How encouraging passion projects make for better, more engaged employees

We recently did a study on Gen Z and Millennials where we found that over 70% of them believe the gig-economy is strengthening, with 42% stating it will increase in coming years.  Gen Z and Millennials, alike, appreciate how the “side hustle” supports their ever-evolving journey. “It helps me to travel and afford luxuries I wouldn’t be able to afford.”

– Wayne, 20 

With the rise of automation, some think that pursuing side hustles is a good way to future proof against job loss in the ever-changing job marketplace.  But it’s not just about security and financial freedom. Many people have skills and hobbies outside of their primary role that would be beneficial for the company but that they are not allowed to pursue. In a recent global survey of job seekers conducted by LinkedIn, 37 percent of respondents said their current job does not fully utilize their skills or provide enough challenges.

At Talk Shoppe, we not only think the side hustle is important to personal development, but we have also seen first hand how it can lead to a more engaged and creative staff.   

Our Creative Director, Char-Lynn Griffiths has had a side-hustle/passion project for over 2 years now.  Recently, she has had her artwork featured in Pottery Barn Kids and Target. We sat down with Char on her 4 year anniversary with Talk Shoppe to discuss her work here, find out what it’s like to switch career paths, and hear how her passion projects make her a better Creative Director.

Q: When we hired you- you were in a role heavily based on insights and analysis. Why did you start your career off in market research?

I’ve always been fascinated by people. I love to understand people- their wants, dreams, goals, etc. So, market research gave me a really good opportunity to learn more about people and why we do the things we do. I always found analyzing data creative in a weird way– you have to look at a large data set and interpret what it means.  To me, it was a fun challenge to try and figure out what the story was for our clients and why it matters in the bigger picture.  


Q: So tell me a little bit about how you came to love design? 

Well, I’ve always loved everything design. When I was in High School, I was convinced that I was going to be an interior designer. Just like data analysis is a puzzle, to me, designing is very similar. You have all these little pieces that fit together and you just have to figure out where they go to make something unique and compelling. So its creative, but there is a structure, and hierarchy to it– and the fun is really trying to figure out when to abide by the rules and when to break them.  


Q: Data analysis and graphic design are so different– How did you make the switch from analyst to designer?

Well, I got really, really, (really) lucky when I took a job with Talk Shoppe. I never really thought about pursuing a career in design because I was never formally trained in it. I learned how to use Photoshop and Illustrator by watching YouTube videos! But, Liana and Ruth saw something in me and gave me the opportunity to design all of our reports within the first few months of me being here. Designing reports day after day gave me really great practice at typography and design hierarchy and I started to develop a deep passion to learn more. And in a lot of ways, my research background makes me a better designer. Because I can see “the story” in the data, it’s easy for me to think of ways to visualize it- in an artistic way, but also in a way that truly lets the insights and analytics shine.  


Q: Outside of work, you have a “side-hustle.” Tell us more about that!

Sure! When I had my son 2 years ago– I was going a little stir crazy being away from work and terrified about how different life was now. I needed an outlet to channel all those new mom emotions. So, I decided to really learn design software and techniques by taking online classes (mostly at 2a while feeding the baby :)). I found myself creating wall art for my son’s nursery and I just loved doing that. So I did more of it, and for me it just snowballed into this beautiful hobby. Creating illustrations and art was my “me time.” There’s no pressure on it, it’s just my way to really express myself and escape to my own little happy place.

After awhile, I had created a lot of stuff so I started exploring easy and passive ways to sell the pieces that I really loved. I started an Etsy shop, and then I stumbled across Minted’s design challenges while buying Christmas cards– and decided to enter a few of my art pieces.  

After a few challenges, I got my first “win” when one of my illustrations was selected by the editors of Minted and Pottery Barn to be in their 2019 collection!   

Pottery Barn- Live in Color by Minted, Artist: Char-Lynn Griffiths

Through Minted, I’ve met a tribe of amazing artists who have helped me grow in my skillset and I have designed things I never would have attempted before!   For example, I now have a wedding invite for sale on Minted and greeting card being sold at Target! These wins are not about the money for me, that’s just icing on the cake. Having this outlet for design is really just about expressing myself and doing something because I genuinely love to do it. 

Anti-social Together- Minted for Target. Copy by Char Griffiths

Q: Has this helped you in your role at Talk Shoppe?

My little side hobby has helped me become exponentially better in my role as Creative Director for Talk Shoppe. Because of my relationships with other artists that I’ve met in my “side hustle,” I have been exposed to so many invaluable design classes and resources. I’m really lucky that Talk Shoppe values design, so they have sponsored me to go to conferences on design, and even pay for me to take continuing education classes on a range of design skills including video editing, typography and hand lettering.  

I like to think that I’m playing in the sand box with my personal projects and refining my skills there and when I’m confident in a new approach– I take it to my day job. I now have the ability to create something amazing and custom for our clients at Talk Shoppe. We’ve done custom illustrations, research style documentaries, and professional video animations thanks to tricks I’ve learned in my side hustle. I’m so thrilled to work for a company that values design, and lets me play and explore! By supporting me, they have really given be the confidence to grow as a designer and artist. I always want to give them the best of what I’ve learned in return. 

Custom Illustration Example