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Side hustle success stories

Side hustle success stories
Explanation
couple working together on a side hustle

So, what do you do when times get tough and you need some extra cash?  Look to your community and think about local issues. Often, it’s the poor or less economically advantaged regions that come up with the best ideas simply because they need to. The wealthy might propose solutions, but they often don’t understand poverty or inequality at a personal level. So, their ideas might not work in places where money is scarce. Believe it or not, many Fortune 500 companies started during times of financial difficulties. Why? In these times, people often tighten their belts and look for practical solutions. Big businesses can’t always provide the answers, so there’s room for newcomers to shine. Of course, there’s always a study or two claiming to support any point of view, but sometimes what people believe is more impactful than the reality. Keep in mind, that businesses do start in affluent areas and times of prosperity as well, but rags-to-riches stories are usually more inspiring and fun to write and read about.

Let’s move as much as possible from the traditional havens of success, and find inspiring stories of people living in countries with fewer resources, especially government resources, who used this to their advantage to create tools that first helped locals, and then others in the world facing these same issues. Keep in mind even though these side hustles turned global in many cases, it doesn’t mean that whatever part of the globe you are reading from, their services or products have reached your neck of the woods.

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Water Hyacinth AI generated

The water hyacinth is a beautiful flower that floats freely on waterways, so attractive that it’s often used for decorative purposes in artificial ponds. The problem is, that it reproduces quickly, blocking the sun from entering the water, hence disturbing the life found beneath it. This sounds like a bad plant that needs to be wiped out right? Not so fast because the world is gray, and most things ‘bad’ can be used for ‘good’. This plant has made countless side hustles from locals looking for constructive and profitable ways to keep their numbers small. One thing this plant does is absorb metals and toxins, hence making it an ideal tool for inexpensive water treatment, that many claim is sustainable until the day comes when the hyacinth is wiped out entirely like every other natural resource. However, this is stuff for scientists. Other people need jobs too, hence the biggest business for the water hyacinth is using them for arts and crafts that anyone creative and skilled with their hands with creative minds can use for profit.

One such person is Achenyo Idachaba from Nigeria. She started MitiMeth, a company that transforms water hyacinth, an invasive weed that clogs waterways, into handcrafted products like baskets and home accessories.  She turned this knowledge to tackle agricultural and municipal waste, turning those into arts and crafts as well. That’s truly remarkable for a person who only desires to stop the water hyacinth from clogging her local waters. Admittedly Achenyo had an educational and potentially a financial advantage, being born in the USA and receiving her MBA and a bachelor’s in computer science there, but what does computer science have to do with handcrafts? She used her business mind to find a need and tackle it, and she has trained over 300 local people in weaving to follow in her footsteps. Think about the other jobs she created by controlling the water hyacinth population while helping every other species that can’t fight the water hyacinth on their own, survive. 

Achenyo Idachaba, MitiMeth, Water hyacinth

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Mohammad Yunus circa 1983 AI

One of the adages ingrained in our heads from the dawn of time is “Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish he’ll eat forever”.  The point many people miss from that is that until that man is trained he needs money to eat, and when that man learns to fish he needs money to buy that equipment.  Do you know what’s hard to get when you’re poor? Money to fish once you’ve learned how to do it, and one man Mohammad Yunus from Bangladesh, figured that out and figured out what to do about the issue.

In 1983, Yunus, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, started Grameen Bank, a microfinance organization and community development bank that helps millions of people start their businesses and escape poverty. Its actual mission statement as a bank is to alleviate poverty, relying on peer pressure for repayment, which is very typical in small towns and villages. This leads to a 98% repayment rate. The interest rates are competitive for large loans and negotiated based on an individual’s capacity to repay for smaller loans as low as $30. The bank primarily lends money to women, with 95% of its customers being women believing that providing financial resources to women can lead to an overall improvement in the living standards of the entire family, thereby helping to lift them out of poverty. 

Studies indeed back this claim, and in banking terms or the West, it’s called microfinancing. However this thinking doesn’t necessarily come from some modern study,  but from a long-standing small-town conservative culture that is practically universal, which states giving money to women and using peer pressure for repayment benefits their families more since women will repay more often than men under these circumstances. In its simplest form, this man, born into a traditional conservative culture, built on this idea and turned small-town, conservative culture into a successful business using modern tools he learned when getting his degree in the USA, alongside tons of research. An interesting side note is that in many non-western small traditional, conservative towns, this concept of women getting loans over men, or men getting their money from women is also used to provide an incentive to get men to marry, even if the specifics vary from culture to culture. The traditional reasoning is the same, women are more trustworthy than men with money, and modern studies confirm milleniums worth of traditions.

As a side note, as of New Year’s Day, 2024, Yunus is a convicted felon, having succumbed to charges of labor violation laws, at the age of 83, in his native Bangladesh. Let’s see how this plays out.

Mohammad Yunus, Grameen Bank, microfinance

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Arunachalam Muruganantham of Jayaashree Industries and his feminine hygiene machine AI

Let’s go next door to India and meet Arunachalam Muruganantham, affectionately known as ‘Menstrual Man’, and not for the reasons a Westerner might think, but for his ground-breaking work in menstrual health and hygiene. In a touching display of affection for his wife, he created a cheap sanitary pad after noticing his wife using old rags during her menstrual cycle. He faced so much ridicule for doing this, and extensive social ostracism, that he used it as motivation to create a global business landing him on Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential list in 2014. Today his company Jayaashree Industries makes a simple machine that any rural woman can use to make sanitary pads. This enables these rural women to make these inexpensive pads and sell them to their communities helping them earn extra money as well. Did we mention that this man was a high school dropout, having completed only 9th grade due to his parent’s financial status?

Arunachalam Muruganantham, menstrual man, Jayaashree Industries

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Woman at a hair salon

Go to any high-priced hair salon and chances are there will be a bottle of something from Paul Mitchell Systems. When your hair is being lathered with this expensive product, keep in mind that the product came from two homeless people, one of whom was incapable of keeping a job. This story is about John Paul DeJoria, one of the co-founders of Paul Mitchell Systems. His Greek and Italian parents divorced when he was a two-year-old child in Los Angeles. That divorce didn’t work out for anyone as he grew up in poverty oftentimes in foster homes with stints on the street. To make ends meet he sold Christmas cards and newspapers as a child. In 1971 he worked at the hair care company Redken Laboratories where he was fired. Sometimes being fired or not holding on to a job is a sign that you’re meant for bigger things. After a decade of not giving up, he borrowed a whopping $700, which he used with his partner, hairdresser Paul Mitchell to create the John Paul Mitchell Systems company. They often lived in their cars selling their products door to door. Word took off and within a decade the company was worth billions. He also started a tequila company that he sold a few years back for 5.1 billion. Not bad for a homeless ‘bum’ with no formal education, a word we use figuratively because being homeless doesn’t make you a bum, and in this person’s case it gave him a superpower that no one else had, perseverance, determination, and an unwillingness to quit. Failure doesn’t exist, it’s only a step to success until the day we leave this earth, whatever any individual determines success to be.

John Paul DeJoria, Paul Mitchell Systems

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Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) AI

This is not a rags-to-riches story, this is a rags-to-rags story, about a man who did not seek wealth but change. Kennedy Odede was born with little access to education, and even clean water in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. In 2004, at the age of 20, with 20 cents in his pocket, Odede started Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) as a side hustle. What he had was his conviction and voice. All he wanted to do was to teach people how to read, and it grew to something bigger where now his organization provides hundreds of thousands of people across many urban slums in Kenya with clean water, healthcare, education, and economic empowerment programs. All of these projects are funded by private donations, a cut from the economic empowerment programs, and government funding. This man took his problems, solved them taught others to do the same thing, and changed the world with nothing in his pocket. That is the grandest achievement of all.

Kennedy Odede, Shining hope for communities, SHOFCO

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A Retro Tale
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TravelUp
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Cartier Womens Initiative (Achenyo Idachaba), The Guardian (Mohammad Yunus), Grameen Foundation (Mohammad Yunus), Al Jazeera (Arunachalam Muruganantham), Famous entrepreneurs (John Paul DeJoria), Shofco (Kennedy Odede)

All images are AI-generated using Fotor and are not meant to describe the subject matter they portray factually, but figuratively.

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Why we like them: Guided tours from the adventure travel specialists (Buy in AUD, CAD, EUR , GBP , JPY, RMB, SEK , USD, ZAR)
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Click & Grow
Why we like them: Add pods and water, then plug it in. Grow your own food with zero effort (Buy in Euro or USD)
Buy now
Elixinol
Why we like them: Be calm under pressure with help from natural extracts (Buy GBP, USD or Euro From the UK, USA, France, Germany, or Spain)
Buy now
Ticket Network
Why we like them: Watch our heroes perform. Buy tickets for sporting, musical and theatrical events (Buy in USD)
Buy Now
A Retro Tale
Why we like them: Triumph has its rewards. Hand picked, vintage, and authentic gently used handbags and accessories for much less (Check their web-site for currencies and countries supported)
Buy now
TravelUp
Why we like them: Redefine success. It's the destination that counts, not the price. Cheap flight, hotel and package deals (Buy GBP and USD)
Buy now
Allies of Skin
Why we like them: Sometimes you just have to save your skin (Buy in USD or EUR)
Buy now
EconomyBookings.com
Why we like them: Why spend money you don't have to for what you want? The best car rental rates from 800+ partners (Buy in USD or Euros)
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AW Bridal
Why we like them: Let's redefine triumph. Don't you think it's time? (Buy in CAD, EUR, GBP, USD from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, Spain, United Kingdom, or the United States)
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Why we like them: Let's redefine success.Be thankful for what you got. (Buy in USD and ship to the USA)
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JayRide
Why we like them: Travel in style, private transfers to/from 1,600+ airports to your hotel, including very large groups. JayRide has the most options, without the stress (Buy in USD, CAD, GBP, or AUD)
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eCosmetics
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Why we like them: Let's redefine success. Love Never Fails (Buy in USD, worldwide shipping)
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Daily Steals
Why we like them: Every day, deals you go nuts for (Buy in USD from the USA)
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