35-year-old's design side hustle brings in over $400,000 a year—how she spends her money

35-year-old's design side hustle brings in over $400,000 a year—how she spends her money


This story is a part of CNBC Make It’s Millennial Money sequence, which particulars how individuals around the globe earn, spend and save their money.

In early 2021, Chisom Okwulehie had simply given beginning to her daughter and was on the lookout for some further money to complement her revenue as an architect on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

While she made six figures at her job, she figured a side hustle would assist cowl the mortgage prices for the duplex in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, she splits with her husband, Ikenna.

“My mother and father at all times informed me that if you are going to buy a house and [your spouse] dies, you’ve gotten to have the ability to cowl the mortgage,” Okwulehie tells CNBC Make It.

Chisom Okwulehie in her house.

Zach Green | CNBC Make It

At Port Authority, Okwulehie works totally on infrastructure initiatives for prepare stations and airports, together with upgrades to Terminal One at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and a soon-to-open modernized train station entrance in Harrison, New Jersey.

However, she needed to do extra design work on the side, so she founded Juntero with her husband, a cybersecurity specialist. The consulting agency affords a number of providers for largely residential initiatives, together with architectural and inside design.

By the top of 2021, her enterprise had pulled in $55,000 in income. In 2022, Juntero took on extra shoppers and the income elevated to roughly $206,000.

“I did not count on to obtain many initiatives as rapidly as I did,” Okwulehie says.

To sustain with the rising variety of initiatives, Okwulehie started to delegate a lot of the work to a staff of contract designers: “It’s principally an company the place I handle a bunch of expertise after which give them work.”

In 2023, Juntero labored with about 60 shoppers and introduced in $414,000 in income — all whereas Okwulehie maintained her full-time job at Port Authority.

Last 12 months, Okwulehie earned a roughly $126,000 wage from Port Authority and paid herself $37,500 from Juntero. She put the remainder of the corporate’s income of practically $173,000 into financial savings.

Here’s how she manages all of it.

Becoming an architect

Okwulehie is a second-generation immigrant in a household “very pushed” by educational achievement, she says.

Her father got here to the U.S. in 1970 as a teenage refugee from the Nigerian Civil War. He graduated with a grasp’s in chemical engineering at Columbia University in New York City, which led to a profession as a chemical engineer.

“Growing up in a Nigerian family, it was emphasised to us to both develop into an engineer, a physician or a lawyer,” says Okwulehie, the oldest of 4 kids. Despite that, she was the one one who did not research to develop into an engineer. 

Instead, Okwulehie confirmed a eager curiosity in making artwork from an early age. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, her mother and father inspired her creative abilities by enrolling her in the San Francisco High School of the Arts, the place she centered on drawing, portray and sculpting.

Chisom Okwulehie exterior of Harrison Station in Harrison, New Jersey.

Zach Green | CNBC Make It

It was Okwulehie’s highschool principal who prompt a profession in structure, which led to her graduating with two concurrent bachelor’s levels in structure and public coverage from the University of Southern California in 2012. A grasp’s in superior architectural design from Columbia University adopted in 2014.

That identical 12 months, she received her first full-time job as an architect on the New York City workplace of Perkins Eastman, one of many largest non-public architectural companies in the world, the place her first huge venture was designing a boathouse on the San Francisco Airport.

Okwulehie continued to achieve beneficial expertise in architectural and inside design, in addition to city planning, however the work hours grew longer as she took on extra duties. Working 12-hour days, she generally would not see daylight throughout her work day.

“I wanted a change in way of life,” she says. “Work-life steadiness was essential to me, so I made a decision to maneuver to the general public sector.”

Chisom Okwulehie driving in Cliffside Park, New Jersey.

Zach Green | CNBC Make It

In 2017, she took on the function of architect at Port Authority, working her means as much as senior architect in 2022.

Working on billion-dollar infrastructure initiatives just like the Harrison prepare station in New Jersey, Okwulehie’s function has develop into extra centered on venture administration and high quality assurance. This ready her to run Juntero as a side hustle, she says.

Running her side hustle: ‘My firm is completely different’

While Juntero introduced in $414,000 in 2023, together with practically $173,000 in revenue, it had humble beginnings.

The firm’s first venture in 2021 was designing an advert for Indeed.com for $20. Bigger initiatives adopted, together with Juntero’s first architectural job creating a easy ground plan for a dentist’s workplace.

As her shopper checklist grew, Okwulehie was in a position to elevate her charges each six months or so, she says. To entice shoppers, she initially charged $60 per hour, then raised it to $80 in 2022. She now expenses $100 per hour, however will generally provide fixed-rate costs, relying on the scope of the venture.

Over time, she discovered a area of interest in creating photorealistic 3D renderings of potential designs. These visualizations caught on with actual property builders who market new, unbuilt properties to potential patrons.

“Some architectural companies spend money on renderings, however a lot of instances these renderings are very conceptual,” says Okwulehie. “My firm is completely different, it really appears actual. If a shopper relies in China they usually need to buy a house in, say, Texas, I can create that house and really have the shopper stroll by way of that house in 3D.”

Chisom Okwulehie in her house workplace.

Zach Green | CNBC Make It

In September 2023, Okwulehie gave beginning to her son, however in a position to maintain Juntero operating whereas she was on maternity depart, and the enterprise saved rising.

To maintain her workload manageable, Okwulehie oversees a staff of over 30 credentialed architects, inside designers and 3D modelers, lots of whom dwell overseas.

“On a typical week, I spend about 5 to 10 hours engaged on Juntero,” she says. Her work is usually centered on coping with shoppers, advertising and marketing and overseeing the work being achieved by her staff of designers.

Okwulehie works from house, with a lot of the work assigned on Slack or WhatsApp. “My staff will see initiatives come in, assign themselves and begin working,” she says, “And after they’re achieved, they’re going to ship it to me earlier than it is shared with a shopper.”

Aside from her wage, most of Juntero’s enterprise income are put into two high-yield financial savings accounts. 

How she spends her money

Here’s how Okwulehie spent her money in December 2023.

  • Housing: $3,493 for mortgages on each her main house and land for a second house
  • Child care: $2,333
  • Debt reimbursement: $1,969 for scholar mortgage and bank card funds
  • Pension and financial savings: $663
  • Discretionary: $655 for Christmas items, magnificence merchandise, church donations and indoor playground admission
  • Utilities: $298 for Wi-Fi, fuel, electrical energy, water
  • Car lease: $255
  • Food: $243
  • Health care: $220 for household co-pays
  • Insurance: $176 for automobile and residential insurance coverage
  • Subscriptions and memberships: $52 for Amazon Prime and residential safety

Okwulehie and her husband cut up virtually all of their bills, with Ikenna managing the household’s investments, whereas she manages child-care prices.

In the following few years, Okwulehie and Ikenna plan to make use of the $312,076 they’ve in financial savings to construct a home on a plot of land they purchased for $450,000 in Upper Nyack, New York, in 2017.

In addition to their liquid financial savings, the couple has greater than $200,000 invested between a taxable brokerage account and varied retirement accounts.

Much of the household’s insurance coverage prices are coated by Ikenna’s employer, together with well being, dental and imaginative and prescient insurance coverage. Okwulehie does not sometimes splurge on discretionary bills, however in December she spent $570 on Christmas items and wonder providers, like nails and hair.

In phrases of debt, Okwulehie owes about $173,000 in scholar mortgage debt and roughly $1,100 in bank card debt. Some excellent news although: As a public service worker, she hopes to qualify for mortgage forgiveness in 2027 as part of the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

Looking forward

So far, Juntero’s largest shopper is a property developer that used the corporate’s renderings to promote a assortment of houses for tens of millions of {dollars}. Going ahead, Okwulehie hopes to proceed rising Juntero by way of partnerships with builders throughout the United States.  

That doesn’t suggest she’s quitting her day job, nevertheless. “I nonetheless see myself working at Port Authority full-time,” she says. “I do be taught a lot in phrases of administration, which helps the enterprise.”

Chisom Okwulehie at house.

Zach Green | CNBC Make It



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