The Christmas Tree and the The Side Hustle

The Christmas Tree and the The Side Hustle


Ah, Christmas. Such a joyous time, isn’t it? As a child, I’d spend almost every holiday with my family at home in New York City. Occasionally, I’d go to my beloved grandmother’s hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, and stay with her niece, Little Zelda. Every family has a Little Zelda. Saucy and sassy with a side of “who knows what might come out of her mouth next.” Yet, she was the perfect hostess and had a fantastic ritual. On Christmas Eve she’d allow us children to place little craft gifts we’d made under her gorgeous and carefully trimmed tree. This masterpiece spruce, which stood at least six feet tall was decorated within an inch of its life. There was every kind of tinsel, garland, and bulb imaginable along with ornaments her three children had made over the years. A truly beautiful work of art. Now in her sixties, Little Zelda continues her Christmas tradition for her grandchildren. And yes, she’s still sassy!

When designing for my stationery business, She’s Got Papers, I’ve always pulled from my life experiences. This theme runs through the pieces in the collection to my overall mindset about the business I started while working a full-time corporate gig. Having a side hustle often comes with a stigma attached. You hear it all the time – the idea that your business is less “real” if you work full-time for someone else. In fact, the opposite is true actually.  The best time to explore whether you’re ready to take that very real step into full-time entrepreneurship is while you’re earning a steady paycheck. In my travels as an Inspirational Business Speaker, I’ve met so many women who are high on ideas, but low on patience. And that’s where the real issues are. I always treated She’s Got Papers as Little Zelda treated her Christmas tree. Every day I simply added an ornament, to my business dream “tree,” if you know what I mean. I adjusted my vision regularly. I set goals and I achieved them for the most part. On those occasions when I missed the mark I made changes. I expanded my network. I took classes. I did whatever I needed to do to keep my dream alive and to keep inching toward my ultimate goal.


Here are some tips on “decorating” your business tree:

  • Consider yourself fortunate: Your day job is a gift wrapped in silk paper with an organdy bow. While thousands of people are out of work, you’re able to pay your bills and fund your next move. It takes a glass-half-full approach to see it that way, but it’s an inescapable fact. Your ability to balance your perspective of gratitude and ambition is critically important.
  • Change your address: Building your own business is, for some, a very romantic notion. You fantasize about how your widget is going to be the greatest of all time. How you’re going to change lives and leave your day job in six months flat. Um, right. On your way to the bank, please don’t forget to change your address from “Fantasy Island” to “Reality Drive. The truth is that if it were that easy every miserable co-worker you have would be jumping ship right along with you. Your entry to the Forbes list will a little longer than you thought and that’s okay.
  • Write on, write on: Journaling is one of my keys to survival. Jotting down the names of other female entrepreneurs I’ve connected with, reflecting on conversations with new customers about  how the designs in my collection have resonated with them, and my gratitude that I’m able to express my creativity and that my supporters “get me.” Connection, reflection, and gratitude. 3 very powerful words that I live by.
  • Feed your mind: I read every single day. Business articles, bible scriptures, my grandmother’s letters, inspirational poems, and magazines. I also listen to podcasts and figure out ways to apply what I learn. Remember, other people’s experiences can be your best teacher.  Make sure you’re consistently absorbing information that can help you move further.
  • Stash your coins: The first money I ever received was when I lived on welfare as a teen mother. That experience taught me to manage my money ferociously. While working for 20 years in Corporate America and earning a very decent living, I was ever diligent about filling up my “get out of Dodge” account, or as I like to call it, my GOD fund. Money management is not optional, it’s necessary.

You see, my cousin Little Zelda didn’t just bring a tree into the house and yell “Christmas!” She watered the tree, carefully picked out the trimmings, decorated it as though it would be on display in Rockefeller Center, played good soul music, baked sugar cookies, and wrapped gifts with love. And then she called us down to the party.

The biggest loss is wasted time and working while you wait is the name of the game. What ornaments are you adding to your side hustle tree until you can yell “Full-time business!”?



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