Meet Lori Chivers – a Charlotte wife, mother, full-time baker and part-time fitness instructor.
She’s lucky if she sleeps four hours a night.
She spends most of her days in a kitchen, baking cookies, cakes and pastries for parties, weddings and cafes. When the oven mitts come off, she’s attending her 12-year-old son’s sports games, making deliveries or working what’s become her latest gig – teaching high-intensity fitness classes at a local YMCA.
“It’s a balancing act ... all the time,” said Chivers, who runs Sweet It Is! bakery with her husband, Calvin, a registered nurse and part-time baker. “There are some nights we may not be in bed until 1 or 2 in the morning, then we’re right (back) up ... and baking.”
Chivers, 49, started the bakery two years ago, using weeknights and weekends to bake and make a little extra money on the side. Then, last November, she was laid off from UnitedHealthcare, her full-time job for a decade.
And so began the hustle. She made the bakery her primary source of income – but not her only one.
The latest figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that 7.1 million people nationwide were working a second job last month, up from 6.9 million at the same time a year earlier.
That includes entrepreneurs who are unwilling to depend on one source of income.
“I’m doing my own thing and getting a great deal of satisfaction,” Chivers said. “I’m sometimes completely exhausted, (but) I wake up in the morning, and I’m happy to be doing what I’m doing.”
You’re the boss
Nick Loper defines the side hustle as something you do to earn money outside your day job.
Loper, of Washington D.C., runs a blog, Side Hustle Nation – his way of spreading “the gospel of this lower-risk brand of entrepreneurship.” Getting the hustle going, he said, means entrepreneurs must use their proven skills for a worthwhile venture and make time adjustments – even if it means waking up an hour earlier than usual.
Jullien Gordon, a New York employee engagement consultant who gave a TEDx Midwest talk on side hustling, tells entrepreneurs to treat their daytime employers like clients.
“When an employee starts to see an employer as a client, not ‘my end-all be-all,’ it changes their perspective on work,” he said. “If you build your lifestyle according to your single source of income and that income evaporates, then you’re going to be in a pretty tough situation.”
Just ask Nicole Blackmon, a 28-year-old Charlotte interior designer who was laid off twice. She works 80 hours a week, running Blank Canvas, a high-end men’s fashion boutique in South End, and her own interior design business, Vision by Nicole.
Blackmon’s double duty has resulted in her missing Vision by Nicole deadlines, and her personal life is usually first on the chopping block.
Take Oct. 4, for example. On that Saturday, while attending her 10-year high school reunion with fellow grads at West Charlotte High, she got a call around 8:30 p.m. A Carolina Panthers player was sending his concierge people to collect clothes he wanted. Blackmon left the reunion, drove to Blank Canvas and made the sale.
“My personal life always gets the short end of the stick,” she said.
The new normal
Working a primary job and side gig is likely the “new normal” for American workers, both young and old, said Ted Zoller, who directs UNC Chapel Hill’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.
“Those folks approaching their senior and their highest wage years recognize that they might be out of a job earlier than they think, and they’re not prepared to just let it ride,” he said. “They would like to have a Plan B.”
Jamie Brown’s to-do list is a mix of work and family obligations that includes editing chapter books, caring for her children, working her day job at a South End design studio and running two other businesses at night while the kids are asleep.
Earlier this year, she and Meg Seitz published “Bea is for Business,” a children’s book that spawned an educational website. Ten to 15 hours a week, Brown, 37, manages social media and public relations for the two restaurants her husband owns, Growlers Pour House and the Crepe Cellar Kitchen & Pub, both in NoDa.
“Because this is how our family eats and pays our bills, it’s very critical for me to take the time to work on this and to nurture these two (restaurants),” she said.
Leaving the hustle
For eight years, Charlotte’s Cory Tapia, 31, saved money to build his wedding photography business, Blue Motion Studio. At the same time, he worked full time at the National Geographic Channel in Washington, D.C., then the Speed Channel in Charlotte and later part time at Ritz Marketing, where he made car commercials. Six months after starting at Ritz, he quit.
“It was pretty scary the first couple of months that I did it,” he said. “You have that constant paycheck coming from a full-time job. That was the house payment, bills.”
His wife convinced him to turn his side business into his main one. It’s worked but doesn’t come without its challenges.
Clients call him late at night. He often works until 3 a.m. and is back up three or four hours later to work again. Weekends off? Not so much.
But, hey, he gets to work in his pajamas, and said he earns about $50,000 a year doing what he loves. As for that tricky work-life balance?
“I’m trying to figure (it) out,” he said.