Thompson’s Station resident Chris Daskam kept working on his side business after he lost his main job last year. // Photo Matt Blois
By MATT BLOIS
Alanne Whitt has mastered the art of the side hustle.
She works as a food demonstrator at a Publix near Brentwood, and owns her own catering company.
Whitt went to culinary school, and has served food at festivals in Nashville and Memphis. She took a job a Publix because the company was willing to accommodate a medical condition, but the gig has also earned her a lot of customers for the catering business.
“I demo four days a week. The most exciting day is when I’m in meat and seafood because I actually get to cook,””she said. “I get to use my recipes, which has stirred up a lot of excitement with customers. I hand out a lot of business cards.”
Whitt has high hopes for the catering company, but she’s still working to get it off the ground. Right now, she only has a few clients each month. That’s not enough to justify quitting her regular gig at Publix.
“What we’re trying to do is really launch me, so I’m in a position where I don’t need Publix as much,” she said. “I feel sometimes like I’m hitting my head against the wall because in order to get away from (Publix) I have to do more business. But a lot of the business I’ve struck up is because of what I’m doing there.”
Whitt is one of the many workers in Williamson County that have a side job. Many of those workers are entrepreneurs like Whitt looking for stability while they start a new business. Others are looking for a creative outlet or a way to make extra money.
It’s difficult to measure how many people are working side jobs in the U.S. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that less than 5 percent of workers had more than one job in 2017.
But the Federal Reserve System estimated that about 30 percent of U.S. adults have some gig work in 2017. That number was more than 40 percent for young people.
Last summer, Thompson’s Station resident Chris Daskam launched a new side business called AirGym. The app allows home gym owners to rent out their equipment to people who want to work out, much like Airbnb.
Since launching, more than 1,000 users have signed up for the service. Daskam — who has worked on the project alone so far — said he’s considering hiring some employees, and he’s hoping to raise some money from investors.
When AirGym launched last summer Daskam was working full time for an addiction treatment company, but he lost that job when the company went bankrupt last fall.
Despite the successful launch, AirGym still isn’t a good source of income for Daskam. But he said he said he was glad to have AirGym as a way to keep himself moving after losing a job.
“Every night when the kids go to bed I’m downstairs on the computer working on AirGym. It gives me a way to kind of not be so concerned about full-time employment,” he said. “If anything, with a part time gig, it freed up more time for me to work on AirGym. That was almost a blessing in disguise.”
While job searching, he got a part-time job helping with economic development in the town of Thompson’s Station. Recently, he got a new full-time job working with Cisco, which has provided some more economic stability.
A report from the Federal Reserve found that earning extra money was the most common reason that workers took on a side job, often to smooth out unexpected changes in income from a regular job. The report found that the second most common reason for taking on a side just was “just for fun.”
For Leigh Bawcom, her side business is primarily a way to satisfy a creative urge. She is the director of Member Engagement for Williamson Inc., but she also has an event planning business.
“Sometimes in the professional business world that creativity isn’t always there. I feel like I need that creativity. It kind of pushes me a little bit,” she said. “And I can determine what I do … When it’s a side business for me I can be little more selective and manage my time and my life.”
Last year, Bawcom planned 14 events. She normally plans one or two full weddings each year, but more often she helps with the final planning leading up to a wedding. She said at first it was difficult to learn how to balance her planning business with a full time job.
“One of the big lessons I learned is not biting off more than I can chew,” she said. “Each year I learn a little bit about balance.”
Whitt and Daskam agreed that it’s hard to find that balance. Daskam said he often spends upwards of 20 hours a week on AirGym, and Whitt said the inconsistent scheduling at Publix can be frustrating while trying to start her business.
They both hope to turn their businesses into full-time jobs, but even then they plan to keep working hard. They’re already thinking about new side hustles.
In addition to her catering business, Whitt is hoping to expand into event planning and hopes to bottle her own marinades. In addition to AirGym, Daskam is working on a cryptocurrency mining company and also wrote an ebook about paying for addiction treatment.
“What I’ve found from my friends and other people who have side hustles, we always seem to have one, two or three going on at the same time,” Daskam said. “I have to think that’s pretty synonymous with people who want to create their own future.”