Kathryn Tyler of Digital Mums: From side hustle to full hustle

6 min read
Thomas Costello

Side hustle is the name for the growing trend of kick-starting a personal enterprise or microbusiness in your spare time or away from the day job. The side hustle trend is rapidly increasing in popularity.

In 2017 Google Trends showed that searches for “side hustle” have increased 138% in the UK and 178% in the USA

Starting a side hustle enables the hustler to pursue their interests, hobbies or passions while maintaining the financial security that comes with a full-time job.

GoDaddy research found that 20% of British workers are likely to start a side hustle, but that over half (54%) would be unlikely to tell their employer

We sat down with Kathryn Tyler co-founder of Digital Mums, to find out more about the business, why she felt comfortable telling her employer about her side hustle and how they supported her in taking the venture from side hustle to “full hustle”.

Growing up in a Welsh mining village where unemployment was the ‘norm’ helped to shape Tyler’s views and develop her passion for helping people to take control of their lives and change their situations for the better. Such early life experiences helped to develop a vision which would grow into the Digital Mum’s franchise. Talking about this, Tyler said: “My early-life experiences made me passionate about giving people work opportunities because I have seen first-hand how soul destroying being out of work is”.

As the digital economy boomed and the internet became more accessible to people across the UK, Tyler launched her first business Hackney Social, a social media agency. Tyler recognised the vast number of businesses seeking, and in need of social media management, she was unable to meet the demand to simultaneously manage all her clients’ social media accounts. It was here that Tyler saw an opportunity to bring her passion and vision into reality. “I was acutely aware of the issues around maternal employment in the UK, the business needed to take on more people and we realised that mums would be the perfect solution”.

“54,000 women lose their jobs every year due to maternity discrimination and there are currently 2.6 million stay at home mums in the UK and 70% would go back to work if flexible working was an option”.

Tyler went on to design an online training course which would teach mums everything they needed to know and empower them to kickstart their new careers in digital. Over the course of three years Digital Mums have refined their offering and business model, “we have gone from offering one training programme to 20 mums a month, to two training programmes, to over 100 mums a month”.

But setting up a thriving business isn’t always as easy as it may appear, and for Digital Mums one of the biggest challenges was the creation of the 100% online business training; the backbone of their offering.

The challenge: delivering an online course, to a person with no digital experience and turning that individual into a practicing social media management over 6 months.

Faced with a below 15% industry average completion rate, indicative of poor engagement rates for online courses, Tyler set out to adjust and improve the learning model. “We have shown that it can be done, 95% of our students graduate and 91% are working within 12 months of graduating”.

In part, some of Digital Mum’s success comes from the support Tyler received from her employer. Tyler made the decision to tell her employer about Digital Mums, shortly after imagining the concept.

“They were amazing about my side hustle and gave me access to their top education consultants to help brainstorm our learning model”

Being transparent with her employer was a major benefit for Tyler. As the concept started to turn into a reality, she was able to drop down to 3 days a week, allowing for more time to focus on the side hustle.  This granted financial stability, giving more time to ensure the side hustle was viable before taking it full time. It was only when they received a low interest, low-risk business loan from the Big Issue investment arm, that Tyler with the support of her employer, became self-employed and started to chase the full hustle dream.

Whether or not you decide to take your side hustle to full hustle, there are benefits to be gained just from having a side hustle. Running a side hustle improves your business knowledge extensively. “There hasn’t been anything I have encountered that I haven’t been able to do, well, apart from building financial models in excel- but now I have a great finance team to do that for me”.

There are lots of great online tools available to help businesses. If you can think it, there is probably a tool out there that can help you do it

In an age where digital reputation can make or break a business, and where 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, finding a tool to help manage your customers’ experience seamlessly is a must-have.  “We recently adopted Zendesk, it integrates so many functions into one place and ensures our customers have a seamless experience whether they get in touch via email, tweets or via our student support area”.

Only 17% of the team, work full time in the office

For company values to be truly meaningful, they must be present not only in the product offering but also at the heart of any organisation, the workforce. For Digital Mums, as a company which promotes and enables flexible working, it was imperative that they utilised a tool that could enable the same flexible working within their own workforce. The solution, Slack, a workforce collaboration tool. “Slack enabled us to create a rich, collaborative culture that engages all of our employees.

Employee happiness is the key to customer happiness, employees who are engaged in the work that they do and that believe in the business goals are more likely to go that extra mile to help your customers. An investment in workforce is an investment in the bottom line and for Tyler her biggest focus is always “ensuring that our customers and our staff are happy, because those are the people that matter to me”.

This people-centric focus, originating from Tyler’s experiences in the Welsh village, will continue to be the driving force behind Digital Mums in the future. Digital Mums plan to impact the employability of hundreds of thousands of mums, rather than just thousands. “We have plans to go overseas to the US, where the situation for working mothers is worse than here in the UK”.

You can watch the full interview below: