Potential side hustle to my main hustle

One of the manufacturers is over a week late in giving me their quotes. Their tardiness delays the entire process including the ability for the company to bring in revenue.

These delays also impact my personal finances too since I’ve been working on The Refoundry full-time for a while. If I’m smart, I should try to find another way to bring in money while I have a little more time to do it now.

The challenge that I’ve shared before in this journal is: “What easy 9-5 job can a former CEO of an animal shelter do?”

Almost everything that has come to me so far have been 50+ hour a week jobs, and I haven’t been able to get past the recruiters for lower-level positions (not that I’ve tried for many).

An idea actually came to me before Christmas about doing digital marketing work like I used to do with my first business about fifteen years ago. I tested the market demand with some of my friends who own businesses, and no one expressed any serious interest – probably because they already have themselves sorted. So, I abandoned that idea.

But I still have other friends and contacts asking for advice about sales and marketing – twice in the last week in fact. These are not the medium size business owners that I asked previously, but sole traders with smaller pockets.

Knowing that there appears to be a demand from these micro-businesses, I think I figured out a less-time consuming, affordable way to provide it to them. I just need to do a little more market research to confirm that it provides enough value.

Wouldn’t it be funny if my side-hustle actually helps me pay for my main hustle rather than the other way around?

Auxiliary Skills

I’m attending a writing conference this weekend. It may seem like an odd thing to do while I’m trying to build a products manufacturing business. However, I also believe in investing in my personal development even while I’m learning other things (like a new industry) for my career.

Writing happens to be an auxiliary skill, just like public speaking. And these types of skills come in handy in all aspects of life – such as when I write a personal post on social media or MC a good friend’s wedding.

In the last year, I have taken a lot more creative writing classes – forcing me down a path of fiction that I never saw coming. While I may never publish any such works, I believe that these skills have already upped my game as a communicator and storyteller.

Furthermore, the need to really understand a fictional character in order to write about them has helped me become a better observer of body language, tone and often endearing quirks of people. These are all good skills to learn, if nothing more than to be “present” in the moment.

Of course, attending this conference also means that I’m working later than normal most nights this week in order to fit in everything on my To Do list. I don’t mind. If we all waited until we had more time for personal development, we’d never do it. Unfortunately, that’s what most people do.

Trip to Brisbane

I’m in Brisbane the next few days for a conference. Since I was already in town, I scheduled coffees with a couple of old contacts.

The first one was with someone who I think might be really useful on my future board of directors. She didn’t know that was partially why I wanted to meet with her until then. After all, I really don’t have much to offer her in exchange for her time and advice yet. Still, it was worth having that conversation early to give us both time to think about her potential contributions for the future.

The other person was an old contact from my last job. He’s a successful entrepreneur himself, and it was good to test my product ideas with him, as well as ask for advice about picking the right investors. It was ironic when he recommended my Manufacturer #1 to me without any promptings as he has done business with them before. Small world.

It doesn’t look like my schedule this trip will align with Manufacturer #1 to see their factory, but it was good that my friend also endorsed me to them – saying that I was serious and “not just kicking the tires on this idea.”

My friend also introduced me to someone who appears to be the founder of a social impact accelerator. I can’t tell if it’s only for Brisbane, but it does seem to be a fairly mature group. In any case, I’m always happy to gain more advice about attracting investors to my social enterprise. So, we’ll try to meet in the next few days.

The scary part about being Employee #1

I’m used to running fairly large organisations. Since, I’m not an expert in anything, it actually works out pretty well for my generalist skill set. Instead, my job is usually to figure out everyone else’s strengths, and then to get the best out of them to meet our company’s or organisation’s goals.

So now that I am a staff of one, it’s pretty scary. There are no redundancies in skills. There’s no one else to get my work done if I take the day off. There’s no one holding me accountable for schedule or progress. And other than friends and family I confide in or the market research I do, there’s no one to even tell me that I’m heading in the wrong direction.

Currently, I’m the inventor, the website designer, the market researcher, the procurement officer, the social media strategist, the IT support desk, the brand manager, the manufacturer liaison, the bank, the logistics officer, the head communicator and the coffee runner amongst all other things.

It’s a pretty heavy burden being Employee #1 when I’m used to sharing the load.

Right now, I notice it most when I don’t have any contractors doing work in the background. It doesn’t matter if they are designing logos, preparing manufacturing quotes or fixing issues with my website. Whenever, I’m the only one working, I get nervous (and fewer emails).

Of course, it costs money to hire others to do work. Therefore, I only do this for activities where I clearly don’t have the skills to do it myself. So far, taking this approach still means that I’m usually waiting on others to complete something before I can either make a decision or progress the company forward. Yet, in a weird way, I feel better knowing that I can work on something else in the meantime.

So while I’ll continue to march forward mostly alone right now, I hope to have a team working with me next year. For I know that this business will be far better off if I’m spending my time as a manager than trying to do everything myself. I just need to start bringing in income before I can do that.

Go/No Go Decision #2

This week is the second of my Go/No Go decision milestones. I’m expecting the manufacturer quotes back this week. While they’re still estimates, the most important numbers are the unit prices. Can I make the products for a reasonable price here in Australia and out of recycled plastic?

If the answer is no, I have to pivot – either by 1) changing the business model or 2) the products. I’m set on making products out of Australian recycled plastic. So, really #2 is the only option. However, if that occurs, it could take me months of market research again to decided what that product should be and then to design it.

That delay would also force me back into the job market – trying to do this business as a side hustle while working full-time in my usual 50-60 hour a week type jobs. I don’t want to do that because I know the business momentum will suffer from my lack of energy and attention.

Right now, I’m trying not to think about this too much. It could still work out after all.

The challenges of working at home with a pet

Nasa, my 18 year old, bossy cat made it impossible to work at home without constant interruptions today. I finally grabbed my laptop and drove to the lake – working from my car all afternoon. Not a bad place for an office, though I don’t want her to think that she’s in charge either.

Despite having to take up office space in my car, we finalised the design for Product #3 today. If I can only afford to fund one product at a time, I reckon this is the one to help all the others just because it’s less complicated from an installation point of view. 🙂

Today, I was also contacted by an executive recruiter for a large international charity CEO role. I respectfully declined. I already have a job – even if it’s not paying yet.  

Sales and Marketing

I attended a networking event last week where entrepreneurs can pitch to a good size audience for whatever they need. It was interesting to see how many businesses were looking for sales and marketing help, though I suppose it shouldn’t be too surprising.

Most of the companies requesting this support or to hire these types of employees had software businesses. The founders were coders – not business people. And all they wanted to do was code, not sell their own product.

At the same event, I heard a social enterprise accelerator saying that they too needed sales and marketing mentors.

It’s funny how people sometimes question my ability to get into the manufacturing business when truthfully, just about anyone can make a product. From my experience and the examples above, the hard part is selling it once it’s made. And it’s the lack of sales that can make a business insolvent.

Sales and marketing is the one thing that I do know how to do.

So, I offered that accelerator my skills in exchange for getting to know some of their investors. They liked this “out of the box” idea and offered to also pay me a fee for presenting at a workshop.

This is great since my company isn’t going to generate any income until closer to Christmas, and who knows when it can really pay me. Maybe I can supplement my income by helping others this way? It would be far more fun than taking a part-time job (if I can get one).

To be or not to be an entrepreneur (again)

I’m thinking about starting another business. After being unemployed for six months and travelling the world, my savings account is dwindling.  Still, I haven’t found the kind of work that I’m looking for next – something challenging, creative, purposeful and where I have a great deal of control.  It doesn’t seem to exist. Or if it does, recruiters don’t think I’m qualified.

At forty-six, I’m taking bigger risks if I do start another business now. My retirement savings isn’t that big after following my ex-husband’s career around the world for nearly fifteen years.  While I have saved a bit during my last few jobs, it’s funny how fast you can go through it when you’re not bringing in any income.

And what if I get injured or seriously ill during this business start-up phase?  I don’t have a safety net to bail me out.  Is it really worth taking this kind of risk now – at a time that everyone says is the prime of my career if I keep moving up the same path?

At least I don’t have kids to consider. Otherwise my risk appetite may be different.

Fear of starting another business has its place especially with my entrepreneurial track record – this will be business #4 if I go for it. Still, I keep telling myself that if I only put in the kind of consistent hard work into my own business that I have put into others in the past I should have a decent chance of success. 

While I could spend a lot of time thinking about the ramifications if I fail – loss of my entire savings, loss of my home, loss of my reputation. What if I never find a job again afterwards and become homeless? Ugh!

It’s scary and some days that is all I can’t think about.  But other days, I asked myself – what if I did succeed?  I could do a lot of good for the environment and community if I choose the right business.

Furthermore, wouldn’t it be amazing to have work where I am enjoying the process, not just an end goal? That is…

Work filled with growth, of purpose, of a diverse range of activities and opportunities for creativity.

Work where I see no need to make such dramatic career changes in the future because I never quit learning and enjoying the ride.

Work were I can set the purpose and values of the organisation and share that journey with others that align with them.

Because in five years’ time, I could be either doing the exact same work that recruiters expect of me.  Or I could finally be making a living with an entity that I literally took from an idea to a life of it’s own.

My decision point is coming very soon.  I admit that I’m scared.