Laid Off From Meta, He Took His Side Hustle to $200k a Year


This Side Hustle Spotlight Q&A features Scott Goodfriend, who was working as an executive producer in New York City when he launched Ultimate Food Tours. Goodfriend coordinates food tours all over New York City, “allowing the participants to experience the city’s culinary scene in a whole new light.”

Image Credit: Courtesy of Ultimate Food Tours. Scott Goodfriend.

When did you start your side hustle, and where did you find the inspiration for it?
I moved to New York from Los Angeles in 2011. I always loved traveling and getting lost walking through different cities. When I moved to New York, I was fascinated by the ability to visit anywhere in the world by subway, even neighborhoods that were far away. I researched different restaurants and then started thinking, well, maybe I can eat at a few different places, so I started planning walking routes to different eateries on Google Maps. My friends found out I was doing this and wanted to join.

Eventually, the word spread. My friends and family from out of town started calling me when they came to visit New York. They would tell me about a neighborhood they wanted to explore and ask if I could plan a food tour. I enjoyed the challenge and was happy to do this, and I probably ended up planning 50-100 tours over seven or so years.

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’

During this entire time, I was a broke freelance TV producer living in the East Village who lived off a fair amount of $1 pizza. I lived close to Chinatown and figured I could probably take a short walk and find something better. I not only found delicious food but also discovered the variety, depth and complexity of Chinese food, which I became obsessed with. I started doing tons of research into the regions, cuisines and history and the Chinese experience on the Lower East Side. I started taking people to Chinatown, and they fell in love with the tour. They told me to do this as a business, and I always poo-pooed the idea, saying I didn’t want to build a website or do the marketing (sweet, sweet irony — but more on that later). My friend encouraged me to put my tour on something called Airbnb Experiences. I posted the Chinatown tour on Airbnb in 2019; it got to the top of Airbnb in a short timeframe. Then, Covid-19 hit, which shut my operations down for over a year.

In 2021, I reworked the tour and put it back on Airbnb, and it got to the top of the “Activities to do in NYC” list. People started asking me what other tours I had, so I wrote more. Eventually, I had to hire people to help run the tours and help with the marketing. It got overwhelming because I was also working my dream job as an augmented reality producer at Meta, but then….

I was part of the Meta layoffs in 2023! I had a decision to make: Go work for another company I really loved and respected, or pursue my entrepreneurial dreams. I decided to pursue Ultimate Food Tours full-time. It’s been great, and I’ve learned so much doing it. I am really glad I made the jump.

Related: This Dad Started a Side Hustle to Save for His Daughter’s College Fund — Then It Earned $1 Million and Caught Apple’s Attention

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced while building your side hustle, and how did you navigate them?
The biggest challenge while building my business was deciding where to focus and invest my time. You need to be strategic about what parts of the business you invest in and focus on. Since entrepreneurship doesn’t have a playbook, the answer is often to go for it, analyze the results, learn from it and do better next time.

How long did it take you to see consistent monthly revenue? How much did the side hustle earn?
Ultimate Food Tours evolved tremendously over the last few years, and I’m lucky enough for it to be my full-time job now. Before switching to this as a full-time role, I was making around $30,000 a year. I probably saw consistent revenue between the second and third years. At this time, I was only pursuing Ultimate Food Tours on the weekends, so I was making around several thousand dollars a month.

What does total annual revenue look like now?
Currently, I generate around $200,000 a year and have seen the brand grow by about three times year-over-year.

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

What do you enjoy most about this side hustle?
I love being able to leverage my passions and turn them into business strategies. A great example of this is our content marketing. I come from a family of foodies, and I have always loved history and making videos, so I created a social series called Origin Stories, which tells the history behind New York’s famous foods and the best places to eat them. We have three seasons and plan to begin long-form content soon. I am so proud of this because we get to use our platform to drive traffic to local restaurants while simultaneously building our own brand. It’s conceptualizing and executing these win-win strategies that really got me excited about running a business.

Being an entrepreneur is a lifestyle! When I first started, I was putting in around 20 hours a week. Since making my side gig my full-time job, I probably work between 50-60 hours a week. Combining my passion with my livelihood allows me the flexibility to pursue something I love and earn a salary from it. I also utilize outside technology that helps streamline my finances and save me time to focus on my business and personal life.

What’s your advice for others hoping to start successful side hustles of their own?
Stay organized! It’s easy to get overwhelmed with various spreadsheets and different numbers flying around. Using an accounting sofware helps free up time on my schedule, allowing me to turn my attention to other areas of the business like marketing and developing additional tours.

Whatever idea you have, whatever your big dream is, take that first step now! Buy that domain name, make that social media post, whatever it is. Just do one small thing a day, and the rest will fall into place. Make it part of your routine, and you’ll see a return.

Related: I’ve Had a Secret Side Hustle for Decades. It Keeps Tens of Thousands of Dollars in My Pocket — and Gets Me Into Places I Wouldn’t Go Otherwise.

If you’re working a full-time job, try to bite off what you can chew and plan your side hustle schedule around your current commitments. You’ll be able to see if it has room to grow, and if you do think you want to make it your full-time thing, start putting things in place that prepare you to make the jump when you feel ready.

Network and talk to other entrepreneurs! The most valuable thing I found was talking to other people who started businesses and food tour companies of their own. They knew what needed to be done and were able to fill in a lot of the gaps in managing my time and gave me the insights needed to successfully launch my own business.

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