I went to college to study marketing. When I graduated, I began working at an agency, and very much enjoyed my job. However, in today’s market, it is difficult to get everything you need from a “day job.” So I wrote, on this blog and on others. I started doing comedy on nights and weekends, and used it to develop training materials and content for my company. Finally, I started consulting individuals on their online branding strategy. All of this happened in my spare time. It was a lot of work, but it helped me to acquire new opportunities much faster than if I was only focusing on my “day job.” Of course, I was careful to not let my side projects impact my performance during the day.
Millennials especially have enormous student debt, and face an ultra-competitive market that requires extra effort to get ahead. One trend that is emerging to alleviate both concerns is the “side-hustle.” Side-hustling is when someone maintains a traditional day job while at the same time building a side business or career. In cases where the side-business becomes successful, many transition out of their day job. Over the next few weeks, this series will feature interviews from the founders of several companies who can speak to the importance of the “side-hustle.” Whether you are looking to become an entrepreneur or simply to find some additional income in your spare time, the success of these people can help guide your path.
Up first is Tracy DiNunzio, the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Tradesy, an online fashion marketplace that allows users to sell/buy new and gently used merchandise. She is also the CEO and founder of Recycled Bride, the Web’s largest wedding re-sale marketplace, which launched in 2009. An expert and leading voice in sustainable fashion and technology, Tracy is a frequent speaker and media guest on the topic of weddings, green style, and entrepreneurship.
How do you define your “personal brand?” What does it mean for your company?
My personal brand and my company’s brand are really intimately tied together — even our names rhyme, I’m “Tracy from Tradesy!” For me, the desire to build my own personal brand comes from wanting to connect the Tradesy.com user experience to my own passion for making fashion affordable and accessible to all women, and relating my own experience as a woman trying to “make it” in fashion and tech is the best way to do that. So rather than presenting a glossed-over, glamorized image to our audience, I keep my lifestyle and my personal brand very honest and relatable. I love to talk about about my own challenges and how I overcome them, so that women know that Tradesy is a place where they’ll be accepted and supported as they figure out how to look and feel great and find personal success without breaking the bank.
What gave you the inspiration to build your company?
I think as women, we tend to feel more confident and generate success for ourselves when we like how we look. But as I was building my career, I couldn’t afford the fashion that I wanted. I noticed that lots of women have the same challenge, especially as we transition through all these life different life phases — college to career; dating to marriage to motherhood. We all need to constantly update our wardrobes, and it’s expensive. So I built Tradesy to make great style accessible to every woman by providing a safe and easy system to buy and sell clothing straight from our closets. I envision a world in which we can always sell the things we’re not wearing to finance new purchases that we love. That mission continues to inspire me every day.
What has been your experience with the “side-hustling” trend in Gen-Y? How do you see it impacting the marketplace?
I “side-hustled” like crazy to build Tradesy! When the company was getting started at my kitchen table, I took side jobs doing social media and SEO for other start-ups, and I even rented out my bedroom on Airbnb and slept on my couch! I think that technology has enabled us all to find ways to side-hustle, whether it’s through selling our belongings and space, or doing flexible part-time work from home. And that’s going to be a boon to entrepreneurship in general, giving a lot more people the chance to realize their dreams. I think we’re seeing a lot more creativity in the market in general because young people have new ways to pay the bills while working on projects that they care about.
How can someone balance the responsibilities of a “real job” with a digital side-project? Not just from a time perspective, but to avoid negative criticism from employers?
It’s challenging for sure, but the solution for just about everything is hard work and time management. When I was getting started, I used to wake up in the middle of the night to tweet to potential customers overseas. I stopped exercising and gave up most of my social life for a few years too. It’s not easy, but the bottom line is that anything worth having is worth sacrificing for, and you have to ruthlessly prioritize your time in order to make room for a passion project. Keep in mind that it won’t be that way forever — once you’ve proven that your side project is viable, you’ll be able to give up your full-time gig and have more balance in your life.
What are 2-3 pieces of advice you would give to someone who is stuck in their career and looking to take a step to the next level?
We often make the mistake of waiting until we feel utterly stuck and hopeless to try and start something new, and that can be really hard because your energy and inspirational resources are depleted by those negative feelings. So my number one piece of advice is to start NOW. Just do it — today! Waiting around for the “right time” or the “right idea” is just keeping you stuck and creating a downward spiral that can be hard to climb out of. Every self-made entrepreneur faces seemingly-insurmountable doubts and challenges in the beginning, but they do the work to overcome those things, rather than just thinking about it and wishing for better circumstances. You don’t need an earth-shattering idea or the perfect moment to begin your journey, you just need to start working, and the work will guide you as you go, making you smarter and stronger along the way. If you can devote 2-3 hours of time every day to pursuing something — anything — that feels more interesting and exciting than your current job, you will eventually find the formula to move forward. Pay attention to the competition so that you’re informed about your market, but don’t let it intimidate you or prevent you from pursuing something that you love. Every idea worth pursuing comes with its own competitive landscape. Stay hungry and curious, because the more you love learning about what you do, the easier it will be to stay ahead of the curve and remain engaged and committed to your work when the going gets tough. And remember: nothing that’s worth doing is going to come easy, but life really opens up when you love what you do, so it’s all worth it in the end!