There are all sorts of ways to make money these days. Sponsored social media. Working remotely. Coaching. Content creation. Starting a small business.
AVP athlete Molly Turner and future AVP athlete James Shaw are literally doing all of those. Plus, playing beach volleyball for a living. Pretty impressive stuff.
Molly has been on Tour for four years now. James, an indoor standout who recently switched, will be on our beach next season. The two met via Instagram (a successful DM slide) and have now been dating for almost a year. They bonded over shared love of volleyball, travel, food, adventure, and creativity.
The duo hit it off immediately when they met in real life after a couple months of chatting online. On their second date, they spontaneously drove to Sequoia National Park for 36 hours and slept in the back of Molly’s SUV. In their one year together, they’ve visited 10 national parks and taken 26 trips. They now live together in the South Bay.
With a demanding training schedule and busy travel docket, they wanted to find a way to make money doing what they love in addition to volleyball. “We want something to fund our dream of playing that’s also interesting,” Molly says. “Instead of a 9 to 5 job, we’d rather have things that are of interest – hiking, making videos showing people like our lifestyle, eating, coaching. We don’t want to work for the weekend.”
So they started going on trips and filming their experiences. “What would happen if people were actually interested?” Molly says. “And we both love cinematography and photography, so it was a fun test for us.” Their Instagram, M+J Away is now a YouTube Channel and a weekly newsletter. M+J Mondays cover what they’re interested in that week, recaps of their trips, new granola flavors, and Farmers Market info.
Speaking of the Farmers Market… on one of their many road trips, James and Molly went to the grocery store for snacks. The granola always had so much sugar and frequently contained butter, which James is allergic to. Both very health-conscious and unsatisfied with their options, they started imagining a new recipe. “I don’t remember which one of us it was,” Molly recounts, “but we said, ‘Let’s make our own when we get home.'”
Molly is the chef, James the businessman. Molly, who is recovering from an eating disorder, is more in love with food and cooking than ever before. James’ family are farmers, the kind of people who pick food from their garden to make for dinner that night. His sister is a professional chef. They love healthy food, cooking, and both need specific fuel to power their beach volleyball dreams. They both had all the building blocks for a health food brand – including the main ingredient.
Their granola, entitled Go Away Goods Granola, is based around buckwheat, inspired by the name of James’ very cute and very brown dog. They knew to have any success, they had to make something unique. “It’s hard to sell granola,” James says, “to come up with a new brand. There are a thousand different granolas.”
Still, they persisted. James handled the logistics of permits and built their website. Molly created the recipes, including a brand new food item – Spreadable Granola – a delicious alternative to nut butter. They sell all their goods, including M+J Away clothes that James created, online and in-person at the Hermosa Farmers Market.
Knowing that starting a new granola company was challenging, the couple had to make theirs different. “It’s unique because we’re professional volleyball players,” James says. “It’s not like there haven’t been other brands that professional athletes have started. But I think where we are, the type of people we are, the fact that we like to take spontaneous trips sets us apart. We’re not coming at it from the ‘We’re trying to sell you granola’ angle. We’re coming at it like, ‘We’re adventurers, and this is what we eat. This is our lifestyle. Join in.'”
“We sell it more when someone knows where it comes from,” Molly adds. “We’ll say, ‘We’re actually pro athletes that love hiking. We make it for ourselves when we travel.’ There are no artificial sweeteners, and every ingredient is organic. James is lactose-intolerant, so one flavor is vegan, and another is lactose-free. It’s small-batch. I make it the night before the Farmers Market. James bags it and puts stickers on. It’s the smallest that you could possibly think. It’s literally just me and him. We built it for ourselves. And when we sell it, it applies to everyone else.”
Ultimately, Go Away Granola is one piece of the pie. Their umbrella brand M+J Away includes clothing, Instagram inspo, and volleyball coaching. All of their pursuits surround travel, an intentional tactic that will hopefully one day fund a life on the road. “We have a lot of different ideas and concepts that we’re always working on and tossing around,” James says.
“Luckily, we’re able to have a bunch of random things,” Molly says. “I know a lot of people have one thing that they try to go for. We’re kind of fiddling with ideas. It does feel like trial and error, but we’re open to a lot, and we’re both very creative.”
“It’s nice because,” James adds, “we’re basically just following creative hunches to see where they go. That’s really exciting because all we have to do is just live our normal lives and see what pans out. And if it excites a lot of other people in the process, then that’s obviously a great thing. Then we’re creating more community and people who support us.”
“We’re making a lifestyle choice to be happy.,” Molly says. “We’re not doing it for clout. We’re creative individuals who want to share our thoughts and ideas and what we create. And that’s pretty much it.”