Side Hustle Stories: How This 25-Year-Old Created a Successful Clothing Company Without a Degree in Apparel Design

If you’re a millennial, it’s likely you know what a “side hustle” is, or even have one yourself.

Your side hustle is either something you’re passion about outside of work — especially if you don’t find much passion at your 9 to 5 gig — or it’s just another job to make extra cash. For our generation, it’s completely normal to have two “jobs” — one you make the bulk of your income at and one where you are doing what you truly love. I find the most successful side hustles aren’t about making money right away.

While some people’s side hustles grow to be bigger than they can handle and turn into full-time businesses (hello, Shark Tank contestants!), others simply do it as a hobby.

Meet Brody Berson — a 25-year-old Colorado transplant from the Midwest, who has always had a passion for being outdoors. When I first met Brody in 2013, I quickly learned his form of fun comes in rock climbing, hiking, and napping in hammocks. But his day job as a platform support engineer has him sitting at a computer much of the day. To fill the gap between his love for design and his love for the great outdoors, he created Happy Camper — a online clothing and accessories company for people who want to show off their outdoor pride.

From sweatshirts to T-shirts to coffee mugs, Brody has created an abundance of designs for people to choose from — plus everything is super comfy and affordable. (I have this retro T-shirt!) Not only does he donate a portion of each sale to the National Park Foundation, his dedication to his website, even after a long day of work, is inspiring to say the least.

Read my interview with Brody below to see how he created his business without a background in apparel design, the ups and downs of having a side hustle — and yes, how he did it all while having Netflix on in the background.

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Brody Berson

What made you want to create this website?
One of my favorite things is to go out and hike and while I love Patagonia, Mountain Hardware, and Black Diamond as the next outdoorsy person, I couldn’t find a clothing line that helped represent my love for the outdoors in fun unique ways besides a handful of boutique companies that cost up to $50 for a T-Shirt. So I thought why not make designs that I love and would wear proudly and share them with other people to see if they like them too? I said that I would give myself a year. Just do it for a year, see how it goes, if it doesn’t amount to anything, shut it down.

You have a background in computer design – but not apparel. How did you come up with the different designs?
Really, my only standard at first was “would I wear it?” If the answer was yes, it would move into a bucket to show friends and family to get their thoughts. I came up with all sorts of designs. A lot of them were terrible, a few were good, and a handful I thought were great! So I started uploading all of my designs to Printful after I settled on a handful of products that I liked after ordering some samples. Mostly everything on the site is tri-blend as I love the look and feel of it.

What was it like at first when you were just getting started? What are some things you learned?
I spent most of my time in the ideation phase, just churning out designs, company names, product ideas, etc. I came up with countless ideas that were both good and bad. Ones I knew were bad, but still went forward with creating just to put ideas into action and show someone to get confirmation if they were decent or not. When I was first getting started, almost everything outside of designs and coding was new. I didn’t know anything about social media marketing, online ads and promotion, or really what it was like trying to establish a brand. All of these skills came with trial and error and lots of googling.

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How do you find time to balance your full-time job and your side hustle?
I like to keep the two separate as much as possible. When I’m at work for my full-time job, I’m focused on that work. When I’m at home and in the Happy Camper mindset, I focus only on that work. The only time I overlap is when I answer customer service emails during my lunch time. I work my 9 to 5 and then come home and work sometimes until the wee-hours on my side hustle until I pass out.

How much time a week do you dedicate to it?
When I first started, I put a lot more time into Happy Camper to get things off the ground and to push it out into the world. I was putting sometimes over 30 hours a week when I was originally getting it going, but now that it’s a fine-tuned machine, I can put as little as 10 hours a week into it.

What enjoyment do you find in it? Does it add more or less stress to your life?
I really do enjoy it. It’s mine. I’ve never really been able to say something is 100% mine and that is a cool feeling — especially when people are giving me money for something that I created and wearing it with pride. I definitely think it does add a little bit of stress sometimes, but that rewarding feeling of support from random people from around the globe buying your products is worth it.

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How do you make money (strategies you are using)?
I make money by promoting myself on social media like Instagram and Facebook. This is how I drive the most traffic to my site and capturing emails for a newsletter in which I send out coupon codes to potential customers. This strategy has paid off the most, but I quickly realized trying to keep up with every type of social media out there all by yourself is very time consuming. I turned my focus to split my time between Instagram (75% of my time) and Facebook (25% of my time) instead of trying to keep up with Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.

How much have you profited thus far?
To be honest, I have not made a ton, probably less than $1,000 in profit outside of all my ongoing business costs. I haven’t put as much time into Happy Camper lately as I wanted, but I have big plans. I’m currently working on another round of designs, revamping the overall flow of my website, and have purchased mobile POS software to be able to open up a tent at trade-shows, art fairs, and farmers markets which I plan to attend this summer. I didn’t start this to make big bucks, but just to prove an idea. An idea that I can create something on my own and if it makes a little bit of money, then that’s cool too.

What is your advice for other people looking to start a side hustle?
If you really love your idea, just go for it. There are countless tools out there that make getting started affordable and or free! Just do your research. Also, listen and love your customers/users. They are the ones supporting you and when they come to you for help with an order or have an issue or idea, listen to them and help them out. A simple reply and thank you go a long way.

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Tools He Uses:

Shopify
E-commerce website using a free theme
Cost: 14 Day Free Trial then $30/month

Shopify Plugins
There are countless free addons that can provide super helpful extensions such as site banners and popups to present users with promo codes

MailChimp
Email newsletters
Cost: Free

G Suite
Google Apps and email
Cost: $5/month

Buffer
Social media post automation and scheduling
Cost: Free

Zapier
Automating my workflows across multiple web apps (ie. Connects Shopify to Gsuite to send emails automatically to new customers)
Cost: Free

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