The Non-Artist’s Art Side Hustle

By Mary Rodack
Jambar Contributor

About 40 percent of undergraduate students work at least 30 hours a week, and about 25 percent of all students, graduate and undergraduate, work full time and go to school full time according to a study titled, “Learning While Earning: The New Normal.”

John Hearn, a junior social work major, started his side hustles last year. He began marketing his talent of painting shoes to friends and classmates at Youngstown State University. More recently, he began selling his paintings and drawings through social media platforms.

“Painting isn’t as easy as it seems,” Hearn said. “It’s really time consuming and one little thing can really mess things up.”

He said he believed he was not a good enough artist to major in art, but would like to take some art classes to better his skills. Digital art and graphic design hold more interest for him than other art forms, he said.

According to a study by BFAMFAPhD, an organization of artists, educators, designers and technologists who work with technology, art and the political economy, “Artists Report Back,” 43.3 percent of working artists have a degree in another field than fine arts.

“I used to draw a lot, and I was looking for a stress reliever,” Hearn said.

Hearn began the side hustle of adding designs to shoes last year. He usually tells customers the process will take him a week due to the layers of paint he adds to shoes. Hearn does all of his designs freehand.

“We’re broke college students, and I thought it could be a little side hustle,”  Hearn said. “I can do it whenever I want.”

He said he thought the shoe design idea was original and unique.

“It’s just a little money in my pocket,” Hearn said.

Joe Angelo, professor of the entrepreneurship program at Youngstown State University, said he believes he is a serial entrepreneur. Angelo is affiliated with about 20 startups and continues to be involved with charities, businesses and patents.

“Passion is a prerequisite, but passion doesn’t ensure success,” Angelo said.

He brings his real-world experience into the classroom and hopes that students from all majors take the introduction course to learn about the skills involved with entrepreneurship, and said almost everyone will think of entrepreneurship sometime in their life.

Rachel Davis, a graduate student studying student affairs, also has her own side hustle in art. She does digital art including photography for customers.

“I’ve always done art for as long as I can remember,” Davis said.

About two years ago, Davis said she officially started her business, and the projects for people became very time consuming, and she decided she should be getting paid for her efforts.

Both Hearn and Davis use social media to showcase their art and get customers.

Angelo said it is both dynamic and exciting.

“You never know what you’re gonna do,” Angelo said. “Entrepreneurship is hard. Passion will get you through the hard times.”

Angelo has three experiments that he said students should try before a business is launched. Students should determine if their idea is unique, if they can monetize it and if they can meet the demands of the economy.

“If you’re not able to meet the market demands, you have a hobby not a business,” Angelo said.

The 2016 Kauffman Startup Activity Index said that activity has risen since 2014, which was the lowest point in the last 20 years. Angelo said he believes it is important for students to graduate and receive an education, but that entrepreneurship is alive and well in the student body.

“If you can do what you love, and make what will make you happy, why wouldn’t you?” Angelo said. “There are countless ways to make money. There are very few ways to be happy.”