Many successful businesses often start from projects worked on when the 9 to 5 day job is over. Meet the five entrepreneurs – and true ‘6 to 11 heroes’ – who have built brands in their downtime and blazed new trails. Experts at the balancing act involved in managing more than one job, they have reignited their careers.
“I worked on my idea in my nights and weekends”
Kathryn Minshew is described on The Muse website as ‘number one swashbuckler’. We’re not about to dispute this – her impressive career means she’s probably number one at a lot of things. Minshew founded online career resource The Muse while working as a management consultant, “I was still working a full-time job. I worked on my idea in my nights and weekends, slowly sketching out the early business model and attending networking events to meet other technology founders. By the time I started The Muse, I was all in.”
While the thought of having two careers would make a lot of people run for the hills, Minshew found this suited her; “I’m the type of person who thrives when tackling a variety of challenges, so I loved the fact that my early startup experience let me learn new things while also succeeding in an existing role.”
Her advice to those thinking of taking on a second career centers around mitigating the risks, ”Think about what you’ll need financially to make ends meet in your new career. Understand the impact that your new day-to-day will have on the rest of your life.”
“It was definitely thrilling and tough to have a life with two jobs”
Elana Reinholtz was working as an FX/commodities specialist for Bloomberg when she found herself wondering whether her skills could be used for a greater good. Through an organization called Village Volunteers, she found an opportunity to donate her time in Kenya. After fundraising travel costs by selling handmade jewelry, Reinholtz began teaching accounting and business planning classes to widowed women. “Once I met these brave 70 widows, I vowed to do everything to help them have a chance at a better life,” she says.
When she returned home, Reinholtz launched a business based on the handmade jewelry she’d sold to fund her trip. Bird + Stone donates part of its profits to help female entrepreneurs in Kenya start businesses and lift their families out of poverty.
For a time, Reinholtz balanced Bird + Stone alongside her nine-to-five, tackling business responsibilities at lunch, in the evenings, and on weekends. “It was definitely thrilling and tough to have a life with two jobs,” she says. Eventually, though, she decided that the business had enough traction from press, live events, and sales, and could support her as a full-time gig.
“Don’t overthink – it’s better to do something than nothing”
Andrew Yung has always been the type of guy who follows fashion closely — so when a friend came to him with the idea for PINTRILL, an accessories brand that makes pins inspired by pop culture, joining the team just felt right.
Yung had already learned a thing or two about marketing during his time at Thrillist and Jack Threads, and besides, he was ready for a new challenge. “Living in New York, you’re surrounded by inspiring people who started their own business or are looking to do their own thing,” he says. “The dream is always to end up working for yourself.” He signed on to help out after hours balancing both his careers and a very busy schedule, but eventually, PINTRILL started taking up more of his time, and from there, he says, “the decision was a complete no-brainer. There was no turning back.”
PINTRILL has since opened a retail store and earned media coverage in several major publications. Looking back on his transition into startup life, Yung describes the experience as both great and intense. “The stakes are much higher [now], but I wouldn’t change it for a thing,” he says. “I get a lot of people assuming I have more time now that I can ‘make my own schedule’ — but that couldn’t be any further from the truth.”
“There’s no such thing as a typical day”
Photographer Cesar Vega had a fairly flexible schedule, which he used to his advantage when it came to pursuing his passions. “Coffee is an incredible thing in all its forms,” he says. “It’s a deeply complex beverage that comes to be through an extraordinary coordination of hundreds if not thousands of individuals.”
It was this fascination with the beverage that inspired him to open Café Integral, a coffee company that works with small producers in Nicaragua through every phase of the production process.
It was an ambitious plan, so he started small, focusing first on building relationships and helping Nicaraguan producers import their coffees for other roasters. Eventually, though, he felt the need to take Café Integral‘s involvement even further, focusing on roasting and serving, too. “It was important for us to see the product to fruition, creating a feedback loop all the way back to our producing partners at home in Nicaragua.”
Today, Café Integral has cafes in New York and Chicago, and Vega works with the company full time, wearing a variety of hats. “There’s no such thing as a typical day, but generally my role includes tasting coffee, working with baristas, clients and customers, and hopping around to a few locations.”
“Only start your second career if you’re really committed.”
Natalie James is the “NJ” in NJ in LA, a Los Angeles-based blog covering food, travel, music, and culture. Before starting her adventure as professional blogger, James was a social media manager at a design and brand consultancy, with a second job handling social for CitySearch LA. The pay was great, but something felt missing.
“I found myself fantasizing about all the things I could be doing with my time had I not been chained to my desk,” she says. “I had been covering the LA food scene for Refinery 29, and decided it was time I finally carved out my own digital space where I’d discuss the places I experienced and had the privilege of eating at.”
NJ in LA began to gather momentum, and in 2014, Instagram made James a featured user. “My followers blew up, which ushered in new opportunities as my work was exposed to tens of thousands,” she says.
These days, her weeks are typically filled with a couple tastings, a few live shows, and many nights on the dancefloor. James says the biggest difference is that she no longer has to wait for the weekend. “I work seven days a week, but I call the shots and have never experienced something so powerful as owning my time. It’s made me a happier person and in doing so has strengthened all of my relationships, both personally and professionally.”
Are you thinking about taking the second career plunge? Hopefully these 6-to-11 heroes have inspired you to take the next step — because you never know where that side hustle could take you.
Written by Katherine Leonard
Photo of Kathryn Minshew by Frances F. Denny