Quitting your job and turning your side hustle into a full-time role can be scary. These six women who did just that share what they learned along the way.
Some millennial professionals refuse to conform to a black-and-white definition of success and instead embrace the gray, confident in their ability to create a new palette. Many arrive at a certain kind of entrepreneurship–whether freelancing on the side or an Etsy shop that takes off–and many manage to turn it into full-time employment.
Considering women are leading the charge of small business owners, it’s no surprise that so many women are turning away from traditional roles to develop their own companies. I should know, considering I’m one of them.
After being gainfully employed and taking on writing assignments for extra income, my 1099 hustle outgrew my corporate paycheck. This prompted me to branch out on my own, and I eventually hired a part-time assistant to help with research and invoicing. Like these women below, I learned a thing or two during the transition from “employee” to “boss.” If you have a goal of becoming your own boss, here’s how to make it a reality.
FIND YOUR TRIBE
As a full-time graduate student at the University of Oregon, Jessica Hilbert was working double time to earn two degrees: one in law and another in business. Though she was already over-scheduled, she came up with the idea for Red Duck Foods, mainly because she was frustrated with condiment offerings that lacked healthy ingredients with robust flavors. Along with other students for a class project, she tackled her idea. After presenting french fries with ketchup that was wildly received, it was evident Hilbert was on to something. Then everything started moving: traveling to business plan competitions, raising $25,000 via Kickstarter. “All of those early proof points contributed to why the side hustle didn’t just evaporate. It wasn’t necessarily that I picked up the side hustle, it was almost like the side hustle picked me up, as it was a class project that just snowballed,” she explains.
She continued to grow Red Duck from January 2013 to September 2014, all while finishing business school. And once she graduated, she started studying to take the Oregon bar exam, when in mid-July, fate stepped in. Right before she was due to take the exam, she received a large purchase order that needed to be filled. “Because of the timelines, it meant that we would need to hand-label hundreds of jars of product. I spent hours, two days before the bar exam, hand labeling jars of ketchup,” she says. During this time, she knew, regardless of the outcome of her test, her whole heart was in Red Duck.
For Hilbert, her tribe was the reason for her success. “Seek out and find a group of people who you can associate with, and that you want to share the good and the bad times with. They don’t have to be within your organization, or even in the same industry. They just have to be people who you want to share a laugh or a ranting session with,” she says.
HAVE A VISION
For many years, Diana Wright co-owned a fashion production company in New York that created presentations for top designers, from Cynthia Rowley and Pamella Roland to Bill Blass, Halston, and more. Since she was in the fashion industry, she was used to jumping in to complete hair and makeup in a bind to ensure the show continued to go smoothly. During New York Fashion Week, she created a sliding ponytail holder to pull up a model’s hair backstage by cutting an elastic band in half and stringing it through a toggle. At the time, she says it was a crude quick fix, but it worked so well that models asked to keep them. It wasn’t until a client asked if she could create jeweled versions for the runway that she realized the true opportunity.
It took a year from ideation until her product, Pulleez, to hit the runway. Soon after, Henri Bendel approached Wright to carry them at their Fifth Avenue flagship, and a year later, Pulleez appeared on QVC. Thanks to a key partnership with pros in manufacturing and design engineering, she was able to meet these orders and grow a sustainable business. What prompted her to go for it was recognizing the need and staying true to her vision. For any entrepreneur in the product space, she says this is crucial. “My business knowledge has evolved exponentially since I started Pulleez, but the brand message has never changed: We want to offer every woman and girl with long hair an easy-to-use, functional hair accessory that can make a simple ponytail look glamorous enough for her to meet her friends or walk down the runway,” she says.
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