Side Hustle Leads to $4 Billion Boon for Small Businesses


This Side Hustle Spotlight Q&A features Nic Beique, founder of Helcim, a payment processing company used by tens of thousands of merchants — dentist offices, law firms, auto shops and more.

You got your start with a side hustle. Can you tell me about how that helped lead you to found Helcim?
I started my first business when I was 15 years old. I knew how to code and design, so I asked local small business owners if they wanted a website. Many said yes, starting with my barber, the local gym and even the local computer store where I bought parts. I was always shocked when they said yes — after all, I was a random teenager walking into their location.

I saw how hard these people worked to make a living, and I was honored that they would take a chance on me with their hard-earned money. That gave me a sense of camaraderie and loyalty, and I quickly saw myself as a small business owner, too — working hard to build my own small business.

Some of the websites I built turned into ecommerce, which meant finding a way for my clients to accept payments online.

Related: Their ‘Magic Internet Money’ Side Hustle Just Hit $1 Billion in Sales: ‘We’d Empty 6 Figures of Cash Onto the Counter. The Bank Teller’s Expressions Were Priceless.’

It was still the early days of PayPal, but its reputation was already [that it was] a faceless service that would hold funds without warning and left a continuous trail of angry merchants. The few available bank processors were even worse: long contracts, deceptive sales and hidden fees that would make telcos blush — something that hasn’t changed in decades.

The more I tried to find payment solutions for my clients, the more I discovered how poorly payment processors treated small businesses — and not just online. These merchants were being gouged even when it came to their in-store payments. High fees, bad service and held funds were the industry standard.

Even for my first business, I couldn’t accept credit cards unless I agreed to give my local bank processor thousands of dollars as a “safety deposit” to open a merchant account. It turned out that the credit card processing industry was awful to all merchants, big and small.

That was the spark. If you look at my entrepreneurial journey, I went from designing websites to coding ecommerce projects to ultimately starting a payments company.

Where did you find the inspiration for Helcim? What did you want it to accomplish?
Everyone says they love small businesses, yet most service providers continue to treat them poorly. Helcim is on a mission to change that, and it starts with completely reinventing what it means to be a small business champion. Local small business owners took a chance on me when I was just starting, and they deserve a company that takes a chance on them.

Our mission doesn’t stop there. While it starts with offering affordable and transparent payments, we’re constantly finding ways to give small businesses an edge through easy-to-use software and financial products.

Related: These College Friends Started a ‘Fun’ Side Hustle That Landed Them on ‘Shark Tank’— Now the Idea Is Helping Dozens Make Extra Cash: ‘Start Saying Yes

What were some of the first steps you took to get your business off the ground?
I was still in university when I decided to start my first payments company. It took a long time to find a bank that would allow me to sell its merchant services, but after almost a year, I finally got one to say yes. So, my first experience in payments was actually as a reseller for a bank.

I went back to those same small business owners who had taken a chance on me and signed them up as merchants. In time, I was able to hire a few employees, and our company built a unique reputation in the industry; we were honest and trustworthy — a rare commodity in payments.

Our reseller business continued to grow, giving us the resources to strike out on our own. After years of being resellers, in 2020, we became our own processor and launched our own payment services. That’s the Helcim you see today.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced while building your business, and how did you navigate them?
Banks in the payments industry aren’t very open to new entrants, especially 15 years ago when I started. I had to work really hard to convince just one of them to let me be a reseller so I could get my foot in the door.

Even then, it was an ongoing battle. We aimed to enhance tools and increase transparency for the small businesses we served. However, our efforts occasionally resulted in unwelcome changes within an industry resistant to our presence.

Becoming our own payments company took another decade of hard work, relationship-building and dogged determination. This industry has many gatekeepers, from the credit card networks to the big banks, and we had to fight tooth and nail to get a seat at the table. But in the end, we remembered that we were doing this to bring a better solution to the small businesses that we champion, and that kept us going.

Related: The Sweet Side Hustle She Started in an Old CVS Made $800,000 in One Year. Now She’s Repeating the Success With Her Daughter — and They’ve Already Exceeded 8 Figures.

How long did it take you to see consistent monthly revenue? What does growth and revenue look like now?
Helcim now services tens of thousands of businesses across the U.S. and Canada. We processed nearly $4 billion in payment volume in 2023 and are on track to more than double this year. In terms of revenue, I’ll share that it’s grown to a scale that attracted investors, and we closed our Series B round earlier in the year.

What do you enjoy most about running Helcim?
Payments are the very heartbeat of commerce. At its core, business is about the exchange of value between parties. Every day, billions of people exchange money for goods and services. As a payments company, we get to be at the center of it all — we have a front-row seat.

My team and I get to talk to every business imaginable. We get to chat with dentists, barbers, drivers and educators. We’ve worked with charities on how to make it easier for people to aid their cause and with bakers on how to sell more muffins. Throughout my years growing Helcim, I’ve had the chance to develop fantastic relationships with restaurant owners, auto mechanics and locksmiths. The range in scale has been diverse, too. I’ve toured giant global wheat distribution centers to help them accept payments from microbreweries in need of good malt for their beer, and I’ve sat down with those same microbrewers and brainstormed how to get more patrons so they can put that malt to good use.

For someone who loves business, I cannot think of working for an industry that is more at the center of it all. It is truly a privilege.

Related: He Started a Luxury Side Hustle at Age 13 — Now the Business Earns More Than $10 Million a Year: ‘People Want to Help You When You’re Young’

What’s your advice for others hoping to start successful side hustles or full-time businesses of their own?
It takes time, but if you really want it, you will find success through hard work and perseverance. I know that sounds cliche, but it is so important to hear these days. I’m always a little surprised about how much of a “get-rich-quick” mindset still exists out there, but that’s not reality.

Reality is grinding through hundreds of nos until you get a yes and believing in your vision for making an industry better despite closed doors and setbacks. One day you will look up and realize how far you have come.

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