One founder’s tale of trading C-suites for self-improvement.
8 min read
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I always had a dual life. As an executive working in tech and venture capital for more than a decade, I managed teams and helped companies like Airtable and Glossier find the talent needed to grow from 10-person startups to organizations with more than 500 employees. I talked to founders every single day, helping them find solutions to big problems. While deeply rewarding, it is a high-pressure, high-stress industry and I, like many others in the fast-paced corporate world, needed an outlet to stay balanced in order to work to my full potential and not burn out.
I’ve also been a yoga practitioner since I was 18, and in 2012, I took a year-long sabbatical from work to travel the world, spending three months on an ashram in India to study yoga. This turned into a spiritual introduction for me. When I came back to New York, I started teaching yoga and meditation in my apartment on the weekends while working my full-time “real” job during the week. I started seeing an executive coach who talked about maintaining my energy; that’s how I got into reiki. I started doing meditations before big meetings. The “always-on” mentality of my work culture made me realize there’s a big business opportunity to provide professionals with tools to integrate wellness at work in a way that felt easy, not forced. Feeling more balanced and focused than ever, I set out to find a way to bring what I’d learned into the workplace so others could benefit, too.
After a few years of a side hustle teaching meditation and working as an executive coach, I decided to leave my corporate job and open up Reset, a professional career coaching and wellness studio, to answer the question so many of my friends and colleagues had: Where do I go if I’m trying to grow and learn as a person and a professional? When you’re working on a startup, it’s your whole life — even if you’re not the founder — and you can get burnt out if you don’t stay connected to your personal goals or purpose and take care of yourself. I wanted to create a space that combines the holistic wellness practices I’d learned and that had helped me over the years to recenter, focus and climb the career ladder — like sound bath relaxation, retreats and mediation — with executive coaching, team building and learning new workplace skills.
Related: 50 Ideas for a Lucrative Side Hustle
I already had people who said they would love to hire me as their executive coach, so I had a good sense that I would find clients right away. I was also already coaching my friends and network, both from a career- and personal-development standpoint, so the next step was to actually be paid for my work. Here are the key takeaways I’ve learned about turning your side hustle into a business:
1. Dedicate at least 30 percent of your side-hustle time to learning.
You have to do all you can to learn what you don’t know. While you’re still in your day job, get all the training that you need to feel confident. I got my Reiki Masters certification and learned the bulk of my astrology knowledge during the period when I was working my day job and also side hustling. I also started to offer free executive coaching and reiki to my network to build my skills and confidence. I researched the industry from a macro and micro perspective to ensure that I actually was an expert in my field, and consumed as much content as I could.
Find role models, and find out what their blueprint to success was. One of my role models is my executive coach, Katia Verresen. She gave me the advice to stay at my day job for longer than I originally wanted to and continue developing my project. At first I was resistant, but this really allowed me to let my ideas for Reset crystalize, and I didn’t feel the pressure to make money in short-term ways that would compromise the larger goal for my business.
2. Have enough savings to cover six months.
I invested my savings to start Reset and took out a loan to make sure that I could cover six months of expenses, regardless of whether the business didn’t made any money during this time. Even if you plan to be profitable right away, there are always expenses that you don’t expect, and you want to give yourself time to let the business model pivot as you learn more about your customers. Having six months allows you the freedom to change your business as you learn, instead of trying to force a developing product to work.
3. Build a support system and shut out negativity.
Many good ideas start as bad ideas — or something that seems far-fetched or “impossible” to achieve — and the job of a good entrepreneur is to nurture and shape the bad idea into something with potential. Spanx founder Sara Blakely only told her father and her manufacturer what her plan was in the early days of the business, and she knew she had to protect this delicate process. When I first launched Reset, the original idea was to open a retail store. During the initial three months of working on it, it evolved into a learning and coaching studio and then an online platform. It is only through testing and iteration that great ideas take shape. If you let the first person you tell poke so many holes in it that you are completely deflated and unmotivated, then your zygote of an idea never gets the opportunity to evolve.
4. Get to work and be prepared to pivot.
You have to start building, even if you wind up scrapping what you’ve made later on. In my last role as an executive in venture capital, I advised early stage tech founders. Nearly every company I worked with changed completely within 12 months, but they all needed to start somewhere. Buy a domain. Get an Instagram handle. Start meeting people — whether they are potential customers, advisors, contractors or co-founders — who you might possibly work with. Just start somewhere. Lay the foundation, even if you sit on it for a while.
5. Be confident in your expertise, and trust your intuition.
It takes courage to reinvent yourself or your career, but you have to own your expertise, even if you’re still learning. I had a friend who asked me, “How did you just become a wellness guru overnight?” You have to be really confident about what you are building or doing, which may require faking some confidence at the start. I’ve spent almost a decade studying the holistic part of my business in my spare time. I had to have confidence in my knowledge.
In the early days of your side hustle, there’s no data because what you’re creating may be brand new or you may have competitors. Either way, a lot of your initial job is going to be decision making — “Should I go with this name?” “Should I choose this color?” “Should I take this meeting or not?” You can get completely burnt out if you’re not making them quickly, but you also have to put a system in place that works for you so you can do a more accurate gut check. I started to really trust that my intuition was going to lead me in the right direction. I wrote down all the times I was wrong when I didn’t listen to that voice. I started to notice how it served me and my career in the past. To get a more realistic picture of how to move forward, ask yourself, “Am I making this decision out of fear?” or, “Am I overly optimistic right now?” or, “Am I feeling stressed or overtired right now?” The answers could determine not only your future contentment, but that of your future clients as well.