Today, we’re looking at Hustle & Play, a startup design company from Austin, Texas. We’ll let cofounder Kevin Rustagi tell his story!

1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Hi everyone. I’m Kevin Rustagi, a young entrepreneur who loves creating and working the most exciting and useful consumer products I can find. In the past, I’ve gotten a chance to learn with and from some incredible people – at MIT studying product design and Chinese, at Apple working on the iPhone 5, doing internships with startups, and ultimately working on my own projects. I’m headed back to school in the fall to get degrees in business and hopefully engineering as well at Stanford in hopes of building H&P ultimately into a consumer electronics company.

2. What’s the story behind Hustle & Play? What inspired you to start the company?

Hustle and Play is really more of a design studio than anything. To be honest, I found myself a bit exhausted from my last startup, and I wanted to get solid on some design fundamentals – you know, get back to the root of rapid prototyping and engineering. Design is about the experiences you have and can draw from and I wanted to do something before going back to school that would both recharge and expose me to new ideas.

To that end, I decided to work on a book, an album of original music with my band, and as you all know, metal business cards and other projects (a few new designs on the way). Hustle and Play allows me to do those things.


3. What’s special about the intersection of music and design?

That’s something I’ve been exploring and thinking about a lot. I think what it comes down to is the process. When you create a song, you have to ask yourself very much the same questions that you do when you design a product. What am I trying to achieve here? Why should this exist? Who are the players and what are their styles? (That affects the design perhaps more than anything) What tools or instruments do I have? Whether it’s a laser or CNC router, or an electric drumset or banjo.

To explore this, we have our music studio in the same space as our design studio. We can literally put down a design project and be rocking out in less than 2 minutes, or vice versa.

4. How did you hear about Strikingly? How has Strikingly benefited your launch?

I met a few of the guys at Strikingly early on, when they were applying for Y Combinator. David Chen and I bonded over the startup hustle and shared core values: the idea of bringing customers a truly useful experience that involved something that was designed for elegance. For me, using Strikingly was a no-brainer because it allowed me to, like with any well-designed tool, use the constraints to achieve what I believe to be a wonderfully designed site. I actually went from using a friend’s modified HTML to using Strikingly because it’s just so painless.


5. What’s been the toughest part of starting your company, and how did you overcome it?

The toughest part I think with any startup comes down to clarity. For me, it was thinking that this round was going to be a lifestyle business, when it fact, it really ‘wanted’ to be much more of a design exploration. In my last startup, Ministry of Supply, there were some early pivots that I found challenging. More than knowing how to build it, I find that knowing what to build is the bigger challenge often. If you can choose anything, what do you choose?

6. Any words of advice for the all the hustlers and players out there?

Don’t stop. The world often wants final products, but we are ALL works in progress. If you don’t like prototype #2, you’ll probably like version #10 better, and #35 even better. One of the best things I have found about design is that it is an evolutionary process. As Robert Greene cites in his book Mastery (one of my favorites), we are all, as people, examples of this process. Namely, keep hustling, keep playing. It only gets more exciting.

The only other thing I’d like to add is to remember to, as you learn, give – pick up the phone when someone calls. Life isn’t zero-sum and neither is entrepreneurship. My favorite book on this concept is Give and Take, by Adam Grant. There is an ecosystem of hustlers and players. Keep it going!

Hustle & Play is selling the Hype Card, a unique aluminum business card that makes a serious impression. Check out the site here!