Catering Side-Hustle Becomes Primary Career For Former Nurse

By Marcia Pledger The Plain Dealer, Cleveland

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) In 2017, according to CNN Money, 44 million Americans reported having a side-hustle to either pursue a passion or supplement their income, or both. Here is one in a series of stories from Northeast Ohio.

CLEVELAND, Ohio

For Tiwanna Williams, working as an open-heart-surgery nurse for most of her decade-long career proved satisfying. But with high pressure jobs, people need outlets.

As a stress reliever, Williams realized that a little creativity with cooking went a long way toward satisfaction and happiness ... and provided a little extra money too.

Williams' love of cooking for family turned into a side-hustle catering for friends, associations and corporate clients.

In 2014, she registered PearlFlower Catering as a business. The company is named after her two grandmothers -- one who had a passion for cooking, and the other who had a brick-and-mortar upholstery business in inner-city Cleveland.

"I feel that food is one of those magical things that brings people together," said Williams, 38. "I got my love and passion of foods from one grandma and entrepreneurship from the other."

For some people, such as Williams, a side-hustle can take on a life of its own, eventually replacing a main career. In May, she took PearlFlower Catering full-time and now side-hustles as a nurse, about 20 hours per month, at the Cleveland Clinic.

" I wanted to stay on the books at the Clinic. I'm not an entrepreneur who took a leap and jumped into it. Even now, if I have a slow patch (catering), I know I can pick up more hours (nursing)," she said. "It's comforting for sure, but it's also a bit of a crutch.

"I never planned to be an entrepreneur. But when it gets to the point where you have to turn down opportunities because of your main career, and you realize you'd rather focus on your passion, that's when you have to make some decisions," she said, noting that having health insurance was a concern.

Last year, she participated in a cook-off competition and was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers, along with two other local minority-owned food businesses, to take three signature dishes to Quicken Loans Arena's "Test Kitchen."

Then she won Jumpstart's Core City competition, an intensive business assistance program aimed at supporting the growth of businesses located within Cleveland's core neighborhoods.

Like many others, Williams has faced ups and downs. Before her catering business in Oakwood, just south of Bedford Heights, took off, she sold $8 salads at barber and beauty shops on weekends.

Chris Guilebeau, author of the book "Side Hustle: From Idea To Income In 27 days", emphasizes that a side-hustle isn't meant to be primary income. The pressure of profit can crush the most brilliant ideas before they can launch, he said. Worse, if it fails, you can't pay bills. A side-hustle is meant to add, not subtract from stability.

"According to my tax returns, I don't make as much from catering as I did as a nurse. However, I knew I could walk away from nursing when my average monthly income from catering started covering my bills and left a little extra to carry over," she said. "It took awhile to get to that place because I needed a nest egg. I knew I needed some savings stacked up especially since some months I made $3,000 to $5,000 and sometimes as much as $10,000. But at the same time there are slow seasons, so it all averages out.

"I like to say that catering is truly my purpose," she said.

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