In the workplace, we often call someone who is a huge success a rock star. But that also means they wouldn’t have reached their true success without their backup team. While there’s merit in each position depending on your skillset, it’s just a matter of finding the one that works best for you.
I decided to ask someone who is both of these things simultaneously to help us understand the differences. Chef Austin* is cofounder of Bennett’s Butter Co. His day job is at a large tech company that feeds their employees breakfast, lunch and dinner from scratch every day across the world.
Backup singer at work, rock star side hustle
“I help design and build out their kitchen and cafe spaces, Austin said. “I get to look at the latest equipment and trends in food and work with local chefs to design the most state-of-the-art kitchens.”
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And that’s what inspired his side hustle. “I decided to get started on developing compound butters when I was in culinary school a few years ago. I’d come home and cook for my family with the butters I was creating, and I’d leave the leftovers with my family to test out. They would tell me how much cooking with the butters instantly improved and elevated the flavor of their meal while cutting prep time.”
Austin’s first production run was in November 2018, “but as far as recipes and packaging, it’s always a work in process as we work with new vendors and flavors. I am always looking for the next best thing.” And he’s always doing it while still working at a more traditional job as well.
Rock star takeaway: Pay attention to what people are telling you to improve your product. Even if you’re the product!
The benefits of each
Austin said he loves his day job where, for all intents and purposes, he’s a corporate backup singer because of “its incredible culture, opportunities, ability to constantly learn, network, and grow. Although I am in a supporting role, I still take pride and ownership of my day to day responsibilities and feel like I can be incredibly effective and successful.”
And while he wears many hats in his corporate life, Austin said: “It’s nowhere as many as compared to the different roles I need to play at Bennett’s Butter.”
Backup singer takeaway: Even when part-time, it’s fine to take pride of ownership in your group accomplishments.
Managing your professional personalities
As a food entrepreneur, Austin recognizes just how much of a team effort it is producing, marketing and bringing a new product to market. “While it is very much a team effort, it’s a much leaner team and operation spearheaded by myself and my co-founder and sister Bess, and we both bring different strengths and talents to the table.
During the day I’m operating from a position of power because of the size of and resources at my company, while my side hustle is very much a startup within an industry that’s incredibly challenging to break into.”
Rock star takeaway: Garage band or arena headliners, you still need your backup crew to make you shine.
Being a rock star isn’t all it’s cracked up to be
For anyone who’s dreamed of being in the spotlight, Austin thinks you need to know that “It’s unbelievably humbling. I am constantly putting myself out there, working until the wee hours of the morning and not always seeing instant gratification.
Sometimes things don’t go as planned, and it’s all about problem-solving, being nimble and getting partners and vendors to adjust to the needs of a growing business and not getting discouraged. You have to work through it and persevere.”
Rock star takeaway: Being the person who represents a brand also means the added hassles and headaches involved in perfecting your product.
It’s all about teamwork
Whether you’re producing hit singles or gourmet butter, you can’t do any of it on my own. Austin said “My sister Bess is an integral of the success of Bennett’s Butter. We work as a team, and both have our strong suits, recognize what they are, and divide and conquer accordingly. For example, as a trained chef, I own recipe development and food production. Bess has a sales and marketing background which has been instrumental in handling those aspects of the business.”
And more than that, even if there’s a single face to any brand, Austin reminds us that “there’s a lot more to Bennett’s than Bess and me. We’re fortunate to have an amazing network of people we’ve met through both our professional personal lives who have been integral in growing and scaling our business. This ranges from our packaging and paper guru and finance experts to our sales broker, graphics and web designers, photographers, and PR rock star.”
Rock star takeaway: Remember the backup singers. They’re the ones who support your time in the spotlight!
*Since he’s still employed at a global tech corporation, for the purposes of this article we’ll only use his first name.
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