3 Tips to Start a Small Business Side Hustle Worth Millions


National Small Business Week, which celebrates the important contributions of entrepreneurs and small business owners across the U.S., is just around the corner. These days, an increasing number of Americans can see themselves starting ventures of their own. Young people are particularly interested: 50% percent of Gen Z aspire to become entrepreneurs or start their own businesses, according to a report from Samsung and Morning Consult.

But Americans of all ages are embracing the era of the side hustle, with 39% picking up an extra gig and 44% believing they’ll always need it to keep up with the bills, per a Bankrate survey. However, one side hustle isn’t necessarily equivalent to the next in terms of the investment of time and money — or the potential return. Although tutoring or dog-walking arranged via app can be convenient avenues for additional cash, they’re less likely to surmount the income from a typical 9-5 than a side hustle on track for small business status.

Related: This Flexible Side Hustle Is Helping Millions Earn Extra Cash — and Might Be ‘More Attractive’ Than an Office Job

So what does it take to turn a side hustle into a full-fledged small business — or start one up right out of the gate? Entrepreneurs whose successful companies began as side hustles can offer some critical insights, including three of them who have been featured in our ongoing Side Hustle Spotlight series: Greg Kerr, owner of Alchemy Merch; Kim Vaccarella, founder of Bogg Bag; and Sarah Michelle Boes, founder of Sarah Michelle NP Reviews (SMNP).

Read on to learn more about their journeys and secrets for side hustle success:

1. Greg Kerr, founder of Alchemy Merch

Kerr worked as a musician when he started selling custom pins in 2015. Today, Alchemy Merch is a full-time business that creates custom products for companies including Apple, Nickelodeon, National Geographic, Nike and more, as well as independent artists looking for ways to monetize their artwork in new ways. Kerr’s business went from $0 to $1 million in sales in 18 months and has seen just under $2 million in annual revenue for the past several years.

Kerr’s advice: “It’s tough running a business in the after-hours if you have a 9-5, but if you really want it, you need to put in the work. If you are thinking about starting a side hustle, really think about what you want to do and if there is a need for it or space in the market for you to improve upon what is out there. The market told me how badly Alchemy Merch was needed, and I responded. When it became clear that this had legs, I never looked back. I’ve been self-employed for the past 20 years, so it gave me some clarity to run with the momentum and recognize what we were doing had real value.”

Related: He Took His Side Hustle Full-Time After Being Laid Off From Meta in 2023 — Now He Earns About $200,000 a Year: ‘Sweet, Sweet Irony’

2. Kim Vaccarella, founder of Bogg Bag

In 2008, Vaccarella was working in commercial real estate when she came up with the idea for a “better beach bag” — one that was sturdy, large and washable. Vaccarella went full-time with the business in 2018, at which point she set an ambitious goal: $1 million in sales. Bogg Bag hit that target and exceeded $50 million in revenue by 2023. This year, the company aims to cross the $100 million sales mark.

Vaccarella’s advice: “My mantra? Slow and steady wins the race. Starting a business from the ground up is a learning curve like no other. I’m a believer in getting hands-on with every part of the operation, even if it means cleaning the warehouse toilet myself. It’s all about trusting your instincts, moving at a pace that feels right and keeping open lines of communication with everyone you cross paths with. You’d be surprised at the connections you can make and what you can learn from them.”

Related: Her College Side Hustle Led to an Immediately Profitable Product That Sells for Up to $450 — and She Didn’t Even Consider Herself ‘a Business Person’

3. Sarah Michelle Boes, founder of Sarah Michelle NP Reviews (SMNP)

After passing her nurse practitioner exam proved easier than expected, Sarah Michelle Boes wanted to instill confidence in others, so she put together an online review course. The side hustle hit seven figures in just seven months, then sold to Blueprint Test Prep at the two-year mark in 2022 for a “life-changing” amount. Boes currently serves as the chief nursing officer for Blueprint Test Prep.

Boes’ advice: “I don’t want to sound cliche, but just start. Because I had an idea in my car [and ran with it]. I did our first recordings of the courses on Zoom; our air conditioning went out, and it was Memorial Day weekend, and I’m sitting upstairs in my attic sweating because it’s the only quiet place to record. I didn’t have a website until September. We’re on Zoom, [arranging] through Facebook, [getting paid via] Venmo, Cash App or Zelle. So you literally just have to start, and then you can figure things out as you go along. It doesn’t have to be really polished or fancy. If you have a great product that people resonate with, they’ll look past all that sort of stuff.”

Related: This Insurance Agent Started a Side Hustle Inspired By Nostalgia for His Home State — Now It Earns Nearly $40,000 a Month

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