Entrepreneur advice from a mom who built a million-dollar business
Julie Berninger, 33, has tried many a side hustle. She’s kept a blog that’s brought in thousands of dollars per year. She’s had a podcast that, though was never an income stream, enabled her to meet hundreds of side hustle and financial experts. And her Etsy store, where she sells items like bachelorette party activity lists, brings in $1,000 per month in passive income.
After years of dabbling, it occurred to Berninger that she could teach some of the side gig lessons she’s learned. In 2019, she teamed up with fellow hustler Cody Berman, and the two founded Gold City Ventures, a business of online courses focused specifically on building additional streams of income.
The two started with courses about freelancing, blogging and opening an Etsy store for printables like the one Berninger has. The latter has been their most popular course by far, and in 2021, Gold City Ventures brought in $1 million revenue.
Berninger, who lives with her husband and daughter in Massachusetts, quit her job in July 2021 to focus on the business full-time. Here’s her career advice for other entrepreneurs.
Work in corporate America
Berninger spent years working at companies like Amazon and MetLife. She recommends any entrepreneur spend time working in corporate America before diving in. “You’ll learn so many skills that really carry over to your own business,” she says.
Berninger served as a project manager at some of her day jobs, for example. “You learn how to work backwards from an end result,” she says. “You learn how to make a timeline, and you also learn how to manage resources.” The latter really helped in building out her businesses. Whenever she had a budget, she’d use it to hire freelancers to take on some of the workload.
“Whatever career field someone’s in, you are getting something out of being at your day job,” she says. Think of what those skills could be, and always think ahead about what else you can learn there that could apply.
Take advantage of trainings and education
Some companies also offer their employees various internal trainings and stipends for education outside of work. Take advantage, says Berninger.
Her companies would sometimes bring in guest speakers, for example. “I always went to every single one,” she says. “Particularly at the end, when I worked at the tech companies, they had the founder of Reddit come speak to us. They would have people that wrote books about entrepreneurship.”
All of these offered opportunities to learn how to be a better entrepreneur herself. “It’s just getting inspired and getting outside ideas and learning as many skills as you can,” she says.
‘Build those breaks along the way’
“This is something I’m still working on,” says Berninger of her final piece of advice. “But build those breaks along the way.”
Even if you’re pursuing your entrepreneurial dreams while working full time, and you only have small windows to get done what you need to get done, giving yourself momentary breaks will help you focus. A 2011 University of Illinois study found that among various groups of people that performed a 50-minute task, those who took two brief breaks stayed focused during the whole experiment. Performance declined for those who didn’t take breaks.
And if you can spend those minutes doing something that brings you joy, that’s an added bonus. Ashley Whillans, an assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and author of “Time Smart,” recommends doing activities like messaging someone important to you or checking your vacation day balance. Both have been proven to improve mood.
“You can get really swept up and there’s always another ladder or level to climb to and there’s always something more you could be doing,” says Berninger. “But learning how to enjoy the path along the way” could help you get the most out of it.
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