Generation Y's New Age Hustle, Part 2

Millennials often get a bad rap for being spoiled and self-indulgent. But today's 20-somethings are far from lazy. Meet five young artists, entertainers and entrepreneurs who are redefining what it means to work toward a dream.

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Erica Purnell (AriTaurus420 Photography)

In Part I of The Root's two-part series, ''Generation Y's New Age Hustle,'' Saaret E. Yoseph explored the Millennial work ethic by examining the independent career ventures of sales associate-cum-actor Darrell Britt-Gibson and rapper/actor Armando ''Panama'' Cadogan. A Millennial herself, Yoseph was inspired to investigate Generation Y's entrepreneurial enthusiasm after watching her 26-year-old sister launch her own business. In Part II of the series, she explores the passion pursuits of three other young entrepreneurs and artists. Have the headlines been right about Generation Y being overzealous and entitled or is the new crop of 20-somethings in America redefining what it means to work for the American Dream?

Having fun @ work

Erica Purnell, a native New York artist on her grind, got her start by scribbling on her shoes. ''I started my own stuff and people started catching on to it,'' she says of her hand-painted and airbrushed designs for Pink Eye Fashions, the sneaker and apparel customization company she started in 2003.

A pair of Erica Purnell's customized Pink Eye sneakers.

Yet, even as a child, the Brooklyn native knew what she wanted to make of her future. Her company Web site tells the story: I decided at 5 years old that I wanted to be an artist, it would be my life, and I'm on that mission to this day.''

After a brief stint at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, Purnell, 28, transitioned her ''side hustle''--redesigning shoes--into a company that sells wearable art. Until then, she was doing freelance graphic design under her first startup, Esynctric Studios, but as the demand for customized shoes increased among her friends and referrals, she realized that her ''side hustle'' could be a viable business. ''I was probably a little more confident than I should have been,'' she admits, recognizing the difficulties of establishing (and maintaining) a small business. An invitation from a friend got the ball rolling. She was asked to paint live at a birthday party for the head of a mixtape distribution company, and since then her work has been showcased at niche conventions, sneaker shows and other special events. She's also gone on the road with the Sneaker Pimps World Tour, purportedly the world's largest traveling sneaker exhibition, and had her embellished gear featured on VH1's Hip-Hop Honors.

Much like her tailor-made designs, Purnell's work-life balance is its own model of playful customization. ''I'm just doing what I love,'' she says. In this age of instant access and hyper-connectivity, for Millennials like Purnell, pleasure and business are frequent bedfellows.

Just consider the digital footprint of this sneaker customizing queen. Prolific posts on Facebook and Twitter blanket fans with updates on all things Erica (aka IGotPinkEye). Her tweets are both social and strategic:

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