From as far back as she can remember, Georgiana Syby, our NJMOMpreneur of the Week, has been a creator, dabbling in arts and crafts. A scientist by trade, she would feed her creative soul with weekend side hustles like hosting kids’ arts and crafts groups to baking cakes. But then the pandemic happened, and Georgiana found herself searching for something else to do. Always a self-starter, she explored working with concrete, taught herself how to make small vessels and planters, and then at the request of a friend in the concrete biz, created fire bowls to meet the growing demand for outdoor entertaining. Now, through her bonafide side gig, Syby Designs, she sells custom pieces to landscapers and smaller items at craft fairs. We sat down with this busy Manasquan Park mom of 3 to find out how the pandemic helped her find her passion, the secrets to juggling a full-time job and a business (hint: enlist your family to help), and the shore bakery that’s always worth the long, long, long wait in line.
Tell us a little about your family. My husband, Jonathan Syby, and I have been married for 13 years, and we have three children, Mariana, 11, Adalyn, 9, and Peter, 8. We live in the Manasquan Park section of Wall Township, right next to the house I grew up in. I love living in this family-oriented neighborhood where there are always planned activities for the community, including an annual Easter egg hunt and Halloween parade and summer social events, movies in the park, and adult-only driveway bar crawls.
Tell us a little bit about your career background and how you started Syby Designs. I have my Bachelors in Biology from Monmouth University and my Masters of Public Health from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. I use my science background while working full time as the head of clinical services at Argenta, a global company specializing in animal health. I couldn’t be happier in my career. But, I also have a creative side and needed to nurture it with a creative outlet. Before the pandemic, baking and hosting kids’ arts and crafts events in my backyard filled this need, but once the pandemic started and events were canceled, I needed something else to do creatively. I was admiring concrete vessels from Pottery Barn and West Elm and thought I could try that. I taught myself how to work with concrete and eventually made candle holders and vases. Then last February, a close friend of mine, Mike Hilton of Hilton Concrete, LLC, asked if I had any interest in also learning how to make concrete fire bowls. People were expanding their outdoor living spaces and, the current makers couldn’t meet the growing demand. I did, and now they are a part of my custom business. I currently sell my smaller items online and at craft fairs and my fire bowls to professionals like landscape designers and architects and directly to homeowners.
Has this always been the dream?
I’ve always wanted to own a business and share my creativity with others, so the fact that I can have a business selling things I make is truly a dream come true.
Is your family supportive of your business? Everyone in the family is on board and highly supportive of Syby Designs. I make all of the smaller items myself, and my husband (my partner in this business) does a lot of heavy lifting and is very hands-on with the fire bowls, which can weigh 350 lbs. And all 3 of the kids are interested in the business and love to be involved, too. Mariana and Adalyn like to help out when I’m working at craft fairs, and Peter likes to help with the pouring and sanding.
What is the best thing about being an entrepreneur? I think the best thing about it is seeing my creations bring so much joy to others, which in turn gives me so much joy. It’s a very rewarding feeling.
What is the most challenging thing about having your own business? The hardest thing for me will be finding a way to manage my career and this business as the business grows. I work full-time at a job that I love, and I do this business on the weekends and in the evenings after work. I hope that I can continue to put my time management skills to use and create the balance required.
What helps you to unwind after a stressful day? It might not be the norm, but doing what I love, which is working with concrete, relaxes me. After a stressful day, I like to pour myself a good cup of coffee, go into my workshop and get to work.
What does a typical day look like for you? If it’s Monday through Friday, I get the kids up and ready for school. I travel less now because of Covid, so I’m usually working from home. Then, after dinner with the family, I’ll head out to my workshop and start fulfilling orders for Syby Designs. I’m fortunate to have a small workshop on my property and a garage that I also use for this purpose.
What do you wish you had known before starting your business? I have learned a lot by working with attorneys and dealing with contracts, but having a mentor for the business end of things from a state and federal perspective would have been very helpful.
What are your favorite things to do or places to visit in NJ with your family?
Our favorite thing to do is to go boating. We have a boat and love the Manasquan River, and spend a lot of time at Treasure Island. We’ll picnic, paddleboard, and look for Indian clay and horseshoe crabs. We also love searching for and collecting sea glass, which we display in our home. We’re real sea glass hunters, so even if we’re driving and find ourselves passing a beach, we’ll stop and see what we can find. And we go on family bike rides as often as we can. We bike to the surrounding towns and neighborhoods, but we’ll also bike to the beach, about 4 miles from our home.
What are some of your favorite local shops in NJ? We love Brielle Cyclery. It’s where we get our bikes and all of our biking gear. Stella e Luna in Point Pleasant is a unique boutique shop that’s my go-to. I love everything in that store, from the jewelry to accessories to soaps and lotions to fun things for the house. Whether it’s something for me or a gift for someone else, I never leave empty-handed. And Mueller’s Bakery in Bay Head usually has lines out the door, but it’s well worth the wait. My must-gets are the blueberry scones and the crumb cake, and the kids are crazy about their donuts and bagels—everything is fantastic.
What is your best advice for a mompreneur just starting?
Don’t be afraid to take the chance. Just follow your dreams and set goals for yourself along the way.