CareerEntrepreneurshipSide Hustle

Written by Jordene Knight

Oh my! Isn’t the pressure on now? I awoke to a cell phone notification from Ms. Brown this morning, slid the bar across and it opened an Instagram post about my upcoming featured blog post. Well, I have been tinkering with it for a month now. I wrote something, and 1000 words later, I didn’t think it sounded like me. I had changed, I learned new things, I read new books, listened to mind-blowing podcasts, and realized that’s not how I wanted to be introduced. It’s not the story I wanted to tell.

Hello, I’m Jordene Knight, and I’m the creator (still grappling with the term CEO; that needs to be worked out at a later time) of Onyx and Milk. I’m a woman, a mom, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a lover, and the creative designer of my life. I fear, love and respect God in that order. I have a sense of humor that not most get, but I crack myself up, and I think that’s all that matters since I control my happiness. I’m a Jane of all trades, or, the fancy word I learned which truly defines me, a multipotentialite. I am capricious and idiosyncratic because the world isn’t static, and at times, I’m a little sarcastic. I’m highly creative: I just love making and doing things. I have an intense love for the colors black and white, but my life is not devoid of color. Quite the opposite, it is full of it.

I currently work a 9-5 that I’m thankful for (gratitude is big with me) because it provides me the basics for living. If you do, however, want to not just live, you will need to have a side gig, a side hustle, or a hobby that you can generate some money from and that you enjoy and won’t mind doing in the after-hours. I was granted such a hobby, and yes, I can recall the day. It was January 1st, 2002 when I baked and designed a cake for my nephew for his third birthday. The year before, his mother baked a cake and just decorated it with M&Ms, so I claimed the next year, I would do a better job (arrogant much?). Tada! So began my side hustle of designing cakes for people’s special occasions.

From that time until the present, fifteen great years, I can easily say I have baked and designed over 1500 cakes and over 10,000 cupcakes. I baked and designed beautiful cakes, and I just loved how I could put all the ingredients together and hours later create what was just an idea.  Designing and baking cakes was deeply creative for me. It was my high. I loved to package a cake up in a box with ribbons because I was sharing my gift. I usually only baked on the weekends, which meant giving up Friday night hangouts and my weekends. I was good at baking especially since I didn’t have any formal training.

 It was worth it then because it gave me extra money to pursue different activities for my son and me. I was happy, my customers were happy, and I had all the balls in the air doing the juggling act.

However, something changed last year. I no longer enjoyed it, I dreaded accepting orders, and, at times, just plain out refused. The time I was giving up, didn’t’ seem to equate my monetary compensation, and although for the most part, I controlled that, it didn’t’ seem like I was. What I wasn’t doing at that time was understanding my worth. That lack of understanding came from me thinking no one would pay more because I wasn’t formally trained, I didn’t have a storefront, and, most of all, I wanted people to have great experiences without having to pay an arm and a leg for it.

That was my fault, and I suffered for it. My hands were hurting me so badly sometimes I would be frosting a cake and my hands would freeze into and twist is some ungodly fashion. I got really bad carpal tunnel, and the doctor told me to stop and take care of my hands before they were useless.  I was doing so much and not really resting on the weekends that I started getting face paralysis on my left side and gaining weight. My relationships were suffering, I wanted to be more present on the weekends, and I wanted to enjoy my life again. You have to realize when something is over and it’s no longer filling the void monetarily, emotionally, and physically. It’s like God had left the room, and I was no longer doing it for God because the highest form of worship is when you are creating and creating for a higher purpose.

Besides designing cakes, I loved taking photos, especially in black and white. Onyx and Milk was birthed from that idea. I wanted to post my black and white photos to Instagram, but I didn’t want to post it to my original page that was strictly dedicated to my cakes, Jordene. I looked up different words that represented black and white and was inspired by Onyx for black and Milk for white. It just flowed, it felt right, it was both hard and soft, both fluid and static, and I loved the duality. The essence of the ultimate reality for me was the sound of Onyx and Milk and its meaning of being a sacred sound and a spiritual symbol in Hinduism.

So what do you do when you want a change? You research. I’ve read so many books, I’ve listened to too many audible books, looked at TED Talks, YouTube channels, listened to podcasts, and taken any free or paid course I could on how to make money. Sometimes all you need you just need to identify your dream job is to conduct a self-assessment analysis, which includes asking yourself really important questions, like where are you in your life right now.” advice from Ms. Brown, read it here. After taking stock of my skills and experiences, I sat quietly and decided what I needed my life to look like. The simple and recurring theme through all of that is to just start. I have realized I can get paid for just about anything, but the key is finding something I love doing that is easy for me. Money is not the key to life: however, it is a byproduct of the things we value. And I wanted a more valuable life, a beautiful home, great relationships with my family and friends, to be healthy, and experiences that would allow me to grow.  Personal growth is nothing if no one else can benefit from what you know.

I wanted to do something that would benefit everyone.

After doing inventory, I realized, over the years, I have amassed many skills that I can be using to lead an interesting life. I’ve worked many years in high-end retail, I have a degree in interior design, and I have worked for 10 years in different facets at a large organization in their HR department. I’ve garnered people skills from and learned about quality products from all my years in retail and HR. I have also learned about product sales, packaging, and marketing. With my degree in interior design, I have learned color theory, room balance, furniture design, and how to make a space functional and aesthetically pleasing. I want to share all the things I know and all the things that I will learn.

There is no better way to live, than by documenting your life by writing stories and taking pictures to support the stories you have lived and the experiences that make this life worth living. I started documenting my life on my Instagram page, @onyxandmilk, all in black and white (however I have changed the look, and started using color). I figured, why not take it one step further and create a blog to document my life.

Why not share that recipe that I came across years ago for the best salmon dish? Why not explain my love for white sheets and towels and my obsession with cotton sheets with an over 500 thread count? Or write a short synopsis about the latest book I read or movie I saw?  How about when I went shopping and found the most beautiful fruit bowl? How about I tell you about wanting to have a better financial life and how budgeting is not always sacrificing? Why not share what I’m going through, something insanely personal, or embarrassing?

Ah ha! Sounds easy right? And in this lies the crux of the problem. I’m insanely private with my life, and although I do document it by keeping a journal and taking pictures, I’ve been keeping it to myself. I haven’t been sharing it all. I haven’t been hitting publish, I’ve been hitting SAVE. For this to work, for me to take this idea of a lifestyle and turn it into a brand, or moreover, a point of view on life, I have to be willing to be more transparent. I have to be willing to take people’s compliments and their criticism and then note to myself that their opinion of me is just that.

I may not be making any extra money right now from not continuing my side hustle as a cake designer, and I’m currently not making any money from my blog, but my happiness is worth much more. I’ll leave you with something

an ex-manager said to me  “Follow your passion, and the money will come. So find your passion”. Design your life.

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