In 2012, two years into a job at international advertising, marketing, and public relations giant Ogilvy, Grant Tudor got a call from a friend he had met while studying in Nairobi. The friend was looking to brainstorm ideas for an organization she was running in Kenya that used mobile communications as a violence prevention and intervention tool. “How do we methodically increase our subscription rates?? she asked. ?And ?How do we craft messages that more dependably influence behaviors?? Grant immediately envisioned himself back in Kenya, putting his marketer skills to work in a radically different context. In that moment, the genesis of Populist — Grant’s side gig — was born.
As with many Millennials who have ambitions of doing more with their career than simply climbing the corporate ladder, Grant faced the agonizing dilemma of choosing between a job he very much needed and a passion project he wanted to pursue. Or did he? Is it really an or sum game — the job you need to pay your bills or the opportunity to make a difference?
Wisely, Grant chose a direction that has enabled him to both keep his job and launch Populist. Rather than quitting his job and rushing to catch the next flight to Nairobi, Grant prepared a presentation on the pro’s and career upside for Ogilvy of giving him time off — and a few weeks later, with Ogilvy’s support, he was in Kenya, cross-applying his marketing strategy skills in an entirely new terrain. It was the career catalyzing moment Grant dreamed it would be and he knew it wouldn’t be work-as- usual when he returned to his office in New York City.
Holding down a day job while hustling the passion project can be done — if you can check your ego and apply yourself to completing both jobs at hand. A side hustle involves going the extra mile for your current employer and banking the trust of managers and workplace colleagues, an irreplaceable asset that you’ll need when you finally decide your side gig is the full-time passion project.
Working through building how to build her brand and business — while employed — has been one of the most challenging, yet professionally rewarding things Tiffany Tibbott has accomplished. Tiffany was a merchandiser at Juicy Couture and then a vendor manager at Beyond the Rack before she launched The B. Side, her innovative swimwear company, in 2015. Tiffany worked her corporate roles to their fullest to be able to make the leap from corporate:
“I was always using the resources around me to learn how I could grow my idea into a business. I extended my outreach and networked tremendously, befriending anyone I thought could help me take my idea to the next step. From suppliers, vendors, technical designers, advisors, and other experts I used my corporate contacts to pick the brains of the best and brightest! It wasn’t until I had a final prototype in my hand of my first B. suit that I decided I needed to leave corporate. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I knew it was best for The B. Side and my former employers.”
Trust played a huge role in Grant’s ability to move Populist forward. First, he gained the trust of peers inside of Ogilvy who believed in his vision and were prepared to dedicate after-hours free time to working on projects for Populist. Second, he won the trust of senior leadership who would be instrumental in removing internal corporate policy roadblocks, so Populist could officially launch. Had Grant not earned that trust, Populist would have
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