Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Doing the hustle: Here's why these Charlotte entrepreneurs are always working


In Wednesday's print edition of ShopTalk, you'll meet business owners who work day or side jobs while making their business dreams a reality.

There's a name for it: the side hustle.

Blogger Nick Loper describes it as something you to do earn money outside your day job.

How do they do it, and what drives them? Here's a closer look at three:

Alexandra Zsoldos
FirstDanceCharlotte

Alexandra Zsoldos' side gig took shape at a young age. She grew up dancing, and choreographed dances for the student dance company in college.


By day, Zsoldos, 27, works for a Charlotte marketing firm. At night and on weekends, she runs FirstDanceCharlotte, which she uses to teach private wedding dance lessons out of her home.

"Everyone does a first dance, but it's probably one of the most dreaded or least considered part of the wedding these days," she said. "I want couples to rediscover how fun and special it is to dance together."

Much of Zsoldos' free time is spent listening to each couples' wedding music, working out the timing and steps that work with the music, writing practice notes and working out the choreography. She works by appointment only, she said, so she doesn't overload herself.

"As to whether I will sleep in the future, who knows," she said.

ShomoLive
    Scott Jermyn
Scott Jermyn can say the same. 


"Sleep is hard," said the 41-year-old Jermyn, who has spent the last five years creating ShomoLive, an online service that streamlines booking events for local artists and venues.

To stay afloat, he runs a real estate business with a friend and tends bar two nights a week.

"When somebody's entrepreneurial like that, you kind of have it in you to go, go, go and keep pushing it," he said.

Kelly Jo Jefferis
Rodan & Fields

    Hard work was bred into Kelly Jo Jefferis, a 31-year-old mother to a 16-month-old toddler and a self-admitted overachiever. She grew up watching her father work 60 to 80 hours a week at a corporate job.

    "I wanted to follow in his footsteps so I started working at 15 years old," she said.

    She now works full-time as a marketing agent for a national contractor. Earlier this year, she began selling skincare products for Rodan & Fields after meeting a neighbor who decided not to renew her CPA license because selling for the company paid her monthly daycare bills.

    Jefferis spent less than $1,000 to get started. She juggles 12 regular customers, and fits in calls and emails around her day job, often when she's in the bathroom or waiting to pick her daughter up from daycare.
    "I have my rough days, but I am so glad I did it," she said. "I just need a few years to work my business and provide great service and my success will come to me. I'm sure of it."

    Working your hustle

    ShopTalk asked Loper and Jullien Gordon, a New York employee engagement consultant who gave a TEDx Midwest talk on side hustling, about how entrepreneurs should work their hustle. Here's some of what they had to say:

    Know what you like: Loper advises aspiring entrepreneurs to take inventory of their skills.

    "If you've had a job ever you, by definition, have a skill worth paying," he said.

    Scan your resume, he said, and figure out which skills interest you the most. Ask yourself: "Which of those am I particularly interested (in), or can I imagine turning that into a side business?"

    The important thing is to make sure you like what you're doing.

    "If you're an accountant by day and you're skilled at that, but you hate accounting, that doesn't make for a good side hustle," Loper said. "Though you need money, the last thing you need is a second job you hate."

    Adjust your schedule: "We're all dealt the same 24 hours a day," Loper said. His suggestion to making the side gig a little more manageable: Wake up an hour earlier and work in the mornings before your day job.

    Gordon, a father and husband, compares running a side business to preparing for a marathon. People who run marathons, he said, often set time in the mornings and over the weekends to prepare. After work, he said, business owners can dedicate an hour to working their side business at a Starbucks.

    "It's not a piano": That's what Loper's father told him growing up, stressing that mistakes are inevitable. Setting up the side business, Loper said, won't be a flawless endeavor right out of the gate.

    Don't give up, he said, but understand that timing is key.

    "Don't try to be put in a position that it's a life-or-death thing, (like) 'I need to make rent next month,'" he said. "For me, it was three years of nights and weekends before I felt comfortable...to quit my day job." 

    Monday, October 13, 2014

    Do you give freebies? Let us know

    Courtesy of The Write Occasion Calligraphy
    It's the small things that count.

    From complimentary peppermints to handwritten thank-you notes, many small businesses provide something extra that help customers feel special -- and make them want to come back.

    Do you use these or other gestures at your business?

    Let us know for an upcoming story.

    Contact Jonathan McFadden at jmcfadden@charlotteobserver.com or at 704-358-6045.

    Monday, October 6, 2014

    Dr. Oz to launch community walk at Merinos in Mooresville

    Dr. Mehmet Oz
    A Mooresville business is the launchpad for a series of events this week in which Dr. Mehmet Oz will throw his support behind free health clinics in the Carolinas.

    On Thursday, Oz, who hosts "The Dr. Oz Show" on ABC-TV, will launch a community walk from Merinos Home Furnishings at 500 South Main St., the once-abandoned textile mill that served as the bedrock of the community.

    The walk is part of Harmony in Health, a fundraising event hosted by Mooresville's HealthReach Community Clinic and Walgreens.

    During the kickoff, Mooresville Mayor Miles Atkins will present Oz with a NASCAR jacket. Participants will walk a mile to the Charles Mack Citizen Center and an optional second mile back to Merinos.

    Michal Bay, who owns Merinos, said he's not hoping the walk and subsequent exposure will be a boon to his business.

    "I think when you're doing something, you do it because you want to do it, not because you want to benefit out of it," Bay said. "We're doing it without expecting anything whatsoever."

    Organizers chose Merinos as the spot to start the walk because of its size, Bay said, adding that he often allows the community to use space at the retrofitted mill. He jumped at the chance to host Oz at his store.

    The fact they're both Turkish, he said, is just mere coincidence. Bay was born in Turkey, then moved to London, England and then returned to Turkey before he moved to the U.S. and started selling furniture.

    The Turkish-American Oz was born in Cleveland, Ohio.
    Michal Bay

    "I personally love Dr. Oz," Bay said. "I only know him through the press. I never met him. I don't know him. I love the way he explains medical (things) to everybody."

    The walk starts at 10 a.m. in Merinos' parking lot on College and Church streets. Thursday's walk is just one part in a series of daylong activities for Oz that will include a health fair, black-tie dinner and an event at Mooresville High School.

    Friday, October 3, 2014

    So, what's your side hustle?

    Corporate worker by day, busy entrepreneur by night?

    Toiling away at your office desk 8 to 5, but selling merchandise out of your call 6 till midnight?

    For an upcoming ShopTalk story, we want to talk to small-business entrepreneurs who are working both their day jobs and their side hustle.

    What's a side hustle, you ask?

    Nick Loper, who runs a blog called Side Hustle Nation, defines it as "something you do to earn money outside your day job."

    Previous generations called it "moonlighting," says Loper, who started a footwear comparison-shopping website while working a corporate job.

    Eventually, he walked away from his day job in 2008 and went into full-time self employment.

    So maybe you're like Loper and have a gig on the side. Or two. Or three.

    What did you do to get it started? How are you managing a full-time job and a side gig? Is the business successful? Do you sleep?

    We want to hear from you. Tell us your stories about how you bring home the bacon using more than one stream of income.

    Contact Jonathan McFadden at (704) 358-6045, or via email: jmcfadden@charlotteobserver.com.

    Wednesday, October 1, 2014

    Fast growth spurs tech startup's move to Packard Place

    The latest company to take residence in Charlotte's swelling incubator for technology start-ups started two years ago on a trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains.

    SpendBoss, which provides businesses and retailers with technology helping them easily order supplies, has moved to Packard Place on South Church Street to accommodate its growth.

    The company started in 2012 when a dozen retail executives gathered at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville and began collaborating on how to best develop a solution for managing indirect spend, the purchases a business uses for supplies that are not directly related to the products it sells or services it provides, according to its website.

    The group that would make up SpendBoss created a cloud-sharing software that allows business owners to budget, communicate with suppliers and create reports, graphs and spreadsheets on one platform.

    Company officials said in a news release that Packard Place has the "right elements to foster the growth of a revolutionary startup." The company has more than doubled its size within the past year, officials say.

    SpendBoss is now among more than 100 tech-startups in Packard Place, said Dan Roselli, Packard Place co-founder. The company is one of the largest in Packard Place and has agreed to mentor newer startups in Packard Place's QCFinTech program, a financial services technology incubator.

    Thursday, September 25, 2014

    Charlotte entrepreneur's granola becomes part of news Emmys

    DeeDee Navarro with her packaged granola



    It would make DeeDee Navarro's day if Diane Sawyer took a bite out of her granola.

    There's a chance the former ABC "World News" anchor will next Tuesday.

    Navarro, founder of Charlotte's Bungalow Picnic Company, was selected among a pool of more than 1,000 businesses nationwide to provide products that will be stuffed inside gift bags distributed to news media executives, reporters and filmmakers at the 35th annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards Sept. 30.

    For the past six years, Off the Wall Gifts, a New Hampshire advertising and product placement company, has given small businesses nationwide the opportunity to submit products for the Emmy gift bags, company founder Val Wilson said. This year, products from 32 businesses will be distributed in 800 gift bags.

    A research team examine each business' website, social media efforts and consider how recipients will react to the products. Wilson said she liked the look of Bungalow's website and felt the granola was nicely packaged and Navarro's brand not too gender-specific.

    Navarro, mother to two college-aged daughters, said she dreamed of starting a healthy grab-and-go or snack food company for years, but she didn't know "exactly what that was going to entail."

    As she brainstormed on what her niche could be, she made granola for her children and their friends. It was a hit. The owner of a local bakery agreed to help her make and package her own granola treats.

    She began with basic ingredients --oats, bran and flaxseed-- but decided to also add coconut oil, an ingredient she didn't see used in most granola products. She mixed together a combination she grew up with --peanut butter and banana-- and created her first flavored granola product, which also includes almonds, walnuts, dried cranberries and banana chips.

    She has since added sunflower seed butter granola to her flavor repertoire.

    Navarro negotiates with store owners to get her granola on their shelves. Bungalow Picnic granola can be found in Whole Foods markets throughout the region, Reid's Fine Foods, EarthFare and the Fresh Market. She wants to continue marketing to specialty food stores, she said, before eventually moving to big retailers.

    She hopes the added exposure will bolster business. It wouldn't hurt if some of her favorite TV reporters savored her products, either.

    CNN's Anderson Cooper would be awesome, but Christiane Amanpour would be "just amazing," she said.

    "It would be just amazing if I thought she was eating granola as she's reporting live from Syria," Navarro said. "She'd take a break to eat my granola."

    Tuesday, September 23, 2014

    Pilot's advice to business owners: 'Lead from where you are, then you will fly'

    Elizabeth McCormick ran just as many miles, did just as many push-ups and hovered in a helicopter just as horribly as any male pilot when she enrolled in a U.S. Army flight school in 1993.

    The difference: She was the only female in her class.

    So, what does her experience have to do with running a business?

    When someone tells you no, say, 'why not?'" McCormick said to a conference room full of female veterans, businesswomen, spouses and active military personnel. "You've got to be your own cheerleader in life."

    McCormick on Tuesday was the keynote speaker at a Central Piedmont Community College conference focusing on women veterans becoming business entrepreneurs.

    She encouraged attendees to dispel negative thoughts. If you don't feel smart enough to run a business, figure out what it takes to feel smart, she said: Take a class. Hire a coach. Find a mentor.

    Her other tips included:




    • While brushing your teeth in the morning, speak five positive words to yourself that represent what you aspire to be while you look at yourself in the bathroom mirror.
    • Practice makes permanent. Practice, she said, determines how you perform in your life and your business, and how you'll find gumption to show up everyday. 
    • Rest. Peak performance, McCormick said, "doesn't get the job done." Optimal performance does. "You deserve your best. It's up to you to make 'you' a priority. You have gifts that the world needs. What you have has value."
    • Take a risk: She dared attendees to do something different
    • Your 'flight plan' is your business: "You've got to own it," she said. "It's yours. You decide where it goes...you determine your future...you determine your goals."
    An unhappy wife, McCormick caught what she calls a case of the "if he can do it, I can do it too" bug and enlisted in a U.S. Army flight school program. There, she had eight weeks to learn the ins and outs of operating a Huey helicopter.

    Elizabeth McCormick
    She faced a misogynistic flight instructor who often belittled her, calling her stupid and telling her each day that a monkey could fly better than her because she --and nearly every male student-- had trouble mastering helicopter hovering. Her requests for a new instructor were denied.

    "Every place I went, opposition," she said. "Every place I went, it was 'no.'"

    She finally met an instructor who taught her the right way to hover. She learned not to give up. The reason why, she said on Tuesday, rests with her "belief zone" -- the things she needed to tell and believe about herself to overcome her obstacles.

    "I knew I was meant to be more than just a wife," she told ShopTalk after the conference. "I wasn't willing to settle."


    Brenda Robinson

    Much of McCormick's speech resonated with Brenda Robinson, the first female African American pilot in the Navy.

    In 1978, she graduated from flight school and went into the Navy. She didn't make a fuss about her pioneer status, she said, choosing instead to focus 100 percent on her career. 

    "Nobody knows me because I did not want the attention" from the public or her co-workers, she said. In the early 1990s, she began flying commercial airlines but retired after 35 years of flight experience.

    Like McCormick, Robinson speaks across the country, encouraging students and seniors to identify and then achieve their goals. 

    "Lead from where you are," McCormick said. "When you see a need, you must choose to lead. And then, you will fly."

    Her next goal: Become the first female in the top 10 ranking of motivational speakers in the nation.


    McCormick's BBFD acronym for business owners:

    • Can I do it Bigger than everybody else?
    • Can I do it Better than everybody else?
    • Can I do it Faster than everybody else?
    • Can I do it differently than everybody else?

    CAN method for business leadership:

    Communicate: Questions to ask yourself, she said, include: "Is (what I'm saying) clear? Is it concise? Do (employees) know they're understood?

    Aviate: Take action, McCormick implored before relaying details of her harrowing flight amid a 1998 ice storm in New York. "You can't stop when there's a crisis. When things get really hard, that's when you show up."

    Navigate: "Do you know where you're going?" she asked. Business owners, she said, should be comfortable with saying "No" to some opportunities so they can make room for the ones that help them move closer to their goals.