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This Young Professional Left Her Job in Finance After Her Remote Side Hustle Took Off and Made $76,000: 'My Idea Solves a Universal Problem' Ruta Drungilaite got creative during the pandemic lockdowns — and stumbled upon a lucrative business opportunity.

By Amanda Breen Edited by Jessica Thomas

Key Takeaways

  • After graduating with an economics and finance degree, Drungilaite started climbing the corporate ladder in London.
  • She began creating date night boxes for couples during the pandemic lockdowns, but the idea wasn't scalable.
  • So she pivoted to selling date ideas in a digital format — and earned about $76,000 before leaving her finance job.

This Side Hustle Spotlight Q&A features Ruta Drungilaite, founder of A Twist of Date, a business that helps couples plan date nights with its digital offerings — cold case files, conversation starter cards, romantic board games and more.

Image Credit: Courtesy of A Twist of Date. Ruta Drungilaite.

What was your day job (or other sources of income) when you started your side hustle?
After graduating with an economics and finance degree at the age of 21, I took the "textbook" path of a graduate scheme in one of the big banks in Canary Wharf, London. Since then, I've worked seven jobs across various departments and business units in the seven years I've been there, quickly progressing up the "corporate ladder." I specialized in financial product management, and my last role was as a VP senior product manager in payments innovations (emerging payment acceptance solutions for corporate merchants).

Related: These Coworkers-Turned-Friends Started a Side Hustle on Amazon — Now It's a 'Full Hustle' Earning Over $20 Million a Year: 'Jump in With Both Feet'

When did you start your side hustle, and where did you find the inspiration for it?
The idea for A Twist Of Date came to me during one of the Covid lockdowns in 2021. We live in London, so we are usually spoiled when it comes to fun things to do. My fiancé and I have done it all: hidden jazz clubs, secret cocktail bars, underground plays, wine and cheese tastings, comedy nights, a Horrible Histories boat tour, escape room-style outdoor food maze, indoor rock climbing, quirky art installations, driving range and many more.

However, the lockdown took away all those choices. As a result, my fiancé found it hard to come up with unique date ideas, while my own creativity was only propelled by it. It dawned on me that there must be other people out there who also struggle to come up with creative date ideas at home (not just a movie and dinner). So, I started to think about how I could solve that problem for couples.

What were some of the first steps you took to get your side hustle off the ground?
My first idea was to create date night boxes delivered to you, which would have everything set and planned for a romantic evening at home. I launched cocktail-making boxes in February 2022 in time for Valentine's Day and pottery workshop boxes later on. The boxes included playlists, all the tools to make cocktails or pottery creations, deep conversation starters and other activities designed to deepen the connection with your partner.

Couples loved these boxes, and I received a lot of good feedback, but making the boxes by hand was extremely labor intensive, profit margins were razor thin/nonexistent, and the volume of sales was not as high as I had originally hoped for. Ultimately, the date box idea was not a scalable or financially viable one for me to continue.

Six months into my venture, I started selling a PDF of 110 date idea cards, which couples could download instantly and print out at home. As this idea went well, I pivoted my business away from physical date night boxes toward digital products, expanding my range with romantic board games, cold case files, escape rooms, conversation starters and more. That's when my business started to really take off, and I knew I was onto something.

Related: Their 'Magic Internet Money' Side Hustle Just Hit $1 Billion in Sales: 'We'd Empty 6 Figures of Cash Onto the Counter. The Bank Teller's Expressions Were Priceless.'

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced while building your side hustle, and how did you navigate them?
Building my first business has probably been the hardest thing I've done in my life — and the most rewarding one, too. It's been an emotional rollercoaster of a journey with countless challenges.

Here are some of the main ones:

  1. First product not being viable: As mentioned above, my first idea of physical date night boxes was essentially a loss and not financially viable or scalable. Even today, our cupboards are filled with hundreds of mini alcohol bottles from the cocktail boxes I used to sell! I could have given up at this point, but I decided to experiment and pivot, which has led me to digital date night products I sell today, with more than 5,000 orders placed across 80 different countries.
  2. Knowledge gap: Most of the time, I didn't know what I was doing, but I was willing to learn and persevere. I didn't have a big budget to start with, so I've done everything myself: coding my website by searching for answers on YouTube, clumsily using Adobe Illustrator to design my logo, writing privacy policy, terms and conditions and other legal documentation for my website, creating and designing all the products without any experience with Canva, learning to make TikToks and grow on social media — never having even used TikTok before. Throughout my journey, I've always tried to embrace the mindset of I have no idea how to do this, but I'm sure I can learn.
  3. Trying to build the business with a full-time job: There's no magic or secret here — balancing my demanding day job and a business has been very tough. I tried to work on my business as much as I could on the evenings and weekends, but after a full day of "firefighting" at my day job, I was often emotionally and physically depleted, so it wasn't always possible to work on my business as much as I would have liked to. I've had to accept that I only have so much energy and time, and for this venture to be sustainable, I had to prioritize my health, mental health and overall well-being, even though it meant that things are moving slower than I would have liked to in the short term. I had to be careful to observe and notice any signs of my mental health taking a toll due to overworking and prioritize taking rest as well as doing things that bring me energy and joy. My approach was prioritizing consistency of action — trying to do at least a little bit every day to build and grow my business.

Related: These College Friends Started a 'Fun' Side Hustle That Landed Them on 'Shark Tank'— Now the Idea Is Helping Dozens Make Extra Cash: 'Start Saying Yes'

How long did it take you to see consistent monthly revenue? How much did the side hustle earn?
In the first six months of launching my business, my total revenue was less than £3,000 (about $3,800). Seven months in, I had my "Flirty Dice" printable board game go viral on TikTok, which brought in over £700 (about $890) in just three days, which is when I knew I was on to something and started to see more growth from leveraging organic social media to drive sales.

As my sales were mostly driven by my videos going viral, the income levels varied significantly from month to month. I am still working on diversifying my marketing strategies and revenue streams to achieve more consistency in revenue.

Why did you decide to go from side hustle to full-time business? What does growth and revenue look like now?
I had more than 5,000 orders from 80 different countries and made around £60,000 (about $76,000) in sales before quitting my corporate 9-5, which reassured me that my idea solves a universal problem for couples all across the world. With the business concept verified, I felt that I could make this venture work if I dedicated my full attention to it. I've built up my personal savings to sustain myself for at least the next 12 months, after which I'm hoping to be driving enough revenue to pay myself a salary that's similar to the one I had with my job in finance. Leaving my well-paid job in finance is the biggest risk I've ever taken, but I absolutely love the business I've built and believe that with consistency, discipline and a growth mindset, I'll be able to make it work.

What do you enjoy most about running this business?
While my background is in finance, I am naturally a very creative person. I love coming up with new concepts for date ideas and bringing them to life.

What brings me the most joy is knowing that all my hard work is helping countless busy couples from all over the world have quality time together. The heartfelt customer messages and reviews I receive always make my day. Couples have told me they've used my date nights to reconnect after having a newborn or to discover new things about each other even after 18 years of marriage.

Related: The Sweet Side Hustle She Started in an Old CVS Made $800,000 in One Year. Now She's Repeating the Success With Her Daughter — and They've Already Exceeded 8 Figures.

What's your advice for others hoping to start successful side hustles or businesses of their own?

  1. Find a pain point. I recommend a brilliant book called Jobs to Be Done for every aspiring entrepreneur to learn about identifying and solving real problems.
  2. Validate your idea. Every entrepreneur thinks their idea is fantastic, but the only way to verify it is to see if anyone is willing to pay for it and if it can be profitable. If you're looking to quit your corporate job for a side hustle, I think it's essential to prove your concept before you do.
  3. Prioritize action over perfection. Learn to be comfortable with releasing your ideas into the market and testing them before they're perfect. The more messy and scrappy action you take, the quicker you'll get the feedback you need and be able to learn from it. There's no point working on perfecting your product for years just to find out no one wants it.
  4. Do something you're truly interested in. Ask yourself if your business idea is something you truly care about. If you do, the setbacks and disappointments that you'll encounter along the way will be worth persevering through.
  5. Embrace the growth mindset. It's easy to fall into the victim mentality, blame the circumstances and feel sorry for yourself when things don't go to plan, but it won't serve you well. Take ownership of the failures and focus on what you can learn from them. Cultivate the mindset of curiosity and endless learning.
  6. Stay true to your values. We see the stereotypical high-flying entrepreneur going with no sleep for weeks, working all hours of the day and having no time for a social life or relationships. While this might work for some, I'm a big believer in intentionally defining what success means to you personally and consciously choosing the price you're willing to pay in the different aspects of your life to get there — because I think you can do anything, but not everything. I know my health and relationships with family, friends and fiance always come first, and I'm not willing to drop the ball on those aspects of my life, even if it means my business might grow more slowly.

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Side Hustles Ideas & More
Amanda Breen

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior Features Writer

Amanda Breen is a senior features writer at Entrepreneur.com. She is a graduate of Barnard College and received an MFA in writing at Columbia University, where she was a news fellow for the School of the Arts.

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