SN 1 EP 7
From Side Hustle to Going All In
Feat. Ashley Rouse, Founder & CEO of Trade Street Jam Co.
But what’s the catalyst that makes someone decide to go full-steam ahead with their idea?
For Ashley Rouse, Trade Street Jam Co. started as a hobby in her tiny apartment in North Carolina as a way to experiment with funky flavor profiles outside the confines of her culinary career.
But it was equal parts passion and strategic decision making—plus, a pinch of good faith—that eventually influenced her to leave the comfort of her traditional job to pursue her business full time.
On this episode
Ashley talks with Katie and Jenny about:
- The day she decided to leave her job
- The steps she took to pursue Trade St. Jam Co. full time
- How to balance blind passion and strategic decision-making
Editor’s Note: Content has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
When did you realize that you were ready to leave your job and to work on Trade St. Jam Co. full time?
It was a slow progression. I never started it thinking that I was going to quit my job one day and become a full-time jam maker. It was something to do after work.
But I remember one day, specifically, when I realized that I was ready to leave. I was working 10-hour shifts, and that day, I spent six or seven hours working on Trade St. Jam. I just thought to myself, “You cannot keep doing this.” That’s when I realized that I had to make a choice.
I was very efficient with my time. I still got my job done and I was a high performer at work—but I got smart with how to spend my time.
I’ll never forget that day—I just felt so bad since I was always a really good employee, but I wasn’t spending my time at work doing what I was supposed to.
What was your next move after you realized that you had to make this choice? Did you quit your job?
It wasn’t that seamless. It was still a process. That day was a pivotal moment for me where I realized that I had to make a decision—but it wasn’t the day that I made that decision.
I asked myself, “How much further could you take your business if you had all day to work on it?” That got me really pumped and excited because I was getting a lot done—and I knew that if I worked on it all day, I could do a lot more.
But I still couldn’t figure out how I could leave my job and still afford the rent and the bills.
I asked different friends and business owners how they did it—and nobody really helped me. Everyone just said, “You have to grind.” But that didn’t work for my brain—I couldn’t wrap my head around it.
So my husband and I put a spreadsheet together. It was very basic, but it had all the money coming out of the household—all of our bills, everything we needed to spend. Then there was how much money came in from me and how much came from him. And we put down all of the money we had in savings, which was not a lot.
We calculated that if we spent all of our savings, I could go a year without contributing anything to the household. We’d be good for a year with zero income from the business going into my pocket. After that year, if I wasn’t making anything—then I would have to go back to work.
But that changed everything. That was the decision-maker because I could wrap my head around the timeline. I said, “A year? I can make money within a year. And then if I don’t, then this isn’t for me.”
How would you describe the balance that an entrepreneur needs between blind passion and strategic decision-making?
Blind passion is more important than anything. But it’s really hard to go by passion sometimes because it might not make sense—and you might begin to think you’re crazy.
We’re trying to raise capital now. I’m on one call and someone says, “I get it. I believe in you. You’re going to change the game.” And then I get on another call and they say, “It’s just jam. I don’t understand. You’re not changing the world.”
Those are the times when you have to take five minutes to yourself. But then you have to remember: Do you believe in it? That passion for what you do is really what’s going to get you there.
But then, of course, it needs to be coupled with logic and analytical thinking—that’s just common sense.
I might want to sell jam all day long, but if we put the numbers down and I can’t make money off of it, then I need to find another way to make it work. And for most ideas, you can make it work.