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A millennial said her side business has become her main source of income. Here's her advice on how to get started on a side hustle.

Madison Hoff   

A millennial said her side business has become her main source of income. Here's her advice on how to get started on a side hustle.
  • Chisom Okwulehie said Juntero Design, a subsidiary of a business she started in 2021, is her main income source.
  • She also makes six figures as a senior architect in her full-time position.

Chisom Okwulehie, 35, told Business Insider she thought she wouldn't start a business until she was in her 40s. But she ended up starting one in 2021, years ahead of her plans, and it's paying off.

Okwulehie said she was surprised Juntero Design, which she owns and is a subsidiary of her and her husband's business Juntero, has become her main source of income. Juntero provides architecture services like designs and 3D models as well as non-architecture services like graphic design or photo editing.

She said side gigs were pretty much a hobby at first and an extra way she could explore design work outside of her job as a senior architect at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. She said her side work ranged from graphic design, photo editing, and web design to architecture and interior design.

"I was doing a lot that first year. Once I started looking at the numbers, then I realized that the majority of the people were more interested in architecture, interior design, which is what I studied," she said. "I started focusing on that as a niche."

Now, she said her job for Port Authority "is more like a side gig." Instead of the typical split between a 9-to-5 providing the bulk of one's income and a side hustle, "in this case, it's the other way around."

Based on documentation shared with BI, Okwulehie made over $100,000 in 2023 from her job for the Port Authority. Meanwhile, Juntero Design had a gross income of more than $400,000 in 2023 and a net profit that was still greater than her salary from Port Authority. Additionally, she drew a salary of $37,500 from the side business.

Okwulehie is a supporter of diversifying your income streams, especially in today's economy.

"If you have any talent or trade, try your best to monetize it," Okwulehie said. "If you need to take on that extra work, maybe spend one or two hours in the morning on the weekends to just focus on your craft and then see where it takes you."

She aims to provide her design services to a wide variety of clients. Juntero has one-time payment models and also monthly, quarterly, or annual membership programs that Okwulehie finds could be helpful for developers, interior design firms, and others.

"It's not catered to the elites, it's more so catered to your regular homeowner who just needs something renovated in their home or just wants to visualize the space," she said. "I felt like Juntero Design attracted a lot of potential clients because it was a one-stop shop where you can not only get architectural design, you can also get interior design, and you can actually visualize your project all in one."

How Okwulehie's business has evolved and became more profitable

Okwulehie said her first side gig was a graphic design project for Indeed where she made several dollars "to see how it feels to work with a client."

As Juntero Design's revenue increased from around $55,000 in 2021 to nearly $206,000 in 2022 and over $400,000 last year, she decided to outsource most of the work, partly so she can help more clients given the extra assistance. Her process includes creating a concept that will be shared with the architects, designers, or whomever is taking on the project. Okwulehie will do quality assurance and control after the person does the production work and before a client sees it. She said she spends most of the time focusing on marketing, accounting, client management, and working with her lawyers, financial planner, and accountant.

She said a great thing about the work being outsourced is she can spend just a few hours a week on the business. Plus, she said, "it has been able to attract more clients since I have more people helping."

She said at first she was doing a lot of the work on her own, but noted it was interfering with her weekend given she had to do her full-time job during the week.

"It was interfering with my family time, and I couldn't take on as many projects," she said.

While some people may consider making a side gig into their full-time job, Okwulehie isn't saying goodbye to her senior architect role. She's been working for Port Authority for over six years and said she learns from her colleagues and enjoys having the chance to exchange ideas with them.

She said working there has been great. Most of her projects are infrastructure ones, and she said designing and coordinating with different disciplines are two main tasks.

Lean on friends and your network to get started on monetizing your talents while also working a main job

For those hoping to have the same success as Okwulehie, there are things people can do to get started on side work and to work toward making it their primary source of income. Okwulehie suggested starting small but making a goal about how much you want to earn. This could then be divided up to see how many weeks or months it will take to get there and how much you will have to charge for work. Okwulehie said you can start small in terms of your rate, and then can raise this as you take on more projects.

"Whether it's an hourly job or a fixed-rate job, start steadily increasing it maybe every six to 12 months," Okwulehie said.

Okwulehie said she gradually raised her hourly rate and rates per job "depending on whether it's a fixed-rate contract or hourly rate contract." She noted most of her work is done on fixed-rate contracts though.

If you're considering monetizing your talent or looking to figure out what would be a good side hustle for you, Okwulehie said to use both professional and personal networks.

Okwulehie gave the example of checking if a friend needs help making a website. She suggested taking the gig even if the pay isn't what you're hoping for because it can be something to add to a portfolio of your work that can be shown to future, potential clients.

"Just reach out to family members, friends for small little projects to build your portfolio," Okwulehie said.

Along with a portfolio, Okwulehie said you should also build your brand, including making a website. Okwulehie also suggested asking friends and early clients to refer your services to others if they're happy with your work.

Early research can also be important. Okwulehie said she would read how entrepreneurs got started. She said reading stories helped her have the confidence to give it a try. She also found listening to YouTube videos helpful.

Okwulehie also noted multitasking is important for having side work. She said if the work is something you can do digitally like from your phone to use the time "where you're on the bus or you're commuting or you're doing laundry or the kids are about to go to sleep" to get some work on your business done.

"You just have to be highly motivated and love what you do to make that time," she said.

She has found being able to pursue a side business while holding a full-time job rewarding and comes with several benefits, including being beneficial for her family and herself as well as being able to work on financial goals more effectively given the additional income. A major benefit has also been being able to grow personally and professionally because she can test ideas and build skills.

"Overall, having a side business has enriched our lives both financially and personally, contributing to our overall well-being and quality of life," Okwulehie said. "Most notably, it has played a pivotal role in building generational wealth for our family."

How much have you made from a side business or side hustle? Have you turned a side hustle or business into your main or only source of income? Reach out to this reporter to share at

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