She Grew Her Side Hustle Sales to $18 Million in Just 1 Year


This Side Hustle Spotlight Q&A features Cynthia Sakai, designer and founder of the luxury personal care company evolvetogether. Sakai launched evolvetogether as a side hustle while running her jewelry company, then took the business full-time within six months. Although evolvetogether began with a focus on masks, today it offers a range of products for the body and face, and other goods, including water bottles, tote bags and more. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Image Credit: Courtesy of evolvetogether. Cynthia Sakai.

What was your day job (or other sources of income) when you started your side hustle?
I owned a jewelry company called Vita Fede, which I launched in 2009. We partnered with major retailers globally, including Bergdorf Goodman, Lane Crawford and Harvey Nichols, garnering a devoted celebrity following.

When did you start your side hustle, and where did you find the inspiration for it?
At the beginning of the pandemic, I felt compelled to support relief efforts, and in 2020, I pivoted my jewelry business into a mask business, establishing evolvetogether. When I was working on my jewelry brand, I always had the desire to build a daily essentials brand, but it wasn’t until I felt the call to help people during the pandemic that evolvetogether truly came to life.

The switch from jewelry to masks was an intentional brand development moment for me — the pandemic shed light on the need to build a brand with pillars of community and sustainability during a time of such divide. We wanted to “evolve together” as humans during a very scary and uncertain time — hence the origin of the name.

Related: ‘The Work Just Fills My Soul’: She Turned Her Creative Side Hustle Into a 6-Figure ‘Dream’ Business

What were some of the first steps you took to get your side hustle off the ground?
Despite my limited knowledge of the healthcare consumables space, I applied my design philosophy to face masks. It’s important to note that there was no playbook on how to start a brand and get it off the ground during a global pandemic.

I knew that we had a product that not only was safe and high-performing but also was unique when it came to design. I’m a bit old-school and of the belief that product says it all. It wasn’t a time for simple sales messages; it was a time to build out the brand.

Once we created our masks, I knew I had to get the product to as many people as possible, so we would get into cars with boxes and boxes of masks to give out to people on the streets of New York City. After a while, you couldn’t go a block, scroll Instagram or even turn on the TV without seeing our masks. If you make a good product, people will come, and sales will happen. It was word of mouth that cemented evolvetogether as a trusted, and charitable, household brand amid the global health crisis.

Related: The Side Hustle He Started in His College Apartment Turned Into a $70,000-a-Month Income Stream — Then Earned Nearly $2 Million Last Year

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced while building your side hustle, and how did you navigate them?
We launched evolvetogether during a global pandemic, so it was challenging from the beginning. Anything that could have gone wrong, went wrong. We dealt with logistical issues, lack of raw materials, changing factory protocols and new laws and legislation for safety.

Every single day brought new hurdles, and I learned to be resilient. There was no waiting or giving up. I had to be nimble and learn to adapt quickly. I knew we needed to have the highest-grade medical mask and couldn’t compromise on performance, so I made it work. I moved through what was happening in the moment to focus on the bigger picture and longevity, which was creating a brand that provided trusted essentials.

How long did it take you to see consistent monthly revenue? How much did the side hustle earn?
Given the nature of when and how we launched, our monthly revenue was never consistent. We went from $0 in sales to over $6 million in six months to $18 million in 12 months.

When did you take the business full-time, and what motivated that decision? What does growth and revenue look like now?
Pretty immediately. I had always wanted to start a personal care brand, and I had exhausted the jewelry brand. After the first six months, it felt right to focus solely on building evolvetogether and expanding our product line past masks.

Related: ‘I Could Never Go Back to Corporate’: She Quit Her Silicon Valley Tech Job After Her Creative Side Hustle Hit 6 Figures

What do you enjoy most about running this business?
I’ve been able to create a brand that has an impact. Of course, I am immensely proud of our products as we’ve been able to create a line of beautiful, high-performing daily essentials that make sustainable living a simple part of your everyday routine. However, evolvetogether has always been about building something bigger than just products. We want to do good, and we’re on a mission to connect people to what’s most essential — taking care of the planet and each other.

What’s your advice for others hoping to start successful side hustles or businesses of their own?
Have purpose. It’s crucial to know why you’re doing it and ensure the vision and purpose align. Once you define your “why,” everything else falls into place.

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