by Catherine Brinkman
Nick F. Nelson is a Renaissance man. It seems like he has already lived four careers thus far, and based on his age he probably has another four or five to go. Full disclosure, this was a phone interview. As soon as Nick speaks you hear his swagger and enthusiasm about his business and family. As he keeps talking his enthusiasm keeps growing. It is so vibrant you can almost see him talking through the phone.
Within the first 3 minutes it’s easy to see why he side hustled out of the tedious corporate environment. Nick wanted a business working with friends and working with his passion; creativity in music. He and his line brother, Tirrell Whittley, started Liquid Soul which started out initially to be Nick’s side hustle.
Make no mistake “People can be interested and passionate about what they do but, it needs to be a business and solve a problem,” Nick is quick to point that out when explaining what is a true side hustle. “If it’s not solving a problem it’s not a business and should really be considered a give back to the community or charity.” Nick is the suit but, not the boring off the rack navy blue suit with a white button down and red tie suit. Nick is the custom-made to fit with flare suit that has a pocket square to make it pop.
Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio his father, Dr. William E. Nelson Jr., was a professor at Ohio State University. Dr. Nelson created one of the first and most comprehensive African-American studies programs in the United States. Nick is the first to admit that his father was a strong influence and helped him to push himself above and beyond. Dr. Nelson had his own side hustles. He serviced as Chair of the National Council of Black Studies and was Vice President of the American Political Science Association, in addition to his duties as a professor. Like Nick said, a side hustle must solve a business problem. Dr. Nelson solved how to make sure that Ohio State was on the map as a top African American Studies program.
Nick saw his father writing books and having that “academic “side hustle so moving into Nick’s high school career his side hustle was making music and working as a music producer. He went on to attend Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, majoring in public relations. In college Nick had a graphic design side hustle. In the early to mid-1990s Nick, clearly an early adopter, was using Photoshop to create graphics. After undergrad Nick moved back to Columbus and attended Ohio State earning a master’s degree in communications and advertising. It was then the side hustles stopped, as he heard his friends talk about their job titles and the salaries they were making. Nick knew he needed to get a real job.
He attended a job fair on campus and was hired by a company he never heard of before; Accenture. He found himself working in IT and ended up in a room learning C++ plus programming. That is a far cry from PR and communications. The job paid well but required extensive travel. A few years later an opportunity came up to join a startup. Nick quit Accenture and went to work for the startup, only to have it fail eight months later. In 2000, Nick found himself in a finance role at ATEL in Atlanta. Awhile later he transitioned into supply chain management at UPS.
At UPS Nick found himself at the height of corporate constraints. He was forced to shave his goatee. “I look like a white dude,” he said half joking half serious. It was this final corporate rule that finally brought back Nick’s side hustle spirit. Nick had been stifled for years, only able to use music as an outlet.
Enter his line brother Tirrell. Together they started Liquid Soul Radio, an online music website with over 21 channels. Remember, Nick is an early adopter to technology, this online website was before Pandora and iTunes radio. Not only did the music stations bring them attention – the website design garnered attention. Liquid Soul found itself bundling marketing solutions to companies including web design.
Rapidly Nick’s side hustle got a big break. The film “The Gospel” needed help creating collateral and a promo marketing plan. Liquid Soul got the job. It turned out so well, Sony pictures picked up the tab. Keep in mind, Nick was still working at UPS this entire time.
After completing “The Gospel” project there was an uptick in business but, the revenue that was coming in wouldn’t guarantee being able to support two full time employees. Nick kept his day job. Tirrell went back-and-forth to LA to negotiate deals with major film studios. In no time Nick was forced to quit UPS. “There was too much work at Liquid Soul,” remembered Nick. Deals from TBS, TNT, Comedy Central, and CNN flooded in. Today Nick serves as the CMO of Liquid Soul leading the agency’s marketing and PR efforts. In this role his “suit “background helps clients with timelines, scalability, budgeting and understanding risk advertisement. Not a lot of creatives think in conjunction with the bottom line like Nick.
Just as his self-made career was taking off. In 2000 he found himself caring for aging parents. Around the same time Nick and his wife Tiffany welcomed a son, Quinn to their family. Nick was beginning to be torn between personal and professional and his work-life balance was askew. Nick learned to say no as a result.
“I grew up thinking I needed to be the man. I thought I needed to be there. I didn’t need to be there.” Nick was traveling, making sure that he was attending much of Liquid Soul’s meetings around the country. “I needed to be the man at home.” When he realized he was neglecting his family, missing his young son growing up and leaving Tiffany the burden of handling everything at home Nick made a huge change and stopped traveling as much and stayed in Atlanta. “Tiffany still has the hardest job of all. Keeping me in check,” Nick says with sincere appreciation.
Nick‘s father passed in 2013. Nick knew it was time to write his book. “My dad wrote books and it was on my bucket list. This is really for my son Quinn to hear about his dad.” The title of his book is “Stay Tuned: Balancing Faith, Family and Career Without Compromising You.” Nick has other side hustles including a blog, a YouTube channel and appearances on various Podcasts. He works with a wide variety of people helping them develop their personal brand and become comfortable promoting themselves.
But even Nick needs a moment occasionally where he says he is “unapologetically selfish in a good way. I will get some lemon pepper wings extra crispy,” he says. I knew the answer but, I asked anyway. “Chain or local?” “Local,” was his quick dry response. His hashtag on tough days is #LemonPepperDry.
Nick is the man that takes the term the man to the next level. There is no doubt that Nick will continue to affect people‘s lives for the better and expand his side hustle in other ways based on his vast experience.
You can learn more about Nick at www.nickfnelson.com, on Twitter @Nick F Nelson and on his YouTube channel under the same name.
About the writer: Catherine Brinkman has a sales career spanning 2 decades. She has won numerous awards including Rookie of the Year and Silver Sales Associate for Dale Carnegie, a global training company. In early 2016, Catherine started her own consulting business, partnering with sales and marketing teams to increase revenue. She works with everyone from Silicon Valley giants to small startups. She has a fun, comic approach to her consulting, having studied satirical writing at The Second City. She can be found at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @catbrinkman