Inc Well | Small Business Advice for Chicago Entrepreneurs
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Smarteys' Charisse Conanan on Working Part-Time as an Entrepreneur

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Living the life of an entrepreneur isn't easy. Not only does it take a lot of guts to take the plunge in the first place, but sticking your initial landing is just the first of many battles. Sometimes, you might find yourself up against a wall with mounting bills and not enough revenue just quite yet.

    It's a familiar situation, and one Charisse Conanan is uniquely qualified to field. She and partner Adrissha Wimberly -- both Chicago Booth alums -- co-founded Smarteys in mid-2010, an automated online software solution designed to give folks tailor-made financial advice and debt-management solutions.

    I gave Conanan a call to talk about the tough spots entrepreneurs are put in and why it's okay to take a part-time job for your company's sake.

    Should people feel like it's a step backwards to take a part-time job to pump more money back into their company?

    Charisse Conanan: Getting a part-time job, to take a step back, so you have a full picture: My background is in asset management. I worked at JP Morgan for a while and was able to save up a decent amount of money in order to start this business. I would first say planning for having capital is so important. When it came time to decide and give my partner a well a chance to get some extra income so we're not thinking about our financial security at the same as starting our own business -- so I don't definitely don't see that as a step back. It's actually a protective measure so I'm not constantly worrying about my finances and so I can also put some money into the business.

    What if they've taken the plunge, started their own business, and are considering taking a part-time job just to keep things afloat?

    Charisse Conanan: I would say that some of the key things you think about is whether there's money coming in the near future? Can you see a revenue opportunity with your business? Or can you see a funding event that would actually give you some cash to pay yourself? Those are important criteria.

    I would prefer you wouldn't have to take a part-time job, that way you can focus all your energy on the business, but the timing might not work out that way. You might have a bill due. You're not getting any revenue and you're not at the point yet where you can raise funding successfully and you'll have to pay that bill, then getting a part-time job seems like the appropriate way to plan.

    Are there certain types of part-time jobs people should gravitate towards?

    Charisse Conanan: A part-time job that's not time-intensive. Your whole energy should be focused on your main business. You have to think of the part-time job as your personal time. You don't want that to be too time-intensive because you won't sleep. [Laughs.] Something that's not time-intensive but pays a lot. Those jobs are few and far between. For me it was a consulting job or a teaching job. I taught entrepreneur class and strategy and development classes, and I could lean on my expertise in those areas where it didn't take me a lot of time to grade papers or help students. I could do that on my off time or on weekends. It still paid a lot. If you're lucky enough to be in a situation to find something that's complementary to what you're doing, that's great too. It can also build your network for potential partners.

    If people are looking for jobs, are there specific websites you'd recommend or are there better places people could be looking?

    Charisse Conanan: I would say to really start out with your own personal network. I find the job boards online to be very overwhelming. [Laughs.] It's hard to find those niche-type jobs because you're looking for something very specific. If you can tap into your personal network -- those people know that you are doing your entrepreneurship full-time, so you're only looking for something 10 to 15 hours per week, if that. Also check out your school, alumni career database and really try to tap into those networks first. I found that to be helpful.