love to dance and move.” The “Hoop Dance” works with almost any music, says Nina. “Check out ‘Hula-Hoop’ on Youtube or my own videos!” In the near future, she will be performing at the concert of rapper Alligatoah.
Quality of life
And how does her work day differ from others in what is an unusual profession by other people’s standards? “In the morning I will take my daughter to the daycare center, stop home then go over to the Hula manufactory,” Nina says. “Then I get to work. First, I usually check the orders, show requests, and incoming payments. “
Doesn’t sound so different. And yet: “Having autonomy is an important part of quality of life for me. Life doesn’t have to fit into a safe box, “says Nina. “I want to feel really comfortable with what I do.” And she does!
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