The Art of the Side Hustle – African Reflections from Harvard

For those old enough to recall the film ‘Trading Places’ (one of my favourites), you’ll indulge me as I reflect on how a quest for speaking at Harvard started in the 80’s after watching Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) and Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) exchange lives in an involuntary social experiment, with Winthorpe at one stage cursing “he was wearing my Harvard tie, as if he went to Harvard”.
The idea of ‘Trading Places’ was apt as we launched into our panel on ‘The Art of the Side Hustle’, with panellists who trade places every night between being Corporate superstars to Hustlerpreneurs. Accompanied by five of these ‘Nocturnal Superheroes’ (Nmachi Jidenma (CP Africa), Nadia Shash (Made in), Okechukwu Ofili (, Kwame Andah (Coders4Africa) and ‘say Chale, and you’ll miss a verse’ Ghanaian rapper Sarkodie), we hustled our way through a packed agenda of topics to the energetic reception of a sell-out crowd.

The Side Hustle is particularly close to our hearts; after all it’s how we got started but more-so we know that it is of real pertinence to Movemeback members, many of whom are constantly engaged or on the lookout for various projects or ‘transactions’ (as our Nigerian friends like to say), to create their own foundations for impact on the Continent. With Africa known (or not) for it’s informal economy and Africans also known for their entrepreneurial spirit; the panel sought to bring together those who have succeeded at ‘The Art of the Side Hustle’, and those who wish to do the same thing.
So if you couldn’t be with us, what did our esteemed panel have to say?

Selfies with Sarkodie
Selfies with Sarkodie

1. Define your side-hustle in a way that is personal to you. For some it is a financial necessity, whilst for others it’s a source of additional support or a means for making a change in the world. Either way, make sure your side hustle works for you.
2. Opportunities are abundant, so follow your passions and frustrations. Often the most powerful and impactful side hustles are born out of frustration or a desire to do more to make a difference. Challenge yourself with your Side Hustle, but keep it simple to triangulate on where you can make a difference and remember sometimes the opportunity lies in creating a brand rather than a new idea.
3. Getting started is easy… To decide on what your hustle can be, ask yourself ‘what am I passionate about?’, and then lean into the skills and knowledge you have acquired from your day job and the links and connections you have. In all this, do not forget to consider whether someone other than you would actually benefit from what you are offering! And when its all said and done, just get started.
4. …But be prepared for the challenges. Avoid the pitfalls – remember you are signing-up for a second job, so do not do it lightly. Before you start, consider how you will manage your time, family and social life. And ask yourself how you will feel having committed so much of your time, energy and potentially money to something if it turns out not to be ‘big enough’ for you?
The queue for the panel
The queue for the panel

5. Find good partners. Depending on the size of your dreams (and your location), you may not be able to do it alone. So particularly in the cases that you are managing your side hustle from afar, find good people to work with, put the right incentives in place, and ensure everyone is well paid.
6. And don’t forget the day job – do first, ask for forgiveness later is the entrepreneur’s way of being. But do spare a thought for your employer! If you’re hustling make sure there aren’t any big conflicts of interest, put in 110% on the day job and keep it legal. 😃
Finally we took a little time to challenge the notion of the side-hustle; is it what Africa needs, are we merely embracing the very culture that drives such a large informal economy? What do you think? Get in touch and share your thoughts!

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