Jennifer Hacker, Founder of Toast Meets Jam, on Giving up Her “Dream Job” for Her Dream Career
By Crystal Tate
Jennifer Hacker is the founder of Toast Meets Jam, a site that is focused on supporting women entrepreneurs, but the self-made female entrepreneur herself took a few years to discover her true calling in life. When Hacker first launched Toast Meets Jam, she was in her first job out of college.
“I was working as a brand manager for Proctor and Gamble on their salon hair care products,” said Hacker. “Everything on paper sounded like it was the dream job. I was moving to Los Angeles. This was an amazing company. I was one of only two undergrads getting hired that year for this role. Everyone else was coming from MBA programs out of Ivy League schools so everything on paper sounded like this is the best opportunity. You couldn't pass up this kind of role, but I knew going in that it wasn't what I wanted to do with my life. I had never wanted to go into a big company. I didn't want to be climbing the corporate ladder. I always wanted to do something more entrepreneurial but at that time, I didn't have any women or really anybody in my life who had taken an alternative career path and everyone that I was surrounded by had gone through a very traditional process of going to college, getting their degrees, starting their career and climbing the ladder,” Hacker explained.
Toast Meets Jam, which relaunched at the beginning of May, was actually spun from a blog that Hacker and her friend started out of frustration with their jobs at the time. “I took the job and very quickly, it realized itself to being exactly what I feared which was just something that I was dreading, “ said Hacker. “So with a friend who was feeling very similar to me, we decided to start a blog as a creative outlet to do something we really enjoyed because it wasn't our work.” After a year and a half, they both felt inspired to leave their day jobs. “My friend who I was blogging with quit her job and went back to school to switch careers. I felt inspired enough to quit my job and really work on blogging.”
That inspiration led to the start of Toast Meets Jam, and the beginning of Hacker’s entrepreneurial path. “For the past two years, [Toast Meets Jam] has been primarily focused on creating a lot of content around founders and the businesses that they're building and hopefully sharing great advice from them on how they've been able to do what they do as well as giving an authentic view about the highs and lows of building a business,” said Hacker. “With the relaunch of the site, we'll continue to have the interviews but in addition to that, we'll be rolling out a lot of content and courses and products all around helping women to build their brand and not just drawing upon all of the work that I've been doing in my day job, but also my previous job around brand management at different companies.”
Hacker recently left her full-time job to focus solely on Toast Meets Jam so we asked for her advice on knowing when to put in your resignation letter to focus on your own dream business. “I think the thing that holds most people back is money,” said Hacker. “That keeps people from making the leap. I was thinking I wanted to go full time with Toast Meets Jam last July. I was at the point where I had left my job that I hated, and then I had started doing some consulting and I had gone back and started to work for a startup. And I kept doing Toast Meets Jam on the side. So I had been blogging on the side for a while and then I had gone into a phase where I actually spent a year thinking if I wanted it to be a business, how would I make money? And halfway through the year, I had like ten different things that people would actually pay me for. I also thought the thing that's going to scare me away from doing it is wondering how I’m going to support myself if none of these things continue to make me money and I started to save for that. So I think step one is creating the nest egg for yourself. Create a fallback plan so if you aren't making the money that you hoped or not as fast or something happens, that doesn't scare you and you've got some money in place that you can pay rent and live off of it for a few months. I think that just really helps to take off the pressure and a lot of the stress that can come with trying to make the transition,” Hacker suggested.
“Also, know how you're going to make money. If that requires really giving yourself a period of time to try different things out, do that so you have an idea and know what the revenue streams look like. I think it's helpful to have several revenue streams whether you've got a service and you've got a product. Think about different ways that you can bring in money to really know how you're going to support yourself from your idea and then start to start to do it regularly. So for me, I really wanted to get into the space where I was starting to actually work with women and build their brand through one-on-one coaching and through online courses and programs. So I started to reach out and talk to people about what I wanted to do and see if there was anyone I could work with. I actually started working with a few people while I was at my full time job and it was at that point that I was working essentially two full time jobs, like my day job and at night. So then it felt like the time to give up the day job,” explained Hacker.
We also had to ask Hacker to reveal the biggest lesson she’s learned on her journey to building her business, and she shared some valuable advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. “It's never as scary as you think it's going to be. I think just looking at hindsight, there's so much buildup to making a change or really going for your dreams. There can be a lot of stress in trying to make that decision and it can be really scary, and then once you do it, it just isn't as bad. The world does not fall apart. Things will be OK, and I think having a little bit of faith in the unknown is really important,” said Hacker.
“Another thing that I have realized is that when I was getting really close to going full time with Toast Meets Jam, I felt like all of these doors were opening. Different opportunities kept coming up and I felt like if I didn't go full time, I would continue to have to close the doors on all these opportunities. And as soon as I said yes I'm quitting my job and I'm going to do Toast Meets Jam full time, more and more started happening. It was nothing I could have anticipated but I knew something good was going to happen. I didn't know what it was but I really think that there's something to just leaning in. So I always think the biggest lesson is not to be afraid, to just take those first steps to start doing it and to just have trust in yourself that you'll make it happen,” Hacker concluded.
Crystal Tate is the editorial manager of The Life Currency, and a freelance editor, writer and stylist based in New York City. When she isn't sitting behind her laptop, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling and inspiring young women to shatter glass ceilings. Follow her on Twitter at @CrystalDenise and see more of her work at Crystal-Tate.com.