Why We Support Employees Who Side Hustle (and You Should Too)

by Josh Ritchie

True story: Column Five started as a side hustle. Back in 2007 Jason, Ross, and I were all trying to launch various apparel industry companies (them a brand, me a store—don’t ask me why), and we stumbled into content marketing as a way to promote these ventures. Turns out we were better at creating content than designing clothes, and thus Balboa Media Group (¯_(ツ)_/¯), the precursor to Column Five was born.

Shortly thereafter (Jan 1, 2009) we decided to pick another name (Column Five) and fold our operations into a corporation. But back to what matters.

Building C5 has been a wild ride over the last decade, and there are a lot of things that contributed to our success: good timing, a lot of hard work, a decent amount of luck, great brand partners—but above all it’s the people we’ve hired that keep this thing going.

We’ve been fortunate to attract super talented people in all fields, from finance wizards to brilliant animators, and everything in between. And we’ve long aspired to create a culture and an environment where people feel supported, energized, and creative. One thing that we learned along the way is that when you deliberately hire well-rounded people who are passionate, smart, and hungry, they are often the type of individuals who can’t just “turn off” after they leave the office at the end of the day.

Thus, it’s no surprise that many people on our team have a side hustle. (Also, according to a 2017 Bankrate study, a whopping 44 million Americans have a side hustle.) From makeup and calligraphy, event planning to stand-up comedy, custom framing to photography, C5ers have (and have had) all sorts of side hustles that serve their creative and entrepreneurial spirits. While many companies might frown on side hustles, I have recently started to believe that we should more openly celebrate and support these ventures.   

Why We Support C5ers Who Side Hustle

Back in the day, hearing about someone’s side hustle might have felt like a threat to what we were building with C5—something that could lead to distraction or a drop in productivity. But unless someone’s side hustle involves selling company secrets, stealing company products, or creating a directly competing business, it’s not going to destroy our business. In the long run it might even help. Here’s why we look at our side hustlers as an asset.  

1) Supporting Side Hustlers Is an Extension of Our Vision and Values

We’ve done a lot of deep thinking about who we are, why we exist, and what we’re trying to do in this world. At our core, we feel that our vision/purpose is to build a future where everyone can live healthy and fulfilled lives. For our work, that means applying our skills to help our clients connect with people.

That doesn’t just apply to our clients, though. If we’re helping them live healthy and fulfilled lives, we also have to make sure that we’re actively cultivating that for ourselves. If we don’t promote things that encourage or make it possible for the people on our team to be part of this future, then we are blowing it.

Thus, creating a work environment and policies that help our own people live better lives is crucial, whether it’s allowing people to work remotely so they can move to a new city because it’s better for their family or helping new parents transition back to work with flexible schedules. Supporting people’s side hustles is just another extension of that. 

We always want to live our core values, not just talk about them. At the end of the day, we want to support our people in their journey to living healthy and fulfilled lives—whatever that means to them, as individuals. I believe that doing anything that could suppress our employees’ personal ventures would be hypocritical—even if those side hustles become a means through which they might leave C5.

I want our team to be with us for as long as we have this company. But if anyone would be happier doing something else, and we helped them transition to their dream career, I am totally fine with that. I see it as just one more way to be there for our people.

2) A Side Hustle Is a Great Way to Learn New Things

Sure, not every side hustle is related to the work our agency does. But it is likely that the skills and education people are getting through their side hustles can actually crossover to their efficacy at work, which is always a good thing.

Copywriter Katy French moonlights as a standup comic, so we’ve pulled her onto projects where we need a little humor. Designer/part-time Zumba instructor Jenny Famularcano has spent years and countless hours upping her calligraphy game. She used her annual C5 education budget to take more classes and even moved to San Francisco for a year to study type design with Type@Cooper West. 

“So many people from the team let me know how confident they were in my abilities to both maintain my role as a designer and try something new,” Jenny says.  “All the support made me really want to go all in with earning a certificate.”

Since she’s returned, we’ve tapped her to hand-letter content for our Instagram and contribute her handiwork to our decor.

Column Five side hustle Jenny famularcano

Similarly, Account Director Desiree Delattre is a makeup artist who recently launched her brand Hustle + Glow. She’s lent her makeup skills to our video shoot for Visa—and a number of C5ers’ photoshoots. 

And designer Andrew Effendy’s handcrafted frames have graced our office walls for years.

Side hustle 1 Side hustle 1

There are plenty of other ways our side hustlers have used their skills (and applied the skills they’ve learned at C5 to their own business). And whether it’s personal or professional growth, we think it’s great for people to push themselves to grow in some way. 

The way we see it, the more talents our people pick up and the more well-rounded and experienced they are, the better work they can do for our partners. Some people might think having a side hustle drains people’s energy or causes them to be distracted at work, but we’ve found the opposite to be true. 

“I think a lot of people assume that because I have a side hustle, I’m not satisfied with my full-time job. This couldn’t be farther from the truth,” Desiree says. “What keeps me here, more than anything, is the flexibility that’s awarded here, along with the encouragement to practice my passion.”

Our side hustlers are all super organized, productive, time management experts—all skills they’ve cultivated by balancing C5 and their side hustles.

These folks get their work done and are all a pleasure to work with. None of them have ever come across as disengaged or less invested in what we are building with Column Five—at least to me.

3) Side Hustlers Add Creative Energy

Any group of people that spends as much time together as we do should be helping to uplift, inspire, and support each other. We don’t want people to feel any secrecy, shame, or fear that they’re going to get “busted” for their side hustle.

In fact, I’ve noticed that when someone is turning their passion for photography, furniture, ceramics, or inspired living into a side hustle, they infuse our office with creative energy, excitement, and ambition. This makes them great people to pull into a brainstorm, tackle problems, or help us look for a better solution.  

And because creativity begets creativity, our C5ers have created a little side hustle ecosystem, lending their skills, talents, and expertise to help each other succeed.

Former C5 Designer Stephy So has photographed Jenny. Jenny has lent her calligraphy and design skills to Desiree’s makeup brand.

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Exercise more, eat better, make more money, deepen my connections with people, be a better wife, conquer anxiety, learn more about things that will enrich my career path. There are so many things that I want to accomplish, that it feels overwhelming at times. I end up with this sort of “mental paralysis” while emotionally, I beat myself up. So, I’ve simplified things. If I can be stronger, in whichever way, than I was yesterday – I am doing enough. *Cue @britneyspears * Shoutout to @jennyfamular , a creative badass who is strong AF – who made this graphic just for this post! Check her out. . . . . #makeup #makeupartist #bridalmakeup #orangecountywedding #bride #makeupparty #naturalmakeup #orangecountymakeupartist #sandiegomakeupartist #weddingmakeupartist #sandiegoweddingplanner #makeuptutorial #prommakeup #orangecountyweddingplanner #bridesmaidmakeup #eyeshadow #weddingphotographer #huntingtonbeachwedding #eyebrows #brideinspo #bridallooks #bridegoals #weddinginspiration #socalwedding #weddinginspo #selflove #selfcare #motivation

A post shared by Desireé DeLattre (@hustleandglowmakeup) on

Desiree has done makeup for Jenny, as well as for the launch of Best Lives Retreat, a motivational retreat cofounded by former C5er Sara Bacon and Senior Producer Jonathan Sweet.

We love to see C5ers supporting, sharing, and celebrating each other in large and small ways, whether it’s attending someone’s event or sharing a piece of work on social. This energy is infectious to be around, and it’s helped encourage other people to explore their own passions.

“Everyone should find a side hustle if they’re looking for an outlet,” Jonathan says. “It’s cool how it’s helped feed a specific side of my creative personality. It’s also helped bring a cool balance that I didn’t have before, especially since there isn’t any pressure for my side hustle (Best Lives Retreat) to support me financially. It can truly be about passion, which has, ultimately, helped me discover elements of my professional career at C5 that I’d like to grow into—bringing even more focus and goals for the future.”

What Happens When Side Hustles Take People Away?

Sometimes people have left us to pursue their big dreams, and that’s how life goes. We want people to be happy to work here, to feel like they can be the best versions of themselves. So if they think it’s time to fly, we support that. If anything, we hope that when they do hit big, they don’t forget us. Nothing would make us happier than creating their websites, merch, cookbook covers, tour posters, app interfaces, or anything else they need.

Luckily, we’ve already had a few of those chances. We’ve helped former C5er Eli Ayrouth create videos for his mega successful blog Foodbeast.

And when our former Marketing Director Jonsen Carmack left us for the startup that acquired the app he’d been side hustling on for years, he hired us to help his new company rebrand.

What Really Matters At the End of the Day

Ultimately, we view all our work through the lense of purpose and passion. For some people, their day job provides the satisfaction and fulfillment they desire. For others, a day job provides the security or confidence they need to explore a passion on the side. And for a select few, a part-time side hustle may evolve into a full-time calling that leads them away from their day job. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, what matters is finding purpose and meaning in whatever it is you do. For all our side hustlers, we’re proud they’re a part of our story—and we’re happy to be a part of theirs.

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