Aikita Jones of Tacoma has worked in health care administration for the last 13 years, but her inner-creative led her a couple years ago to start a body-products business on the side — her “passion project” for which she harbors big dreams.
Until SWASH. Body grows enough to become her full-time passion, Jones also recently launched a consulting business, Hustlepreneur Consulting, to pass her knowledge and experience on to fledgling entrepreneurs. She considers it a second side hustle, for now, but she’d like to make it her primary work until SWASH becomes her main gig.
“If you’re going to do a side hustle, make sure that you are passionate about it, that it’s not just about money or about recognition, because with side hustles, you may not get money, you may not get recognition, you may not even get support,” said Jones, 35. “You’re going to need your passion and a love of what you’re doing to sustain you through it and not to give up.”
Side hustles and the motivations behind them vary widely, like the people behind them. Some side hustles are a means to supplement income, while others are envisioned to be one’s main source of income.
Myriad resources exist to help aspiring entrepreneurs pursue their dreams, including through the state, local cities, economic development organizations, and other groups.
Larry Whelan — a sergeant with the Steilacoom Department of Public Safety by day and residential real estate broker on the side through his Better Properties Steilacoom office — said each of his roles offers perspectives that benefit the other.
“I believe that when you’re doing one thing and you’re so engrossed in it, you lose your perspective — and perspective’s the key to success in anything,” said Whelan, 54, who intends to keep working in real estate after he retires from policing in perhaps three to five years.
“Working in two different fields, it helps you kind of clear your head on one or the other,” he said.
For Bonney Lake’s Ryan Seigler — who had been fabricating food trucks and point-of-sale trailers (think mobile stores) as a side hustle on weekends and after-hours — being let go from his primary job at an RV dealer due to COVID-19 cuts was the impetus to take the plunge and make his side hustle his full-time work. He urges others to do what they love, too.
“You just have to believe in yourself and believe that you can make it work and work hard for it,” said Seigler, whose Sumner-based business, Off Grid Innovations LLC, specializes in battery-powered systems for clients to operate without the need to plug in or run a generator. “And just at a certain point, you’ve got to do the leap of faith and make it happen.”
Side hustlers and aspiring entrepreneurs might find inspiration, pearls of wisdom, or things to consider from the experiences of Jones, Whelan, and Seigler.
Jones aims high for SWASH. Body
SWASH. Body, billed on its website as creating “feel-good products for badass people,” just rebranded and relaunched from Joy at Journey’s End/JJE Organics. Swash offers plant-based formulas made through cruelty-free methods, according to its website, adding, “Products include body washes, brown sugar exfoliators, moisturizing body crème, and other skin treats in scents that smell of spice, earth, smoke, and rain; belly balms, nipple butters, foot soaks, and other health & beauty aids to assist all parents in conquering the challenges of pregnancy, postpartum, and parenthood.”
Describing the tagline, Jones said: “The definition of badass to me is someone who thwarts convention. So whether you are queer, nonbinary, or don’t fit the stereotypical model of male or female, or even feminine or masculine, that to me is a badass — someone who is true to themselves at home, as well as in public.”
Jones wants to make products for those particular people because there aren’t products on the market that are marketed to them, she said.
Jones considers herself “badass,” identifying as part of the queer community.
“I create my products with the queer community in mind; however, my products are for anyone who wants to feel good,” Jones said.
“I’m a creative by nature, so if I’m not making products, I’m painting, or I’m singing, or doing something, so Swash kind of is a mirror of the concoctions in me that like to make things from scratch, and the person, the activist in me, and the big-heart person in me — it encompasses all that along with entrepreneurship,” she said. “I’m hoping to be bigger than Johnson & Johnson; that is my goal.”
She’s learned a lot about business along the way, from developing her Swash products at her kitchen table to more formal mentoring and education. She’s gone through Spaceworks Tacoma’s business incubator program, is certified in project management essentials, is a Six Sigma White Belt working to attain other belts, and is a graduate of Ari Hale’s project management course, according to her Hustlepreneur Consulting website. She also went through Mercy Corps’ Individual Development Account (IDA) grant program.
Jones helps solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, and side hustlers elevate their business, turning it from a side hustle to a profitable brand by helping with the business basics. “All those things that I don’t think that new businesses think of, they think about all the fun things, and then they get so big that they don’t have their foundation, and it kind of crumbles,” she said. “I just want to make sure I help build solid foundations” — to help people tap their potential and grow their business.
“I want to find a way to make the world better through what I do,” Jones said.
“That’s my main thing with my businesses — I want to make the world better through what I love.”
Helping the community, in uniform and out
Whelan, who’s been with the Steilacoom Public Safety Department for 32 years, the first two as a volunteer firefighter and reserve police officer before becoming a full-time cop in 1990, loves his community and job, and he wasn’t looking for a side hustle — a side hustle found him.
More than a decade ago, Whelan was working in his yard when the woman who sold him his house, Carol Tinsley of Chambers Bay Realty, drove by and asked whether he’d consider joining her part-time after a broker had left.
“I thought, ‘This is crazy; what am I going to do selling houses?’” Whelan said. But upon telling his wife, a home-based hairdresser, about the offer, and with a third child recently arrived and several years after beating cancer, “Money has never been something we’ve had too much of,” he said.
He helped out around Tinsley’s office, studied what she was doing, and figured he could be a broker. Success followed.
“It was kind of like a real estate boot camp working with her,” Whelan said. “I thank her every time I see her for giving me the opportunity to learn how to do something to help provide for my family.”
He later went to Better Properties Lakewood, and the Better Properties franchise owner, Towne Collins, offered Whelan the Better Properties Steilacoom office about four or five years ago. Whelan worked in the office a couple years before taking the offer.
Juggling demanding police hours that often stretch 11 hours a day and running a real estate office takes organization and prioritization, Whelan said, thankful for a supportive police chief and countless hours of vacation leave built up over the years to occasionally adjust his schedule to meet both positions’ needs.
“There’ve been times where I’ve had multiple clients and transactions going at the same time, and it’s been extremely stressful trying to take care of everything, but I’ve always found a way to be able to meet my clients’ needs,” he said.
He acknowledges many great real estate agents in the region, but believes clients pick him for a reason.
“I believe they picked me because I know the community so well. I’m a dad; I’m a simple guy,” said Whelan. “I’m not going to talk anybody, nor have I ever talked anybody, into buying anything. I’m not going to twist their arm into listing with me or buying the house that I have listed. What I try to do is just bring my strengths up by being honest and telling the truth and saying, ‘OK. If you buy this, there are these good things, and there’s these bad things to consider.”
Whelan said he loves both jobs. When he eventually retires from policing, he’ll have more time to devote to real estate, but he won’t change his tactics. No arm-twisting, no pressure to buy — tactics he despises as a customer. Nor will he overload himself.
“I’ll take a couple of projects on at a time and try to enjoy life a little bit more,” he said.
Giving vehicles, trailers new life, new missions
Seigler, of Off Grid Innovations, has enjoyed working on vehicles since he was a kid. The opportunity to convert trucks, vans, and trailers into food trucks or point-of-sale trailers, and to fabricate RVs and equip them with solar and battery power, allows him to design and create.
“I love to fabricate; I love to make something — so it’s the best of both worlds for me because I get to use a little bit of my design side, and then I get to use my hands-on fabrication side, and make it come to reality,” said Seigler, 40.
He’s credited with converting an old horse trailer into a point-of-sale trailer for BeeKing’s, a Puyallup-based raw honey company, and constructing a mobile food trailer for Fat Zach’s Wood Fired Pizza, among others.
He’s fully committed to Off Grid Innovations, having leased garage space in Sumner in May as he goes full-time into vehicle and trailer conversions, including providing accessory power through solar panels, inverters, and lithium batteries, all of which Seigler wires and configures.
“My niche venue that I do is we’re really big into the green energy, the solar technology, and lithium battery technology to be self-sustained in the RV world, along with the food trucks and point-of-sale trailers,” he said.
The BeeKing’s trailer, for example, doesn’t have to plug in or be on a generator; instead it relies on battery power to run its equipment, he said.
Seigler credits Anthem Coffee & Tea’s Bryan Reynolds, a friend and business mentor, with helping him rebrand over the winter as Off Grid Innovations. Seigler’s wife, Heather, who has a finance job by day, handles the books for Off Grid Innovations.
Any tips Seigler can offer aspiring entrepreneurs or side hustlers wanting to go to the next level?
First, pack patience and have a budget, because it’s not cheap to be an S Corp. or LLC. There are a lot of taxes and fees to get set up, insurance, and more, he said.
But Seigler gets to be his own boss and offers a tip that’s worked for him.
“My grandfather always taught me to work as honest as you can and as hard as you can, and give it everything,” Seigler said. “So for me, my drive and determination just comes from my upbringing and the will to do what I want to do, but at the same time, make people’s dreams like a reality. That is our tagline, that we make your dreams become reality.”
He urges others to follow their dreams.
“If it’s something you’re really passionate about doing, the old saying is, ‘If you do what you love to do every day, you’ll never work a hard day in your life,’” he said. “And it really comes down to that. My happiness, my stress level, everything is less working for myself and building these wonderful systems and these food-truck trailers so people can earn their living, have their little slice of the pie, and survive. So we take a lot of pride in our quality of work and the products that we put into them.”