How Two Friends Hustled to Launch a Daily Newsletter While Working Full Time On Wall Street
This post is part of a new series called The Side Hustle, in which we interview Millennials who are successfully redefining the 9-5.
Our inaugural side hustlers are the founders of daily financial newsletter,MarketSnacks.
The epic bromance began at Middlebury College when Nicolas Martell and Jack Kramer first bonded over a shared interest in sports and protein shakes. Though Nick transferred to Brown half way through his college career, the two soon reunited in New York City upon graduation.
Nick describes the “aha moment” behind MarketSnacks as more of an “aha evolution.” As recent college grads, Nick and Jack both embarked on a career in finance at the height of the European debt crisis. While they spent their days analyzing stocks, they found themselves struggling to make sense of what was happening in the market at a macro level. After countless failed attempts to try and explain the situation to friends and girlfriends who did not work in the industry, they recognized an opportunity: no one was successfully breaking down financial news in an engaging, accessible way.
One day, Nick decided to create his own summary of the most noteworthy financial news stories and sent it to Jack for feedback. Jack added a joke or two, and before long, they had perfected the formula for an email newsletter that delivered bite size financial news in an entertaining way.
The biggest challenge was crafting a shared voice for the newsletter and committing wholeheartedly to their side hustle. From the beginning, Jack was convinced that it would “only be relevant if people can trust it, and people will only trust it if we never miss a day.” From the first MarketSnacks newsletter in November 2011, the duo has yet to miss a single day – despite cancelled flights, destination weddings, and trips to remote places with unreliable Internet connections (at best).
Today, Nicolas is an Account Manager at Endeavor Global and Jack is an Assistant Vice President at Commerzbank AG. After hearing the story behind MarketSnacks, we were curious to learn how they’ve managed to successfully grow and sustain their side hustle, while maintaining demanding day jobs and a close friendship. The secret to their balancing act, according to the pair, is establishing unwavering trust and creating a replicable formula.
How do you think our generation is redefining the 9-5?
For MarketSnacks, we are constantly doing stuff late at night and early in the morning before work. When you do something every day, it can easily become a chore, so we are very careful not to let this happen. We love writing and developing MarketSnacks as a business. Plus, the positive comments we receive daily from excited MarketSnackers encourage us — fan mail is motivating when it’s midnight and we’re trying to think of an analogy for the Federal Reserve that’s a 90s sitcom character. Of course it’s important to have boundaries – we’re not going to spend all day reading market news, or leave a dinner with friends because we’re missing out on a major story.
Technology has created opportunities to work away from your desk. Our generation realizes that work does not have to be done at a desk, in an office, or during the traditional 9-5 office hours.
How do you keep boundaries?
The great thing about MarketSnacks is that we don’t present ourselves as breaking news, so we are held to a different standard. MarketSnacks is not meant to replace the Wall Street Journal, it’s meant to complement it. Longer news articles are a luxury for most busy young professionals today; we just want to offer our readers a snack.
I think it’s really important to schedule events with friends and to take time off every once in a while. If you’re not proactive about planning these things, there’s a risk that you find yourself working all the time.
What outlet does MarketSnacks give you?
When you’re working at a bank, you don’t get to write much. Getting to write about the finance world was great, but getting to write without someone telling you what to do was even better. It’s really liberating to be able to say what you want.
Walk us through your daily routine and how you balance a full time job and your side hustle?
Over the past few years we’ve developed a very specific formula to make it work. We used to write the whole newsletter together after the market closed, but we realized that was incredibly inefficient. Now, I email Jack at 4:30pm every day with my suggestions on market movers and topics to cover. Jack emails back within 10 minutes with feedback. We alternate who is writing and who is posting. Surprisingly, formatting and posting often takes the most time. Overall, we’re focused on execution each day: The newsletter has to be sent by 6:30am each morning and everything we write must fit our value proposition — quick, clear, and entertaining.
The most valuable part of our team dynamic is trust. We used to edit one another’s work, but now we’ve established a rule that if one person doesn’t like the content, it’s gone. No hard feelings; this get-it-done mentality is critical to sustaining a successful side hustle.
What is one of your most memorable MarketSnacks moments?
I was in Curitiba, Brazil for work and the Internet suddenly broke in the hotel the morning I was set to leave. I was responsible for sending out our newsletter that day and Jack was away, so I took a cab to try another hotel. The Internet there was strong enough for me to upload my writing, but too weak to upload images. I nervously ran to a couple nearby restaurants, but was in a WiFi desert. So I jumped in a cab for the airport and ended up sprinting around the terminal as they called my flight — sweating, with bags on one shoulder, my laptop in my hand, I finally got enough signal in some small, dark corner to send out the newsletter on time and was the last to board my flight.
I was in Frankfurt at the height of the European debt crisis. We created a MarketSnacks beer bottle with our logo on the label and snapped a photo to show that we were covering the European Central Bank from the ECB’s headquarters. It was a great example of having fun with our brand and being confident in promoting it.
What advice would you give someone who is starting their own side hustle?
- Get a partner you can trust. Because trust me, you can’t do it alone.
- Divide and conquer. It’s a waste of time to duplicate efforts.
- Go all in, even if it’s your side hustle. Buy the IP, get a professional logo, trademark your brand, and commit to doing it every single day.
- Don’t forget to have fun. Have monthly dinner or drinks to discuss important to-do’s; startup meetings are meant to take place over a burger and a pilsner after all.
- Know your partner’s strengths and give each other ownership over certain things.
Do you aspire to make your side hustle your main gig?
I couldn’t be happier with my job at Endeavor, so I can’t imagine giving it up right now.We want to continue our subscriber growth and keep building the MarketSnacks brand, creating significant brand equity before we make a full time commitment. If we ever get bored with our day jobs, I’m sure we’d consider it, but for now we like the direction it’s headed in – it’s still fun and it doesn’t overwhelm our lives.