Moonlighters are the new entrepreneurs

Bigcommerce study shows that business never sleeps. Photo: Sandycove Swimmers

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2013 — Bigcommerce, an e-commerce platform for SMBs, recently studied the work habits of its 34,000 clients to find that 30-35% of them are online, driving business operations at all hours of the night.

Dan Oleson of Ankle Swagger and Ryan Shell of The Home T are “Moonlighters,” working in the corporate world by day and as entrepreneurs at night. While it’s no easy feat to meet the expectations of a full-time job, run a small business, maintain a healthy lifestyle and spend time with friends and family, they both do it every single day and learned some lessons along the way.

The world is becoming smaller, and entry costs for revving up a new business are reduced. Audiences can be found for nearly any product and ambitious entrepreneurs are using the resources readily available to them. While some may find an evening with Netflix rewarding, the new drivers of business are rewarding their ambition and putting their laptops to use for the greater good. 

Ryan Shell, a marketing/PR professsional and his fianceé, a psychotherapist, launched The Home T in mid-2012 out of a one-bedroom apartment in New York City. Shell always thought it would be great to own his own business, and has been thinking of original t-shirt concepts since his early teens. Ryan made the move to New York three years ago, and he suddenly had a new appreciation for the concept of “home.”

When the idea for the design of The Home T came to mind the couple decided to give it a go. They also made a commitment to donate a portion of their profits to multiple sclerosis research, a cause near and dear to their hearts. They started with a small amount of money and took a very conservative approach to testing the waters. As The Home T grew in popularity they continued to add new designs and expand their business model.

“If you have a solid idea, you have to have the guts to step out and make it happen,” says Shell. “If the limb breaks, it breaks, but at least you tried. One lesson we quickly learned when launching our business is that you need to surround yourself with mentors, especially when you have no entrepreneurial experience. No question is a dumb question and someone is always there to help.” 

In the early days of their new business, they spent many early morning and late evening hours fulfilling orders out of their apartment, but that wasn’t exactly sustainable indefinitely. They eventually brought on a fulfillment center to help with mailing, and transitioned their website to a more robust ecommerce platform powered by Bigcommerce.  Bigcommerce made it easy for them to start a business with zero entrepreneurial or ecommerce experience and has done wonders for their business by being available to provide help at all hours of the night.

Dan Oleson launched Ankle Swagger on Bigcommerce’s ecommerce platform in March of 2013. He is a sales director for a digital advertising agency in San Francisco. Dan started working on his “passion project,” Ankle Swagger, a year ago while maintaining his full-time job.

It all started when riding the bus into work each morning, he noticed that all the men were wearing the same thing: blue, black or brown suits with no hint of personality. In comes Ankle Swagger, a line of funky, eye-popping, yet professional socks to bring a little personality into everyday businessmen’s attire. Dan works 10-12 hours a day with his agency, comes home for dinner and a cocktail with his wife, and then works on his passion project, at times from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.

“I am passionate about my career in digital advertising and also wanted to start something on my own as a hobby in my spare time,” Olsen explains.

“At first, I was worried about time management, especially when I had no experience as an entrepreneur or selling online. Luckily I found Bigcommerce. Their platform has allowed me to pursue an interest, bootstrap my own company, and keep it afloat by selling in the late hours of the night, all while maintaining my full-time career.

“At first it was difficult to balance everything from my day job to my passion project while spending quality time with my wife,” he notes, “seeing friends and family, and maintaining my health. But having all of this on my plate has forced me to learn brutal time management and has resulted in a more balanced life.”


Jeff Barrett is a recognized leader in public relations, experiential marketing and social media. Co-Founder of Status Creative, 2011 PRNewswire Award Winner for “Best Use of Video In Social Media” and record holder for Most Strikeouts in Tee-Ball.  


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Jeff Barrett

Jeff Barrett is an experienced columnist and business leader. He has been named Business Insider’s #1 Ad Executive on Twitter, a Forbes Top 50 Influencer In Social Media and has previously written for Mashable and The Detroit Free Press. 



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