Side hustling

This week we caught up with Nic Haralambous. He’s an entrepreneur, keynote speaker and founder of “side hustle” movement Slow Hustle. In this interview he reframes a number of entrepreneurial precepts which will change the way you look at business.

You were 16 when you started your first business. Tell us more about it.

In grade 10 we were tasked with launching a small business as one of our class projects. Some of us took it more seriously than others. I leaned into my Greek heritage and started selling worry beads to my classmates.

The kind of beads you can do little hand-tricks with. I took a “loan” from the bank (my dad) and turned R500 into R1,000 in a couple of weeks. 

The business was put on hold when the beads started to disrupt classes because too many students were using them while in class and the teachers complained so I had to stop selling. Needless to say, I didn’t win the semester competition. 

What was the biggest lesson you learnt from this experience?

That I knew how to sell things. It’s a stunning realisation when it clicks in that you can turn a product into profit. Learning it that young gave me immeasurable confidence. 

What was the most interesting business you started and why?

I’ve loved every business that I’ve ever started and they were all interesting in their own unique ways. 

The one that I look back on with the most fondness was the band that I started when I was 19 in first year at university. Without realising it, my bandmates and I were learning some serious business lessons.

Starting with practicing our craft and cohesion as a unit and ending with the way we promoted and marketed the band. So many lessons trying to make it in the business of music. 

How does the Japanese principle of “Ikigai” relate to your entrepreneurial outlook?

To be honest, it doesn’t really. I write about it in the book so that people understand that there are many different ways to find a side hustle idea. But I don’t believe that there is a single calling or reason for being that everyone is destined for.

I think that there is an Ikigai for now. It’s OK to find different things that move you over your life and to smash these things together to come up with new ways to see the world. 

Why did you start Slow Hustle?

It was really an evolution of ideas, timing and context. In lockdown I started to think about how I could help people using the skills that I have acquired over the past 20 years.

What I can help with is how to start something. So I began to talk about it, write about it and there was sufficient traction and interest that I wrote a book, launched an online side hustle programme, published it and launched the Slow Fund off the back of it. 

Where does the funding come from? is built, maintained and funded by me. The Slow Fund is receiving donations from individuals, businesses and partners like Yoco and Bridgement as well as funding directly from me into the side hustles that are selected as successful applications every day. 

Do you think people should be starting side hustle’s with the view to grow them into fully fledged businesses?

No, not necessarily. It’s all about context here. A side hustle is something that adds to your already existing core income stream. So for most people side hustles are just a little bit extra and will only ever just be that. 

It’s perfectly acceptable to make it your full time gig but there is no rush on this. That kind of pressure is what makes people unhappy and frustrated with their side hustles.

You have to understand what your success triggers are and how happy you are with them. Don’t push yourself too hard, too fast or you’ll kill your side hustle for no good reason. Be patient and enjoy the process of building something. 

What’s your advice to people wanting to start a side hustle?

Start. That’s the advice. There is nothing holding you back but yourself. You think there are a million reasons not to get going but truthfully, there are none.

There are only roadblocks that you put up on the path so that you don’t have to fail. Get over failure, get over your ego, get over your fears and start. 

When is the best time to start a side hustle? Yesterday. When is the next best time to start a side hustle? Today. 

What’s your favourite business book and why?

I don’t really have a favourite business book to be honest. I like to read biographies and business biographies (the story and life of a business). However, the most value I gain from reading is in the sci-fi genre.

My favourite book of all time is the Three Body Problem, which is actually a trilogy of books that completely reshaped how I see the world and engage in it. 

If your readers want to find out more about the books I read they can follow my favourite business books here.

Which entrepreneur do you currently follow and why?

I don’t specifically follow anyone. I generally tend to surround myself with friends (entrepreneurs) that I want to be like. But if I’m pressed, here are a few people to follow: David Perel, Rich Mulholl, Noah Kagan and Chamath Palihapitiya.

In the News 🚀

🇳🇬 Nigerian crowdfunding platform, Crowdyvest, raised a new investment round and appoints a new CEO.

🇲🇦 Moroccan proptech startup, Mubawab, raised another $10 million from UAE-based Emerging Markets Property Group (EMPG).

🇨🇮 Ivorian transport startup, Moja Ride, has raised an undisclosed sum from Toyota Tsusho Corporation.

🇨🇩 DRC solartech company, Nuru, has raised $1.2 million from French investor Proparco.

Are you a founder or investor? Want to feature in our interview series? Apply here.