Ask the Expert

How to Launch Your Startup While Still Working a 9-to-5 Job

How to Launch Your Startup While Still Working a 9-to-5 Job
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Q: What challenges did you face in scaling your startup and how’d you cope in corp?
-- Ashley Kruempel

A: My challenges in growing a business have been mitigated because I took a different path. I eschewed the model of Silicon Valley entrepreneurship in favor of one that fed my need for reduced risk and financial safety. I embraced the world of the side hustle.  And, accelerated it through a corporate culture that understood how a side hustle can play an important role in a company’s success.

In essence, a side hustle is a way to explore a passion and assess profitability. The side hustle is the entrepreneur’s playground -- a creative means of testing an idea within the safe confines of a stabile job. It's the antithesis of what America has come to think of as the path to entrepreneurship.

In Adam Grant’s book Originals: How Non-Conformists Rule the World, he talks about the biggest mistake of his career: not investing in Warby Parker because the founders were treating it as a side hustle. “I thought to be an entrepreneur you have to be a risk-taker and you have to be all in," Grant writes. "And what I didn't realize at the time was, first of all, successful entrepreneurs are much more likely to play it safe and have back-up plans than failed entrepreneurs; and secondly, all of the time they spent working on other things was giving them the freedom to do something really original."

Related: How to Start a Side Hustle Without Quitting Your Day Job

In failing to consider multiple forms of entrepreneurship, he forgot to realize that different modes of entrepreneurship come with different challenges and benefits. The side hustle has the most benefits and the fewest setbacks. I was able to explore and grow multiple ideas and skillsets without the pressure of instantly profitability or the demands of venture.

In fact, side hustles have four major resultant impacts on not only our propensity for entrepreneurship but on our ability to live more actualized lives --- and, all of these I’ve been able to indulge in while creating a platform and a business. I’ve categorized these benefits as:

Entrepreneurial: A side hustle clearly is a stepping stone to additional income and an ability to test out a business hypothesis.  It’s a natural evolution of a business concept within the safe confines of a day job.

Professional: A side hustle is also a professional differentiator. A side hustle gives you a story to share with your co-workers. It showcases your “creative thinking” and demonstrate “initiative.” This personal story separates you from the rank and file and you are often rewarded through promotion or other positive opportunities.

Cultural: A side hustle creates new networks opened because you have new passions. It enables you to connect with people across various companies, at levels you previously may have been unable to reach. This opens you up to different thinking, different ideology and opportunities.

Emotional: A side hustle can help to create and improve happiness levels. Sixteen percent of people in a recent study from Seltz have engaged in side hustles to find greater personal fulfillment and a large number of millennials who engage in side hustles report doing so to alleviate boredom.

Related: 5 Ways to Make Time for Your Side Hustle

In recent research, undertaken by Microsoft and NYTs best-selling author Steven Johnson, the hypothesis has been laid that play increases not only productivity but also creativity and innovation. For many, a side hustle inputs play in your life.

Luckily, I’ve been able at Microsoft to play with a multitude of interests and personal curiosities both as side hustles and as part of my corporate career. Through that, I have fostered the essential opportunities to grow a new business and myself but also to better inform my corporate work.

Research on millennials says that 55 percent are indifferent to the work place, meaning they are not emotionally connected to the work they are doing. A large proportion of them report feeling bored and uninterested.

For millennials to create and innovate, corporations must allow them to explore creative endeavors. In doing so, we can begin to build a side hustle culture so that “coping with Corporate America” isn’t the problem entrepreneurs perceive having to overcome.

By working in a company that not only allowed me to have a stimulating exciting job but recognized how the creative pursuit of my passions made me a better worker, the hardest decision in my career became leaving a corporate culture that fostered and embraced me to try other projects. This should be the dilemma of every entrepreneur and a true test for our entrepreneurial mettle.

For those of you who are thinking about striking out on a side hustle, here are a few tips:

Set a vision

In order to succeed in a side hustle, determine the type of life you want to live. This means, figuring out if you want to travel, spend more time with your kids, have more free time, or less.  

Become passionately curious.

Not everyone is born with a passion or interest -- I don’t dream about social media, I’d rather be a florist -- but in being curious, I found a place in social media where I could be satisfied, my vision of my life could be met and I could find success. It all began by exploring multiple fields and narrowing down to a few I was interested in.

Exploration of your interest areas

Test and try everything. Find things you hate and things you love. Then narrow those things you love down into a few that would match the vision of the life you want and if they could scale. Then, test. See if people are interested. Write articles. Talk to friends. Create products. Whatever helps you to understand if there is a viable benefit to you in committing to this side hustle.

Once you have established what your side hustle is going to be, you need to commit. 

Turn the televison off. There is on average three free hours of day back for every American who does this.

Stop checking social media.There is on average 90 minutes of time back for the average American for does this.

Commit to only checking work emails during work. If you must do so in the evening, only spend 30 minutes max doing so. 

Entrepreneurship needn’t be the path of those fleeing corporate America but instead the path we take only because we are so compelled to change or create a new solution that we must give up a professional culture that fulfills us. It would stop a lot of unnecessary, pointless and ill-advised businesses and free capital for companies that could benefit from it.

Related: 5 Keys to Turning Your Side Hustle Into a Successful Business

I didn’t cope with corporate America. I thrived in corporate America. I didn’t suffer from challenges at any scale that demands mentioning. I blossomed from the benefits accrued in the pursuit of a side hustle.