CNBC make it 2024-03-20 02:00:50

Couple started a side hustle ‘to pay rent and survive’—now their business brings in $2.2M a month

Tessa Barton and Cole Herrmann launched their photo editing app for two reasons: passion and practicality.

In 2017, the newlyweds were struggling to pay their $2,800-per-month New York rent. They tried a series of side hustles — a denim line, collage kits, writing and selling a book — but none were particularly lucrative, and the products took up too much space in their 250-square-foot studio apartment.

At the time, Herrmann was a full-time software developer. Barton was a freelance photographer and burgeoning influencer. They turned to an idea that used both of their skillsets: making and selling photo filters on Adobe Lightroom.

Over several weeks, the filters gained an audience, prompting the pair to launch their own photo-editing app called Tezza — Barton’s nickname since college, she says — in 2018.

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Today, Tezza is a lifestyle brand that combines most of the couple’s side hustle attempts — selling collage kits, apparel and a recently launched magazine, in addition to its flagship photo and video editing app. The Los Angeles-based company brought in $26.5 million in sales last year, or $2.2 million per month on average, according to documents reviewed by CNBC Make It.

“We started this without the intention of it becoming a business,” says Herrmann. “It really started as a passion project, a way for us to hopefully get some extra income to pay rent and survive in New York City.”

Creating and learning from mistakes

Barton’s photography career started at age 16. She took photos around her home state of Utah, edited them in the style of high fashion magazines and posted them on Instagram, she says.

Eventually, brands like Urban Outfitters and Free People — both owned by parent company URBN — reached out, offering to pay her to plan shoots around their products. By the time she and Herrmann moved to New York in 2016, she’d amassed roughly 20,000 followers on social media, she says.

Publicly, the couple’s lifestyle was highly aspirational. Behind the scenes, they worked unglamorous hours for 18 months to stay afloat while building their app.

“We were building it, probably, from the hours of 10 p.m. to 3 a.m.,” says Barton, adding: “It was a lot of tears and trial and error and thinking, ‘OK, this is a dumb idea. It’s never going to work.’ Because we couldn’t really get it [to work] for a long time. It was a struggle.”

To differentiate Tezza from competitors, the couple decided to lean into what they’d learned from Barton’s Instagram followers: People wanted an accessible way to make their lives look Instagram-worthy.

“Every other app was catering to this kind of professional look,” Herrmann says. Instead, Tezza went bold. Its photo editing features were simple. The app’s bright red design featured chunky fonts and used casual millennial slang to connect to its audience.

The approach worked: Tezza is featured on Apple’s “Essential Photo & Video Apps” list, and regularly ranks between competitors Lightroom and VSCO in app stores.

The couple keeps Tezza’s team small — currently 12 employees — to save on costs and maintain control over the brand’s “creative vision,” Herrmann says. The base app is free, and users can pay to access to different features. Its most expensive subscription, $59.99 per year, includes full access to a recently released video editing tool.

Barton and Herrmann serve as co-CEOs of their company, spending most of their time building new photo and video editing features on the app. Their future goal is to expand the brand into physical spaces by hosting in-person events, but their only immediate agenda item is to keep experimenting and pursuing new ways to be creative, says Barton.

“The fear of starting something is the hardest part,” she says. “Maybe [your first idea] won’t be your product, but you’ll learn everything you need to know for the next. We really realized … you got to just be consistent and keep [creating].”

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If you and your partner use any of these 5 phrases regularly, your relationship is stronger than most

Speaking to your partner with respect and appreciation is important, especially in times of conflict.

The most successful couples, according to psychologists, regularly express devotion, understanding, and contrition.

Here are the five phrases that couples who have a strong connection use most, according to experts.

1. “Thank you.”

John and Julie Gottman are psychologists who have studied more than 40,000 couples in search of answering the question: What makes love last?

The one phrase they say all successful couples use often is “thank you.”

“A thriving relationship requires an enthusiastic culture of appreciation, where we’re as good at noticing the things our partners are doing right as we are at noticing what they’re doing wrong,” they wrote for CNBC Make It.

This is especially true for small, everyday acts, they say.

“Tell them why that small thing is a big deal to you: ‘Thank you for making the coffee every morning. I love waking up to the smell of it and the sounds of you in the kitchen. It just makes me start the day off right,’” they say.

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2. “Help me understand this.”

Harvard psychologist Cortney Warren says successful couples don’t avoid conflict, they just better navigate it.

We often assume we know what our partner is saying when in reality they might be expressing something more nuanced or totally different.

“If your partner reacts to a situation in a way that you don’t understand, telling them that you want to know them better is key to resolving conflict and bonding at a deeper level,” Warren wrote for CNBC Make It.

3. “I can forgive you. Can you forgive me?”

When you’re in the heat of an argument or at the end of one it can be hard to express forgiveness. Do it anyways, Warren says.

“Studies have shown that couples who practice forgiveness are more likely to enjoy longer, more satisfying relationships,” she says.

4. “I am committed to you.”

“Being in a relationship is a choice,” Warren says. “Reassuring your partner that you’re still choosing to be with them and to work through challenges will help create a sense of safety and stability.”

This might seem obvious, but communicating your promise to one another can help you and your partner feel validated.

5. “I like you.”

“The healthiest couples don’t just love each other, they like each other, too,” Warren says. “Loving someone is an intense feeling of affection; liking is about seeing them for who they are and acknowledging the attributes you enjoy about them.”

Even if you and your partner aren’t arguing, remind them that you like them.

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3 red flags recruiters look out for in job candidates: They’re how you ‘get blacklisted’

A majority of people, 95%, intend to look for a new job this year, according to a January 2024 survey by jobsite Monster. And many anticipate it will be challenging. More than half, 68% say they think it will be difficult to find one given the state of the economy.

While finding work opportunities can be challenging, there are ways to conduct yourself that could make doing so even harder.

“There’s something called validation seeking behavior, aka desperation,” says Lindsay Mustain, a former Amazon recruiter and current CEO of career coaching company Talent Paradigm. She adds that “it’s that ‘pick me’ energy that actually repels the opportunity.”

Here’s how to avoid giving it off.

Don’t apply to a company over and over

First, avoid applying to jobs in the company over and over again, especially in a short period of time.

If Mustain sees that “you’ve applied 20 times in the last two years and we’ve never hired you once,” she says, that’s a red flag. She immediately thinks, “something’s wrong with that candidate for them to have not been hired by this point.”

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Regardless of how much of a fit you might be for the job, a recruiter’s likely not going to take the time to investigate your candidacy further.

“This is how you can kind of get blacklisted,” she says. Try to limit your internal applications to a maximum of five roles that you closely align with in the company.

Don’t use LinkedIn’s ‘open to work’ banner

Another red flag for a recruiter: the “open to work” banner on LinkedIn.

Just by putting up that one signal on the site, “we already know that you need something,” says Mustain. It means that you might not be as picky when it comes to your job opportunities, that you might not be moving your career forward in a measured way that helps you build skills and get better.

“It reduces the appearance of being a high caliber candidate,” she says. Plus, it changes the dynamic in a conversation with a hiring manager. Now, they’re not trying to convince you of a great job opportunity because they want you at the company. Instead, you’re trying to convince them to consider you.

Nolan Church, CEO of talent marketplace Continuum and ex-Google recruiter, agrees. Using the banner “actually feels to a hiring manager like desperation,” he previously told CNBC Make It.

“It’s kind of like asking for a handout on the corner,” says Mustain.

Don’t show up ‘very wounded and hurt’ on social media

Finally, if you’re unemployed, don’t post your unemployment status on social media, especially if you’re inclined to do so from a place of hurt. Mustain gives the example of a post like the following:

“I just got laid off and I have two kids at home and I really need another job, like, as soon as possible. So if you could please introduce me to every person that you know that has a possible opening, I would be so grateful.”

Though sad and a cause for sympathy, people who post like statuses are “showing up very wounded and hurt,” she says. They’re “bleeding out on social media.” Ultimately, they’re showing a weakness in a similar way to people who include the “open to work” banner on their LinkedIn profiles. It’s clear they need something.

A post like that “repels people because they’re not coming from a place of strength,” says Mustain.

Instead, if you’ve been laid off and want to signal to the world that you’re looking for new opportunities, try framing the situation as a new beginning or a chance for growth and sharing concrete examples of your past contributions and successes. You can also share what you’ve learned and how your experiences have equipped you for future challenges. All of this “demonstrates adaptability and a forward-looking mindset to potential employers,” she says.

Remember, “you don’t need any job,” says Mustain. “You want a good job.”

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A top Costco executive just gave an update on the fate of the $1.50 hot dog and soda combo

Since 1985, there have been two constants at Costco: Richard Galanti has been chief financial officer and the famous hot dog and soda combo has cost $1.50.

Last week one of those finally changed, and it wasn’t the price of the hot dog.

Galanti on Friday retired after 40 years as one of the wholesale retailer’s top executives. In an interview with Bloomberg, he addressed the fate of the famous frank whose career will now outlive his own.

Asked if anything would happen to the iconic combo once he was gone, Galanti had a succinct response.

“It’s probably safe for a while,” he said.

It was a slightly more measured response than one of the last times the long-tenured executive addressed the Costco food court’s flagship product. During a 2022 earnings call, he joked that “lightning just struck me” after he was asked if the hot dog would raise its prices.

Galanti said at the time that Costco would leverage the other parts of its business to keep the ¼-pound all-beef frank at the same price it has had since the Reagan administration.

“Some businesses that are doing well with margin … those things help us be more aggressive in other areas, or, as you mentioned, hold the price on the hot dog and the soda a little longer — forever,” he said.

Indeed, Galanti told Bloomberg that “the Costco culture is to keep it simple.”

Though the chain could make decisions that would benefit it financially, he said Costco is content to stick with what has worked for it.

“We generate more money than we need every year,” he told Bloomberg. “I’m not trying to look for the last penny by doing something a little more risky.”

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32-year-old has lived in a retirement community in Florida for 3 years—take a look inside

In 2021, Liz White was visiting her parents — retirees who spend the winters in Naples, Florida — when an apartment became available in their building and she decided to move in.

Each senior living arrangement has its own eligibility requirement, but residents in this retirement community are typically at least 55 years old. All of the residents meet this age requirement except for White.

White, a customer success manager at a tech company, paid around $2000 a month in rent for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment for her first year in the building. White’s landlord then put the unit up for sale, and her parents decided to buy it.

The arrangement is that White lives in the apartment full-time, and when her parents are in town, they stay with her.

While White did not feel comfortable sharing how much her parents paid for her unit or the cost of monthly HOA fees, she did tell CNBC Make It that apartments in the building are put on the market for as much as $1 million. The median listing price for a condo in Naples, Florida is $950,000, according to RedFin.

White says she did not contribute financially to the purchase.

White’s parents closed on the apartment in July 2022. However, the bliss of new homeownership was short-lived — hurricane Ian flooded the unit that September. The family had to choose between a complete remodel and putting the unit up for sale just three months after closing.

They decided to rebuild the apartment and rent from another neighbor on a higher floor while the renovation took place. It took almost a year for the apartment to be done.

White and her parents were hoping to keep remodeling costs low, but because of the way, the condo flooded — the doors and walls had to be cut almost in half — they had to get rid of pretty much everything except one lamp and a table.

White admits going through the renovation was hard, but says it helped bring her and some of her senior citizen neighbors closer together.

“It’s been really good to have that sense of community and have people to grow you with different perspectives in life,” White says. “It’s also made me more open to meeting new people and not sweating the small stuff.”

“Life is hopefully going to be long and there’s a lot of phases to it. If you’re going through one hard phase, it’s not going to be forever.”

White recalls that after the hurricane, one of her neighbors told her that she would laugh at the situation one day, but she couldn’t believe it in the moment.

“I felt like it was the worst part of my life forever, but at the end of the day, I got through it,” she says.

Now that she’s been living in the building for almost three years, White says the biggest adjustment for her has been “being people-ready at any time.”

“When you live somewhere where you’re not around people, you can keep to yourself, and now, I have to be ready because I might have a conversation at any time,” White says. “It was an adjustment at first but it’s become a joy of my life.”

White has also been able to grow her group of friends, both young and old, since living in Naples. In the summer of 2022, she went on a hiking trip to Austria with two of her neighbors, and she also found people her own age to hang out with.

“I think it’s in part because the area here is so much older, many of us young people just naturally seek each other out.”

When asked what she has learned about herself living among senior citizens for all these years, White says it’s been valuable to make connections with people who are so different from her.

“I don’t just have to be friends with people who have lived the same kind of life I’ve lived.”

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