Side Hustle and Flow Interview Series: Desiree Adaway

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The Side Hustle and Flow Interview Series is designed to inspire hard-working corporate employees to either start a side hustle if they are interested in eventually starting a business, or to keep going with their existing side hustle through the inevitable challenge of limited time and energy.

So far we have profiled Chandoo, Willie Jackson, Dan SchawbelLaurie Gay and Carmen Sognonvi.

Today we profile Desiree Adaway.

What was your former job?

I was the Senior Director of Volunteer Mobilization with Habitat for Humanity International (Global Volunteer programs). I have worked in the nonprofit philanthropy field for over 20 years. I have either designed or administered more than 150 global programs to engage 500,000 people into action directly and almost 1 million indirectly through creation of global strategy.

What was your side hustle?

Actually building an online presence. I knew that I would be leaving the organization by spring 2011 at the latest. My youngest daughter will start college in the fall so it was really important that I designed a life for myself that defined how I want to live, work and play for the next 30 years. A key objective for me was to be self-employed and live a location independent lifestyle. Having a website, blogging, using social media were key parts of building my foundation until I was ready to quit my job and go live.

When did you start working on it?

Fall 2009 after I attended an Escape from Cubicle Nation workshop in Atlanta.

Did you tell your employer you were working on a side project? Why or why not?

No I did not, but I did not keep it a secret. Lots of colleagues knew I was blogging and gave me great feedback. I did not ever mention specifically on my blog who I worked for or my specific role until after I had left.

How did you know when it was time to quit your day job?

I was sick all the time, and while I still loved the organization, it no longer was exciting to me. I knew I needed a challenge after 6 years with the organization.

What scared you about that decision?

I am a single parent with one daughter in college and another joining soon. I am not just the primary breadwinner—I am the ONLY breadwinner. If I fail we do not eat and they have grown accustomed to eating …so I knew that success was my only option!

How did it turn out?

Really well. I have been working steadily and consistently since I hung out my shingle. I have been learning TONS and getting so much support from folks that I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Building my tribe of supporters, advocates and ambassadors has been a blast.

What are you doing now?

I just finished an exciting project for an International NGO and am helping a startup nonprofit put some key metrics and foundational pieces in place.

What advice would you give for others who are working on a side hustle now that you have a bit of distance?

Network, network, network….find out how you can be of service to others and always look for new opportunities to collaborate and co-create. Wake up every day hungry and swinging for the fences. Some days you will miss—but others will be home runs.

How can people find you, or hire you?

You can learn more about me and the services I offer here: You can also find me on Twitter @desireeadaway.

In addition to being an amazing leader, Desiree has been my best friend for 27 years, since we were freshmen at college. Our daily calls give lift and humor to my day. Thanks Desiree, for your tremendous heart and deep commitment to service. Here is to a thriving consulting practice in 2011!

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17 Responses to “Side Hustle and Flow Interview Series: Desiree Adaway”

  1. Polly Thompson says:

    Polly Thompson…

    […]n Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you penning this write-up an pa[…]…

  2. Monica Langley says:

    Reading this was so inspiring! It is my dream to work in the non-profit industry and it’s so refreshing to read your story. Philanthropy is my passion and it is my goal to transition into the field full time in the very near future.

    • Monica,
      So happy that my story resonated! Please come check out my blog and website or shoot me an email. I am always happy to chat. Let me know if I can help with your transition in any way… its always helpful to have friends supporting you along the path!

  3. […] far we have profiled Chandoo, Willie Jackson, Dan Schawbel, Laurie Gay, Carmen Sognonvi, Desiree Adaway and Gwen […]

  4. Kim Lampe says:


    thank you for being a source of inspiration. i get all excited about business process improvement, so i connected with all the information on your website.

    i’ll be hanging around and plan on drawing more inspiration from your blog in the future.

    it really matters where you hang out. Pam is always tapping us into great stuff.

  5. Back To Wow says:

    Great Spotlight! Desiree – I loved your post on what your going to do in 2011 to build a better world! (

  6. Great Sorry, I started my business as a side hustle too 2 years ago too. I just gave birth to my first child and I wanted to do something that makes me fill happy and fulfilled. I started hour working for a few businesses for free to build up me confidence and get my self out also to get some referral then I hit the ground run. Now I get to do what I love spend time with child and give back to the community.

    Now a day there is nothing like Job Security. We need to get out there a make something for ourselves

  7. Steph says:

    Congrats to you, Desiree. Your story is inspiring to those of us wanting to escape the 9-to-5 world and start working for ourselves!

  8. Thanks to you all for your support and well wishes! They are very much appreciated.

  9. Fred,

    I think Pam has been out on her own for 15 years or so ( Pam if I am wrong please chime in). Up until fall of 2009 I had never had the desire to go out on my own. I was very happy with my career choices and the work I was doing.

    It was not until I really started to deeply look at my life -and figure out how I wanted to live my life once I became an empty nester – did I look at self employment as an option.I even worked with a great coach(not Pam) to help me really come to clarity about my choice. I then attended Liftoff with Pam and Charlie last February–MAN that was where concrete plans were hatched.

    She has been a great support over the years but never pressured me to escape, I kind of did that on my own.

    Trust me it is a blessing and a curse to have a BFF that is a coach. 🙂 I am so incredibly lucky that I get to benefit from her years of experience. She gets to benefit from my 20 years of parenting—so its a nice trade!

  10. Fred Leo says:

    Very interesting story Desiree. I love reading these side hustle stories.

    When I read that you and Pam have been friends for over 27 years, I wondered, how much did Pam influence you to go out on your own? It must be pretty tough to stay an employee when Ms. Escape From Cubicle Nation is your best friend.

  11. […] Be Inspired Launch your Side Project […]

  12. Samuel says:

    Awesome interview Pam. Glad to hear that Adaway made it through because transitioning is not a easy thing to do. Thanks so much for sharing. Have fun 🙂

  13. Alisha says:

    So nice to learn more about you. Congrats on your success!

  14. Thanks so much for offering me the opportunity to share my story. No BFF secrets were shared in the making of this interview!

  15. Desiree, your story makes me want to jump up and down in excitement! I feel so fortunate to be connected to someone who has so much drive, passion, and deep love for the world. 🙂