A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Christy Felix about her journey. Christy Felix is the CEO of uHustle. A university-based marketplace focused on giving students the tools to sell and market their side hustle. Christy Felix started the uHustle after she realized she was having trouble getting customers for her own hair braiding hustle. After growing the idea in various entrepreneurship classes and speaking with friends and colleagues she founded uHustle October of 2018. Christy Felix has also been awarded the opportunity to represent her university at the Forbes 30 Under 30 summit. A prestigious event only awards to those who are making great strides in their community. It was an honor and pleasure speaking with Christy, listen to her story here at STEAM Boston.

Transcript:


Kunle:  First of all, you know, tell me about yourself. Tell me what you were doing for the past four years now. 

Christy: Yeah, so, well, I’m Christy. I’m a senior at Georgetown right now sitting in the business school studying business management. After high school, I went to Cornell and I studied industrial Labor Relations.

I was there for two years and then I transfer to Georgetown in my junior year. I started doing extracurriculars really in my sophomore year getting into more business programs then I started getting into Finance a little bit more. So, I initially thought after graduation I am going into Finance, but I’ve been preparing myself to go into Finance since freshman year. I started working at State Street and other investment Banks.

Then I had this idea my freshman year that I never really did anything with but I knew it had legs and then I just let it go because I was in a class when the teacher told us to “think of a problem that you’re facing and find a solution for it”. So the problem that I was facing was I started doing hair in college to pay for my college tuition and I didn’t know how to market myself or how to get myself more customers, even though I wanted a lot more customers and I was like there needs to be a platform to find students with side hustles like me.

So the problem that I was facing was I started doing hair in college to pay for my college tuition and I didn’t know how to market myself or how to get myself more customers

Felix

Initially, I called it Ivy Hustle. I have a logo for it and everything. It was Ivy hustle before and then I presented it to my class at the end of the semester for a big project and everyone was like “this isn’t going to work like who does things for other students on campus like what students be willing to do things for other students”?

So I guess that was kind of like discouraging. I still tried to get mentors and help and stuff, but Ii didn’t seem like anybody was really interested and nobody really had faith in it. So, I kind of dropped it for two years. I actually had my entire business plan that I created for Ivy hustle in the hallway of Cornell’s entrepreneurship business building for like a year because the teacher wanted to put up the projects.

So I had my business plan my ideas and everything already up. I mean in between those two years someone could have seen that poster and be like, “oh this maybe I could do something about this”.

I was like, all right. It’s reserved for me. Then when I went to Georgetown, Georgetown has an amazing entrepreneurship program. it completely turned around. They do competitions, they regularly give like student startups money and I presented it in a class, and I did a competition for it and I got $5,000. 

Before that I actually decided, you know what if I don’t get money from this competition or if nobody wants to support me, I’m going to just try to do anyway, because it’s been in my head for so long like why don’t we just do it and then I just kind of did it beginning of my junior year. So, when I was pretty new at Georgetown and I put all of my savings into it. I started beta, well I started the first MVP of uHustle, things like background and knowledge. Then I started teaching myself code and web development by watching YouTube videos and then launched the first MVP in October 2018. I launch a second MVP in February 2019, and then got a developer. So, we launched the real platform in September 2019.

Kunle: Kind of going back a little bit. I heard you talk about how you kind of switched over into a business. Was it a turning point for you? What encouraged you to go into that career field?

Christy: I wanted to get a job where I could feel secure that job. So, Finance just seemed like the most logical route and on top of that I went to Cornell and Cornell had like everybody in the school into Finance. So it’s kind of easy for me to just you know, just do what they were doing. The thing that made me passionate was business and I wanted a business education ever since I graduated high school. Cornell didn’t have a great undergraduate Business program. They have a great business school, but not a business program for undergrads. It was just like “I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do”. I was learning. Econ and statistics and labor law, but I was not interested in it. I knew I was doing it to pass not because I really wanted to learn the information.

So that’s when I started looking into business schools that you know fit my criteria, which was small and Urban. I wanted to school where I could escape if I’m feeling stressed by going to the city and walking around. So, Georgetown just fit all of the checkboxes. It was also one of the four schools I applied to and got in so I just went.

Kunle: So let’s get into uHustle. Could you talk about what uHustle is as a whole and what the Mission and idea is for uHustle?

Christy: Yeah, uHustle is an online marketplace for college students with side hustles and our mission is to make hustling easier. So we want to help people who already work very very hard doing school work and recruiting for a full-time job and doing a side hustle on top of that to either sustain themselves through college or just to practice their craft and get better at whatever, their passions are. We want to help make their hustle easier.

The way that we do that is by giving them the platform they need to showcase themselves and gain more exposure in the community as well as get more clients. Our primary goal is to get students the tools and the skills that they need to run a successful side hustle in college so that they can spend less time trying to figure it out and more time you know trying to balance work and school and whatever else they got. Yeah, basically we want to make education more of their priority and take some of that stress off them. 

Kunle: I’m glad you mentioned that you kind of wanted to take the stress off students who were doing school full time but also need to pay for, you know, their lunch, they also need to pay for their tuition and things like that. So, how did you design your platform to give these kinds of students a leg up while they are going to school full time? 

Yeah, good question. So the first time I sent out a survey I wanted to get a gist of how many Hustlers, we call people with side hustles Hustlers, we wanted to get a gist of how many Hustlers there were on campus and then we found out that we kept getting 20%. Well, I surveyed over a hundred people when I was at Cornell and I got a hundred responses back 20% of them said that they did side hustles, and this is not just at Cornell. This was at UMass Dartmouth Columbia other state schools around Massachusetts. So, we got 20%, So I was like, hey, that’s a pretty big market for Hustlers. Customers will have a lot to choose to pick from.

This year fast forward to 2018 when I came to Georgetown. I did a couple more surveys and this time with a pool of over 200 people. I got the same number. It came consistently which is weird. So, 20% kept coming consistently and this was with a lot more people. So, we’re like, okay there is a substantial Market here and then when I did the beta launch, I talked to the people who were on the website and it asked: “Is this what you’re looking for?” 

My initial idea for uHustle was that it was going to be like a marketplace where you can create an online shop and kind of get more business. Kind of like if you went on Etsy. But without the hassle.

Kunle: So it might have been too technical for like the Layman person trying to you know, create a hustle.

Christy: Exactly. So, when I kept getting the feedback and I’m like, these aren’t people that are trying to do this full time once they graduate. I asked them, ”does this align with your career goes after graduation,” they said no, it doesn’t. They were either told to do this on the side while a nurse or a lawyer Etc.. but none of them said this is what I want to do after graduation. That’s when uHustle kind of came into formation.

We weren’t creating a Marketplace for student entrepreneurs. We’re creating a Marketplace for Hustlers for people who want to have more business come in but be able to stop and focus on what really matters. So that means building the website so it had to be simple enough for anybody who had a business to quickly figure out how to set up a profile.

We weren’t creating a Marketplace for student entrepreneurs. We’re creating a Marketplace for Hustlers

So we changed the model to make everything profile based instead of like store based. When you go on the website and you fill out this application that says become a hustler and then you kind of turn in your proof of work at the end. So that just tells us that you know how to do what you know how to do.

We’re just like successful reviews because we want everyone to have a business and we don’t want people to you know, feel like I’m not really up to par with the other Hustlers on the website. So we make them turn in proof of work and then we work with each individual to figure out how to best maximize their side hustle while saving more time and putting it towards their education some ways that we did that is for the art vendors. 

They create nice paintings, but they don’t want to sell the original for cheap prices and most people going on uHustle they’re going for like cheap things. So we took pictures of their art and I maximize the photos on Photoshop and then I put them on sticky paper. So now they have stickers of their art that they sell instead of the original. Now they’re selling the art and packaging for three to five dollars. So that’s sold through our website and we help them sell it individually because our goal is to help these Hustlers and then once we create a community, a strong community, then we can really optimize our business model and our revenue streams, but right now we’re taking 15% through every transaction. 

Kunle: Gotcha. So, what was the process like to get people to sign up for uHustle was there a lot of back and forth with a potential client or was it like very streamlined and very easy?

Christy: It was a mix when I first started uHustle. It was a free platform. We didn’t allow payment transactions because that would mean that it would not be free anymore. So getting people on the website was pretty simple. No one had to pay for anything. The one thing that was hard for them though was the stores. It was the model where we had the stores and the stores were what people were just like, I don’t know how to do this. But now we are developing a waitlist and even have people from other schools contact us trying to register on our platform.

Kunle: Oh nice.

Christy:  Yeah and becoming a hustler is pretty easy. The application itself is intuitive. What we want to also streamline is the process to create a product, but people are getting on our website faster than we can handle which has kind of slowed down the growth but we’re thinking by November we’re going to start expanding to schools and in the DMV so that people can get more opportunities.

Kunle: That’s a good segue to one of the next questions. Do you plan on expanding uHustle to other schools?

Christy: Yes! I want to expand uHustle past schools. I want to expand uHustle to be a community-based marketplace where you have someone in your church that can plan parties. Oh, I would hire them. 

I don’t want to go too far. So, I guess I just want to start off with the DMV. I go to school in DC so I want to spread it out in the DC, Maryland, Virginia area. The next three schools that we’re explaining to in November are American, GW and Howard. Howard is going to be our first expansion and then GW and American will come after. Then by January of 2020, we are going to expand to more schools in the DMV and by September 2020. We’re going to expand to Northeastern and I’m in the talks right now talking to some people interested in becoming student ambassadors for uHustle.

Kunle: Awesome, sounds really good. So, do you plan on doing this like after graduation? Or are you going to like focus on other things after graduation? What’s the five-year plan for your company?

Christy: After Graduation, I’m going to State Street Corporation, I’m going to be working as a senior associate in the PDP program. Then after I still want to continue doing uHustle. It will be like a side hustle for me like it is now while I’m in school and then after I get to a good stopping point in my career in finance, then I’m going to move on to doing uHustle full-time.

uHustle is already generating revenue, so I’m pretty sure it might be quicker than I anticipated, but we will see.

Kunle:  Is this your first year with uHustle?

Christy: This is my first year yeah. So, we’re trying to figure out ways to you know not put as much time into helping the Hustlers get on the website and create a listing so that they can do it themselves without much of our help.

Kunle: Gotcha.

Christy: We can focus on other parts of the business, but since we are already generating revenue, it’s already coming down like, all right, maybe we should think about what to do when you get too big and yeah.

Kunle: That was awesome. I’m glad to hear uHustle is actually doing really good things. I know your mission is actually really good. I remember when I was in college, there are times where I felt like I couldn’t pay for my school. Being a developer, I would do work for other nonprofits to kind of like get paid and have enough money to actually go to school. I make websites for nonprofit and things like that. So, I’m glad you actually helping these students who want to go to school full-time and also do their side projects.


Part 2

Kunle: All right in your eyes how has uHustle impacted not just like your school community, but also the community around you.

Christy: Yeah, that’s a good question the idea of Entrepreneurship and even the world’s is people starting these big Ideas like apps or technology or even like websites like mine, but I feel like uHustle showing people in Georgetown and outside of Georgetown that entrepreneurship is not just macro its micro.

entrepreneurship is not just macro its micro.

It’s people who start restaurants beauty salons or have contractor service like something like you know plumbing. I feel like uHustle opens people’s eyes to the kind of seeing that work as real work as well as hard as hustling which is why we use the word hustling.

We want people to see this is people working. Very very hard doing something on the side when they already have a full-time thing going on. So, I think the impact on the Greater Community is opening people’s eyes to what entrepreneurship really is and I just one side of it and also diversifying the images of Entrepreneurship that we have. It is usually white men starting something great. But there are a lot of people saying something great.

Kunle: Yeah, that’s a good segue to my next question being a woman of color in the industry can be very very tough in many different ways. But how was that like, how has that perspective kind of shaped the way you conduct your business around? uHustle?

Christy: That’s a good question. It’s very hard to get funding as a woman of color funding and VC or just even Angel Investors. It’s just very hard to get funding, but I did a lot of pitch competitions at my school and outside of my school that got me exposure and that exposure got me to more pitch competitions and in the span of three months.

I hustled enough to raise $13,000 for my business. And with $13,000 I start generating Revenue that’s never heard of like someone just raising thirteen thousand dollars, which is a very small amount like a might just be one amount for your friends and family round for most people but with $13,000 I started generating Revenue being in this position makes me work twice as hard and it makes you trust work twice as hard, but I’m getting really good results.

I hustled enough to raise $13,000 for my business. And with $13,000 I start generating Revenue that’s never heard of like someone just raising thirteen thousand dollars

This is an affirmation to me that I’m you know, I’m not someone that you can reckon with or walk pass I’m going to do something great because if I think Revenue with $13,000 imagine what I can do to $300,000. The whole point of view hustle is to support entrepreneurship and hustling and get people more exposure.

Christy: I’m not just doing it to get money. I’m doing it to help people. So, I’m using my resources the resources that already have to find ways to help people and that’s teaching me that when I do have the money. Eventually, I can find ways to do it to get more exposure for these Hustlers because I know how to hustle, and I know how to figure things out or work around things like not getting enough funding.

It definitely has shaped my idea of Entrepreneurship because I know a lot of people that look like we have good ideas but are not getting recognized for their good idea or too afraid to take that risk to put the work in for that idea.

They’re like, what’s the point? No one’s going to give me money anyway, I’m not going to get enough funding. My family can’t fund me and Etc. It’s just been hard to see it. I know uHustle has legs because my data shows me that the traction I had. I thought that the money that I would get would show me that as well, but it hasn’t and it’s just people don’t usually see people that look like me creating successful businesses, but I know that I can do it because I did it. I’m generating revenue with only a small amount of funding. Yeah.

Christy: But yeah, it’s it is tough though. There was this one woman I was talking to she is a woman of color and an entrepreneur. She went into this competition and she was speaking about how the competition was about making a product or service that would help women or trans woman and she didn’t win, and the other colored competitor didn’t win either.

You know won? A white man won because he made this product that would remove wrinkles out of clothes easily. It was a spray that would help like remove wrinkles and the judges said that he won because it would save women time in the morning without needing to iron their clothes anymore. They could just head to work and he won, and this is how he’s helping women advanced in their careers like what…

Kunle: But I’m glad you’re showing us like, even women of color in Industry can do it, can make it even with the resistance that they have nowadays it’s possible. It’s possible to do the things that you do if you have put in the work if you are willing to hustle.

Christy: Right. Exactly. Exactly.

Kunle: Let’s move on to the next section of Forbes. Forbes Under 30 Scholar. What is that? What is a Forbes Under 30 scholar? Can you explain that to us in your own words?

Christy: Yeah. So Forbes allows a thousand people in America to like go to the Forum 30 under 30 Summit for free you have to do an application and then you get chosen as the Forbes Under 30 scholars and they have like programming for you when you go to the summit and I think I’m going a week from tomorrow.

So being a Forbes Under 30 Scholars. Is being someone who eventually well, I think most people because I’m in the group chat with all of them. Most of them want to be honored for Forbes 30 Under 30. These are people who are willing to put in the work to network their way to that spot.

Nothing their shortcuts to it. The application asks questions like, why would you be a good fit to come to this summit? And I answered I’m going to be one of the honorees and I want to be able to see how the people that are getting honored made it.

I want to learn from them. I want to learn their successes their pitfalls and I want to learn how to get to that spot. So yeah, Forbes 30 Under 30 they did a really good job giving the students the space to go to like this huge conference. I was trying to go but tickets are like $600.

Yeah, so I’m happy. I’m getting to go for free but Forbes Under 30 Scholars like committee they really are doing a good job getting to go into these spaces. The Scholar application or the scholar program it’s supposed to be for people of underrepresented backgrounds. So mostly it should have been mostly like PO (People of Color) C students in college.

So yeah getting us into those spaces is huge.

Kunle: So it’s kind of a way to expose you to different Industries. What was the application process like? Did you have to apply online or would they come to you?

Christy: Someone sent a link and I just applied.

Kunle: What do you plan on doing there in terms of networking?

Christy: They have a lot of like programs for scholars. So, they have like meetings with people who were either honored before meeting us. We’re having networking events as well course, but also going to the workshops that they have they have a few people talking about how to better your business or how to maximize your Revenue. So, I’m definitely going to do that as well. Also, want to take a picture with Serena Williams

Kunle: Last question here. What kind of message do you want to give to the steam Boston community in terms of like hustling and like trying to balance work? You know, things like that.

Christy: Yeah, the main advice I want to give to people is don’t be scared to share your ideas. I think a lot of people believe that the idea is the biggest thing and if you share it and it goes away someone else starts it then you’re out of potentially a million dollars a billion dollars, but you never get to the next step without networking and talking to the person that’s going to help you.

Yeah, the main advice I want to give to people is don’t be scared to share your ideas.

I have cousins and friends say hey Christy, I have this good idea, but I don’t want to tell anyone because I don’t want to get it stolen. The idea is not the business the work you put into it is the business so you should not be afraid of talking to people you might talk to the right person and they might help you get to the next level and you wouldn’t know unless you talk.

So I like it was not afraid to talk about uHustle to people. One because I thought no one was going to believe in the idea. And then when I came to Georgetown a lot of them were like, okay. Yeah, this idea might work. And then I was like, okay. Can I talk to you about it? I talked to everybody I could from freshman to grad school.

Christy: You could go to, you can be an artist and I’m going to talk to you about it because everyone brings in new ideas that are going to push you to the next level and I put in that work to create the business because of the work is the business. Yeah, so I wasn’t afraid of talking about it. So, my advice to people who have a good idea talk about it to someone, not to your best friend talk to the person walking down the street from you.

There’s a very, I feel like everyone’s seems like it’s going to get stolen but I don’t think that there’s a very low chance of the person you’re going to talk to is willing to take the time out of their day to start an idea that they don’t have passion for. Your business runs on a passion for the first six months not even until you start generating revenue.

So there’s going to be very few people that are going to be passionate about your idea. Yeah, so that’s my main advice. Second, make graduating a priority because you never know what’s going to happen. I don’t know what’s going to happen with uHustle, but I know if it does fail or if I’m not the one to push it to the next level.

At least I have my degree to fall back on in a career that I have but it’s different for everybody. Of course, take the risk to start it if you want to take the risk to you know, not finish. Yeah, that’s fine, too. But for me, I value security and Financial Security since I’ve never had Financial Security, so that’s why I say finished College because it gives you that sense of security, career-wise, professionally, financially. So yeah.

Kunle: All right. That was Christy Felix, the founder, and CEO of uHustle and a Forbes Under 30 scholar, thanks for joining us. Thanks for being here today. Thanks for talking to me. I really appreciate it.


Website Links and relevant details

Visit uHustle: https://www.theuhustle.com

Thank you for listening/reading! This is part one of a two-part series. Part two will be released Wednesday, October 30th. Be sure to follow STEAM Boston on all platforms for all updates @steamboston.

Check out Part two here: https://www.steamboston.com/christy-felix-ceo-uhustle-and-forbes-30-under-30-scholar-her-story-part-2/

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