Winning at work: When your passion becomes a profession

Credit: Getty
Credit: Getty

Paid for by American Express

Side hustles are everywhere. Depending on who’s reporting, it’s thought that between a quarter and half of people in the UK now have a side business or second job. Millions across the UK - and the globe - started side hustles during the pandemic.

And why not? More income, the chance to pursue your dreams, an opportunity to see your creativity flourish... Side hustles don’t just generate money, they create community and show people what following your passions can look like.

We’ve partnered with American Express to celebrate how following your passions can lead to exciting opportunities, which can take your career in the most unexpected of directions.

We chat to two people about bringing their side hustles to life and the lessons they learned along the way.

Amex campaign images
Credit: Afrotouch Design

“I love what I do, I love being able to tap out of my science head and go into my creative head. It allows me to use the best parts of me”

Georgina Fihosy works full-time as a pharmacist within the pharmaceutical industry, in a corporate role. She also flexes her creative muscles as the founder of Afrotouch Design, a diverse greetings cards and stationery brand she started in 2015 while on maternity leave with her second child.

She’d been looking for a card to give her friend who was of Nigerian heritage to celebrate a new baby, and after failing to find anything, decided to make her own with some card stock and African fabric.

“It did start off as a hobby making cards for family and friends. And then quickly, I thought, ‘Oh, I really want to make this into something more’. I was thinking, ‘Well, if I'm struggling to find culturally reflective cards on the high street, then probably lots of other people are finding it really difficult,’” Fihosy says.

Despite always having a creative streak, she had no graphic training, so taught herself everything along the way using various computer programs and watching video tutorials.

The business has grown organically, with her cards now available in top national retailers and department stores, a level of success Fihosy believes comes down to positive thinking – at least in part.

“I never really thought about the power of mindset when it comes to business. But I feel like once you have the right mindset about the things that you want to achieve, those things often happen because you work in a way that you truly believe in what you're trying to do,” she says.

It’s all the more impressive considering Fihosy is still working full-time in her day job and is also a mum to three kids under 10. She makes it work by focusing on her side hustle in the early morning and evening hours, using a virtual assistant for social media and calling in extra support whenever there’s a big bulk order. Getting comfortable with delegating has been a huge part of her learning curve as a small business owner.

“Sometimes you feel like you need to do everything yourself. You don't have to do everything, because your business is your business. So, I run my own race and I grow it as quickly as I want to grow it and in the time that I have,” she says, explaining that time management is her biggest challenge.

Fihosy’s business has evolved beyond stationery and now includes small accessories and Christmas jumpers - but watch this space. She believes anything can happen.

“You can go down any particular route as long as you have a passion for it. You can just flex your life so that you can do the best bits of what you want to do,” she says.

Credit: Only Curls
Credit: Only Curls

“My initial investment into Only Curls was £500 of my own savings. This year we are set to turnover £5 million, without taking external investment”

Lizzie Carter is a haircare entrepreneur and founder of Only Curls, a London-based, cruelty-free range of products designed for natural curls. The brand started in 2016 when Carter decided to start making the curly hair products she’d spent a lifetime looking for.

With a previous background in fashion design, making swimwear and underwear for major brands, Carter knew what ingredients were needed for a successful brand before launching her business.

“Designing clothing is all about finding trends, tracking sales and filling gaps in product assortment. It was great training for an e-commerce business,” she explains.

The business began as a kitchen-table side hustle, which Carter describes as “more like a fun hobby in the beginning.” Since she was still earning her full-time design salary, there were few financial pressures initially, so she was able to grow Only Curls slowly and reinvest all profits from the haircare brand into new products.

Time management proved tricky. Running a small business alongside a full-time job extends the working day in both directions. At 7:30am, Carter would drop Only Curls parcels for postage on the way to work before spending her overground commute working on the brand’s social media and content. After getting home at 8pm, she’d start packing orders.

The shift to focus on Only Curls full-time happened during Carter’s maternity leave, after two years of running the business as a side hustle. As her own boss, she manages her schedule and time commitments - but the hours are as intense as ever.

“Working for yourself is relentless. It’s impossible to switch off, and the lines between professional and personal life become incredibly blurred,” she says.

All the hard work is paying off. Not only is a business launched with £500 set to turn over £5 million this year, with a view to expand internationally, but Only Curls has also built a loyal, dedicated community of customers.

One of the biggest lessons Carter’s learned on the journey? Just how important that first step can be.

“The potential gain versus working for someone else can be huge, and for me that was a risk worth taking,” she says.

Following your passions can give you so much more than you expect. Discover the unexpected benefits you can get with American Express, like exclusive offers, rewards and experiences.

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