55-year-old Rodney Melton of Alma, Arkansas, has turned his side hustle into a six-figure income, and it took him less than a year. Melton, working 60-hour weeks as a maintenance lead at Mars Pet Care, long had a hobby working with stone and concrete. However, the day-to-day grind began to subside after, in March 2021, he began molding, engraving, and selling headstones for pet memorials on Etsy.

Melton began making the headstones with his self-built workshop behind his home and a $15,000 engraver he already owned. At first, he would spend about two or three days molding the monuments and then another five hours engraving them. However, the revenue started pouring in after his wife implemented epoxy filling to speed up the process. Melton invested $51,500 into tools such as a laser engraver, sandblaster, and a granite saw and chisel, further whittling down his production time and effectively taking his side hustle to the next level.

In May 2022, Melton made and sold more headstones, and his income for just one month rose to nearly $20,000. He could leave his full-time job, employ his daughter and daughter-in-law, and now work fewer hours while having quality time with his family. The four-person operation brought in over $207,000 on Etsy last year, approximately two-thirds of which was strictly profit. He is currently on track to make about the same amount this year.

An interviewer with CNBC Make It asked Melton if he believes his side hustle is replicable and what it takes to get started. Melton responded, “Anyone can do this. I’d say you need $10,000 or less to get started. That’s for cement molds and sandblast equipment. It’s just a matter of having the passion for it.” He added that the idea started after his mother passed, and he began making items like concrete crosses, plaques, and 3D roses. Melton continued moving in that direction after his friend lost his beloved dog. He finished answering the question by saying, “My heart has been in it for the people. But by result, if you serve more people, you make more money.”

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Melton says that he thoroughly enjoys working daily with his family from home and that the integration into working with family was relatively seamless. Of working with his daughter, he said, “She keeps in line on what needs to be done” and is grateful for the position he has. While speaking of family, Melton was asked how the new career has impacted his work-life balance. He answered, “My wife, daughter, and daughter-in-law, we all work about five hours daily now. I work 75 feet out my back door — it’s freed up so much time and allowed me a lot more discourse. I added, “It’s helped all of us,” they said, “I can make a good living shipping everything the way we do now.” Melton has successfully transformed a hobby into a side hustle, and that side hustle into his full-time job, which is a phenomenal example of what is possible with just a little bit of hard work and a lot of passion.