Every day, we’re hustling.

Tired of scrolling? Maybe it’s time to try something new.

Glen Swart

Category: Creative


We’ve all unboxed a new purchase and balked at the complex instructions and parts scattered everywhere. Where do you begin and what do you do next? Turning my side hustle into a small business was no different. It starts with choosing to pick up that first piece, and then being brave enough to move onto the next until it’s done.

Alongside my full-time job as a senior graphic designer at NJI, I run a small Etsy store (Lucky Day Kiosk), carve lino prints, and—as if that wasn’t enough—am creating my own board game. People often ask me, “When do you sleep?” and “Why do you do it?” My answers vary from day to day, but for the most part, I pursue these projects because I love to transform simple ideas into tangible creations I can share with others to enjoy. I especially appreciate sketching or crafting by hand, as it provides a welcome break from my digital screen, calms my mind, and gives me focus.

Soft Enamel Pin & Flip Flops from Lucky Day Kiosk

Before joining NJI, I often found myself job-hopping, searching for that elusive “perfect” role. I didn’t realize the unnecessary pressure I was putting on my career to fulfill all my creative exploration in a single place. My time at NJI has taught me that a workplace that nurtures my creativity and celebrates exploration is vital to managing my overall energy levels. It also leaves gas in the tank to safely explore new skills and techniques.

Fueled by creativity, my side hustle requires a careful balance of time management between projects, my personal life, and self-care. I start every quarter by writing a list of goals, which I break down into to-do lists to keep me focused. I treat my self-imposed deadlines with the same respect as my work deadlines. If my energy levels or motivation are low, I alternate tasks or schedule a break from them altogether. 

I’m not alone in pushing myself creatively through projects outside of work. To hear about others’ side hustles, I interviewed some of the other entrepreneurs within our incredible team at NJI.


Q: What inspired you to dedicate time to your venture? 

Water Colour Painting by Julia Ames

“I was diagnosed with cancer in 2018 and hosted my first fundraiser in 2019. In 2020–2021, I pivoted to auctioning off some prints, and in 2022 I had my first solo art show and launched an online shop. Science is keeping me alive every day. It seemed like a no-brainer to give back and focus my creative output. 
— Julia Ames, Creative Director (+ fine artist)

“I’ve always coped by using comedy, and I had heard great things about DC’s Washington Improv Theater (WIT). After taking a level 1 improv class, I was hooked. I now perform with a house ensemble (Nox!), an indie team (Small Mediums at Large), and a special summer project (Tumbleweed!). WIT is an incredibly inclusive community full of wonderful people, plus it comes with a lot of laughs, and who doesn’t want to dedicate time to laughing?”
— Aubrey Peterson, Senior Account Manager (+ improv performer)

Q: What do you get out of it and what makes it worth the effort?

Sydney Novak’s First Rover Customer

“Pure joy and some good outdoor exercise. My new dog-walking venture has been a great addition to my daily routine and gets me outside for  lunchtime walks. The extra cash isn’t too bad either, earning me a couple of pricey DC drinks each weekend.”
— Sydney Novak, Senior Manager of Agency Operations (+ dog walker)

“Designing surface patterns for fabric and apparel is just one pathway toward the two things that drive me as a creative: challenge and actualization. Working within technical and aesthetic limitations to achieve authentic results forces ingenuity, experimentation, and growth. I’m fortunate to see people sporting packs and bags adorned with my patterns fairly frequently when I’m out with my family, and sneaking a peek as we pass by never gets old.”
— Jay Ungar, Senior Graphic Designer (+ surface pattern designer)

Q: How does your side hustle improve your full-time professional job performance?

Aubrey Peterson on Stage. (Photo Credit @mfaalasli)

“If you think about it, we’re all improvising—that’s life! Formalized improv has helped me bend to the absurdities of daily life, think on my feet in client calls, and embrace the ‘yes, and…’ mentality as new challenges or opportunities arise.”
— Aubrey Peterson, Senior Account Manager (+ improv artist)

“Balance! It’s been so lovely to be intentional during my lunch breaks: go outside, clear my mind, and get exercise with such a sweet friend.”
— Sydney Novak, Senior Manager of Agency Operations (+ dog walker)

Q. What tips would you share with someone starting a side hustle?

Jay Ungar’s Illustrative Surface Patterns

“Build a balance and set limits. Side projects are often tied to passions, which have a tendency to run wild. It’s important to keep perspective on your ventures and recognize when they’re at risk of encroaching on other areas of focus. When you’re setting up your schedule, you should also give yourself time for flexibility and rest, or run the risk of burnout.”
— Jay Ungar, Senior Graphic Designer (+ surface pattern designer)

“Just start today—baby steps. In the end, you will be impressed with what you can do and the impact your work can have.”
— Julia Ames, Creative Director (+ fine artist)

Q. Are there any pitfalls to watch out for?

Hilary De Mayo’s New Concrete Vessel Candles

“Make sure you are doing one project or product at a time, get good at it, and then add another to your line once you feel confident about the first one. Also, be careful with how much you spend. Side hustles can easily turn into a money pit because of all of the ideas in your brain.”
— Hillary De Mayo, Finance & Operations Manager (+ candle maker)

“Don’t beat yourself up, and remember to make it fun.”
— Julia Ames, Creative Director (+ fine artist)

Q. What’s next for you?

Jay Ungar’s recent work for KAVU

“Actually, some of my recent work for the lifestyle brand KAVU can be seen in their S/S 2023 video look-book!”
— Jay Ungar, Senior Graphic Designer (+ surface pattern designer)

“I am currently working on concrete vessels for my candles, and I think this will bring a new level of sophistication when these are placed in someone’s home.”
Hillary De Mayo, Finance & Operations Manager (+ candle maker)

In conclusion, it can be incredibly exciting to watch the orders roll in or to see someone using or wearing one of your products out in the real world. The profits may even take you to new heights and unexpected places. But my biggest advice is to think about what a side hustle will bring to your life. Learning how to set realistic goals and expectations, based on research, and developing good time management skills will be key to your success. However, if the additional admin is a big concern, you could also take a short course or pursue the venture as a hobby for personal satisfaction instead.

Best of luck on your side hustling journey. Let’s go make amazing things happen!

Shout Outs

A big thank you to all the contributors of this article. Click on the profile photos below to view, follow, or support their side hustling adventures!

Aubrey Peterson
Senior Account Manager

Has been performing in an improv ensemble for over 6 years

Hillary De Mayo
Finance & Operations Manager

Not a butcher or baker, but a candle maker for the last couple of years

Jay Ungar
Senior Graphic Designer

Surface pattern design, since 2015

Julia Ames
Creative Director

Raising Funds for Breast Cancer Research with her Art since 2019

Sydney Novak
Senior Manager of Agency Operations

Rover Dog Walker, for 4 months and counting

Glen Swart (Author)
Senior Graphic Designer

Print and enamel pin maker for 5 years

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