We’re continuing our theme this month about being black business women, or women of color in America and some of the challenges that we’re facing. Especially speaking from a place of bias, or looking at past experience to inform our current or future results. And one of the things that I wanted to talk to you about today was a very particular phrase that comes up in small business owners circles. I wanted to get your take on it. Of course I have ideas about it, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. And then towards the end I have an opportunity for you as well.
Black Business Women Lingo: ‘Hustle’
The phrase I’m talking about is the phrase ‘side hustle,’ ‘side hustler,’ or ‘hustler’ in general. And I think it’s interesting. I was in a women’s entrepreneurs group about a month or so ago, and someone just commented that they hate the term ‘hustler.’ They find it demeaning, they don’t like it. And I thought it was so strange because if it doesn’t resonate for you, it doesn’t resonate for you. But for me to hustle is a badge of honor. And I think that’s largely because of who I am and the skin that I’m in. My earliest recollections of the term ‘hustle’ come from hip hop songs.
1. Coming from the Hip Hop community
So if I think about where might you hear the word ‘hustle’ the first thing that comes up is I’m a hustler. “I’m a hustler baby” – that’s the hook from Cassidy song, and Jay-Z was on it. And if you know anything about Jay-Z, he’s the first black rapper billionaire. And one of the songs that I think is like a hallmark of Hova, of Jay Z is, “Dirt off your Shoulders.” And in that song he talks about hustling as well. Some people see the idea of hustling as a negative, but really if you look up the word ‘hustle’ what it’s talking about is to move hurriedly in a decided direction. It’s all about pushing forward with some urgency – that is literally the meaning of the word ‘hustle’. It’s a combination of hurry and work hard. To work hard in a hurry is to hustle. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
I want to hustle like Jay-Z hustles.
If we take Jay Z, that king of hip hop as an example, the first billionaire rapper, the first black owner of a major sports team, the Brooklyn Nets, (pride all over the place over here, by the way), then why would we see that as a negative?
Someone who’s hustling is moving very quickly in a decided direction, largely because they’re trying to get the dirt off their shoulders. And if you’re not familiar with that song, it’s all about rising “from the bottom of the bottom, the top of the pops”. It’s all about rising from the dirt, from your beginnings, from humble meager means, and pushing forward in a hurry to get to something greater than your current situation. I mean, is that not one of the most beautiful things we could all aspire to in life? Is that not the ‘American Dream’ — to go from seemingly nothing to billionaire sports owner?
I want to hustle like Jay-Z hustles. And so for me, “I’m a hustler” has a lot of resonance just around that. I’m a child of the 80s. I grew up listening to a lot of eighties pop, but also hip hop, like real hip hop. Not like Cardi B and what’s happening today, but songs that were really grounded in people struggling and trying to do better, and a lot of that is around this idea of the hustle.
Black Business Women Lingo: ‘Grind’
I think another phrase that really resonates for me, a phrase that, in the circles I run in, we use a lot is the term ‘grind’, ‘to grind’. And I know now from my new enlightened place ‘to grind’ shouldn’t be so hard. Or you know, we’re not looking for strenuous, we’re not looking for strain. But again, the definition of the word grind is to pulverize, to crush into dust. And that’s how I think of how I’ve addressed goals largely in the past. To do so well that you completely obliterate the challenge – that’s grinding. To work quickly in an upward mobility fashion to crush your goals. That’s hustle and grind.
That’s like me through and through. And I have friends who frequently use that terminology. They’ll post on Instagram, they’ll post on Facebook and it’s “on my grind.” It’s all about work ethic. Speaking through the lens of the hip hop community, that’s the first one that I want to bring to this conversation.
2. Coming from the Immigrant perspective
The second lens that I think is really important. And then also again coming straight from the skin that I’m in. I’m Jamaican. My mom is 100% Jamaican, was born in Kingston, in the West indies. My father is also an immigrant, his family hails from The Bahamas, which is where my last name Deveaux comes from. Those of you who’ve ever been on a cruise, check out Deveaux Street when you get off in Nassau because you will find it. (My family is kind of a big deal there).
But coming from an immigrant background, you come to America, to the United States, or really anywhere seeking opportunity and it comes from a place of, “I am going to work hard and grab as many opportunities as I can to move my family and move my line forward.”
My husband is 100% Jamaican born, and that’s why his family came to this country; to seek out and grab opportunity and make something better for their children and for their families. In that very same way, it was about hustling. It was how quickly can we climb in this new place, in this new environment, from the “bottom of the bottom to the top of the pops”? And yeah, you get dirty on the way (dust your shoulders off). So again, there is my little Jay-Z reference.
3. A word on Jamaican work ethic
Oftentimes when we think of immigrants coming to this country, we think of a lot of work. We think a lot of toil. And especially in Jamaican culture, it is very popular for people to expect you to have two and three jobs. And when we come to America, especially as a Caribbean American, being surrounded by other black Americans here, especially in New York, you find people will make jokes about it. “Oh, he works harder than a Jamaican.” Because of the hustle, because of the grind and because of the expectation that when you’re climbing you are going to work as hard as you need to get to the other side of that. To get yourself out of the dirt, out of the dust and into a higher place both for you and for your family.
And so for me to hustle is a mark of pride, to have a side hustle means you are working more than one opportunity at a time. What am I really good at? Friends used to always ask me, “How many pans you got in the fire right now? You’re doing so much.” I’m doing as much as I can to get where I need to because, God forbid, I come to the end of my life and think, “Man, I wish I had tried a little harder.”
There is no shame in hustling.
And no shame in side hustling and in tapping into every possible talent.
As a Black business woman, you have to create what you need to for you and your family. That’s what it is to hustle. Or what it is to have a side hustle. That’s what it is to grow and seek better for you and yours. For me to, to turn your nose down at hustling is just a mark of privilege. “Oh, you must be in a place where you don’t see it as a hustle.”
Billionaire Black Business Women Example: Jay- Z
But when we look at some of our most prestigious black and brown people in this country, it is nothing but hustles all over the place, right? I mean, Jay-Z started in music. He has the 40/40 Club. Also, he owns a major sports team. He and Beyoncé have this empire. They have their own music streaming service. Are those not side hustles? Because one would say, “Well, Jay-Z, his main thing is he’s a rapper.” Well then wouldn’t all that other stuff be side hustles? I want to hustle like Jay Z.
Billionaire Black Business Women Example: Oprah
Or let’s take it even out of hip hop. Oprah started as a talk show host. Then she starts talking about books. Now we got Oprah’s book club, right? Then she decides that she wants to go into film and media. Oprah’s produced plays. She has her own network. The woman is an empire in and of herself. Again, black billionaire status. But are we just going to say that she can only be a talk show host? She shoud stick to her day job? Is Oprah not hustling on multiple levels? I want to hustle like Oprah.
So when people turn their nose down at side hustle, again, I think, “Well, maybe you’re in a position where you’ve found your one thing and it’s working great for you and meeting all your needs.” But I think to assume that that is the case for a lot of other people in this country is a little shortsighted. A lot of people in this country, one, have a multitude of gifts; and two, are trying to get to a better place in leveraging their gifts. And that’s where hustling comes in. Especially for black business women in America – it is work ethic and it is taking your goals and completely crushing them for the sake of you and your family.
Sign up for the Side Hustle Intensive
Now that’s it for my rant about people who don’t like the term side hustle. And now I’m going to move into an opportunity for all of you. Many of you may be aware that I run a program called the Side Hustle Intensive. It’s a little bit of a redundancy because already we know side hustle, the hustle is extreme. Hustle is extreme work ethic and then Intensive is to double down on that. It’s an intense Intensive, it’s a hustler’s hustle is what this program is. And I am opening up registration for the August cohort right now.
So are you interested in joining me for a 13-week sprint? That’s right, we’re taking an entire quarter and putting your skills as an entrepreneur to the test. To really look at one or two of your side hustles and blow it up. Pulverize your goals. Make it so that maybe you could eliminate one of your other hustles. Or streamline and automate so that you do get to that easy place. Then this is exactly what this program is designed for. This is for all of you black business women, women of color, who see yourself as a side hustler ready to take it to the next level.
Ready to Hustle for your business?
I’m talking about instead of you just having two or three jobs, let’s get you on the Jay-Z timeline. Let’s get you on the Oprah timeline. Let’s get you to see what is possible in what you’re already creating and your gifts, your talents and abilities. That’s what the Intensive is about and yes, it is 13 weeks long.
Now, some people were like, “Oh (wo)man, Marie, why didn’t you do a six week or eight week program?” I was like, “Because you know what? 13 weeks? That’s a quarter, 13 weeks. If you can’t hack it for three solid months as a sprint in your business, then maybe you’re not ready for this.” I’m just going to be fair, but if you can’t show up consistently to pulverize your goals, to grind it out in your business, then you’re not ready. You’re simply not ready. You should probably just call me for a couple of drop-in sessions and we’ll get you there.
But this program is for people who are like, “I’m ready. I’m ready to move in a concerted direction in a hurry. I’m ready to hustle for 13 weeks/ for 90 straight days.” If that sounds like your jam, if you’re ready to hustle, if you’re ready to grind it out with me starting in August, please jump on, and grab an interview spot . Let’s talk about it. Let’s get you in the application pipeline and I very much hope that you and I can hustle together this summer. My friends, reach out if you’re interested in hustling with me and I look forward to seeing you on your grind.