As a group of women working towards common goals for STYLE Canada‘s brand and business, we understand the value of peer support in the workplace. So, after our last Supper Club at Soho House, we decided to bring like-minded women in business together and feature them in an ongoing series: #LeadingLadies. Learn more about #LeadingLady Hawley Dunbar in the exclusive interview below.
SC: Why did you start Sidewalk Hustle?
HD: In our twenties, my partner Tristan Banning and I always spent much of our disposable income on concert and festival tickets and luxury fashion pieces we couldn’t afford. We started Sidewalk Hustle to be able to share the things we loved most; music, fashion and the intersections between them, with a wider audience beyond friends and those in our circles. Our thinking was that sharing these stories as a daily practice would relieve the capitalistic tendencies we all have for things we want but aren’t always able to attain.
SC: What did you learn from creating Sidewalk Hustle?
HD: If you asked me this question a few years ago my answer might have been different than today, but the biggest lesson I learned is consistency and relationship building cannot be overlooked. Nor can knowing your worth. I accredit our success to the relationships we have built, being able to produce consistently good, relevant, interesting, entertaining content on SidewalkHustle.com and our social channels over the past decade.
SC: When you first started Sidewalk Hustle, did you think it was going to be as successful as it is today?
HD: Not at all. When we started in 2007 we were just two interested people wanting to discuss and share our many passions – art, music, fashion, style, sneakers… We definitely didn’t take it seriously. Instagram didn’t exist and there were very few bloggers doing it full time. We were just freshly out of university so we had to work to pay back our student loans while growing our side hustle. It wasn’t until a few years later we realized we could even monetize – and even still, we would go on to spend much of our spare time and money building up Sidewalk Hustle before we even dreamed of calling it our full-time job.
SC: What is your ultimate goal for Sidewalk Hustle?
HD: We love creating content for brands and have been fortunate to be able to call many of the big players in the fashion, music, tech, beauty, art and more our clients. There is still a long list of dream brands we’d love to work with in the future and our hope is to be able to continue to grow with our current partners, create engaging content through our network and ultimately scale our agency leg to be able to offer a more comprehensive approach to digital content and marketing.
SC: How does it feel to be your own boss?
HD: It’s pretty great to be able to structure your work life yourself, but it definitely has its drawbacks. No yearly reviews, promotions, no constructive feedback, mentorship, no pats on the back for a job well done or having signed a big deal from anyone, except yourself. That said, it is nice to be able to call the shots and choose a more unconventional work dynamic.
SC: What tips would you give someone who wants to turn their passion project into their career?
HD: Consistency is key, keep in mind your ‘why’ and don’t chase the money. The money will always come if you work hard, stay consistent, and produce a good quality product. It’s your ‘why’ that’s going to keep you going through the ups and downs (there will be many) but if you keep building consistently, eventually you’ll gain the traction you need to have a real go at it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way too.
SC: Aside from being the co-founder of Sidewalk Hustle, you’re also a photographer. What made you interested in photography?
HD: I’ve been obsessed with fashion photography my whole life. I used to tape magazine editorials and high fashion ads all over the walls of my bedroom and just lie there and daydream. Growing up my mom shot a lot of our family photos on a film camera and I was always inspired by her way of capturing things.
SC: What do you love about photography?
HD: Looking at life through different lenses is a wonderful state to be in. I’ve always had a genuine curiosity about life and getting to capture people, events or even still life really satiets that. I’m always trying to see things from another angle, turn things upside down or shoot through a different filter or film format to keep it fresh.
SC: You have great style. What do you love about fashion?
HD: Thank you. I’ve always thought of fashion as a construct of personal expression. I love that it’s a visual representation of who I am, what I love, the places I’ve been, and the people I’m influenced by. That probably explains my insatiable daily urge to wear something different in my closet despite there being few occasions to dress for these days. Catch me in the produce section getting my fits off, ha ha.
SC: Where do you think you and Sidewalk Hustle will be in five years?
HD: That’s a tough question to answer in such uncertain times. My hope is that myself and the brand we built will continue to scale into an agency that can help big and small brands grow through telling stories online.
Follow @hawleydunbar on Instagram for an inside look at the #LeadingLady’s everyday life.
Last modified: February 16, 2021