Entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint. Those business owners who endure the marathon enjoy the spoils of their efforts in the form of fortune, recognition and influence. Maybe now, your business is a side hustle, but that should not be downplayed. In fact, the side hustle distinction should motivate you more than deter you from climbing to higher heights. Some of our society’s most significant, most recognizable companies had humble beginnings as side hustles. Their proprietors had a vision, started small, then grew into lucrative, powerful entities at the forefront of their industry.
Here is a list of five big businesses that started out as side hustles:
If you’re a social media connoisseur, it is probably a given that you have an Instagram account. The photo/video sharing app is the premier social platform for such and is a mainstay for content creators and consumers alike. However, an understated fact is that IG started as a side hustle for founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger in 2010. The platform’s beginnings were that of a check-in app like Foursquare that utilized photography from smartphone cameras which were growing in popularity at the time. Then called Burbn, when not at their day jobs, Systrom and Krieger ran it from a rented desk in a shared office during evenings and weekends.
At the start, the duo struggled to gain traction. Foursquare was wildly popular, and the sharing of mobile photos was in its fledgling stages. After a while, they changed the name to Instagram and devoted it solely to sharing mobile photography. The app took off after the pivot. After two years, while the creators were trying to figure out how to turn a profit, Facebook stepped up and bought Instagram for $1 billion. Now, with over 700 million monthly active users, Instagram has flourished as part of Facebook’s $300 million empire.
Nowadays, when you think of sportswear or sneakers, Nike is probably the first brand that comes to mind. Today, the company is a commerce giant with sprawling facilities in Beaverton, Oregon, and beyond, but it wasn’t always that way. The innovative company didn’t even start in a building. Founder Phil Knight and his track coach Bill Bowerman began selling sneakers (custom-made and optimized by Bowerman) out of the trunk of a car as Blue Ribbon Sports with a $50 loan from Knight’s father. Bowerman, a coach who wanted peak performance from his athletes on the track, knew the importance of good sneakers. He started with Knight’s sneakers and went on to develop new designs that produced the desired results. From there, Knight and Bowerman started importing Onitsuka Tiger running shoes to sell to locals. They were desirable because they were cheaper than Adidas and Puma’s offerings at the time but still of good quality. The side hustle of Blue Ribbon became a successful venture. Knight and Bowerman split from the Japanese supplier and launched Nike after a conflict between Blue Ribbon and Onitsuka Tiger.
Twitter is a social media app that has emerged as a powerhouse in communication and information sharing. With over 200 million monetizable active users, the app has become a daily source of entertainment and discourse for many.
However, Twitter wasn’t always a powerhouse on the Internet. It started as founder Jac Dorsey’s side hustle. While working as a web designer at a podcasting company called Odeo, he played around with the idea. When Odeo started struggling, Dorsey put more time and energy into Twitter, fleshing it out and building it. At first, he merely saw it as a way to chat with his friends. At a 2006 hackathon, Dorsey expanded on the idea and built the first version of Twitter.
Born in a small village near Kyiv, Ukraine, WhatsApp founder Jan Koum’s journey to success is an interesting one. For a better life with better opportunities, Koum’s family fled poverty to start anew in California. As a child, he spent his free time studying computers and developing tech skills. By the age of 18, Koum’s skill set was impressive enough to be hired by Yahoo! as an infrastructure engineer. He stayed at the company for a decade before realizing the amazing potential of the app industry.
In 2008, at the onset of the global economic crisis, Koum began working on WhatsApp as a side hustle until its launch in 2009. Within five years, it was so popular that Facebook acquired the platform for $19 billion.
Richard Branson is one of the most recognizable entrepreneurs in modern times. With a net worth of $6.65 billion, Branson is responsible for Virgin, an imprint linked to 40 businesses worldwide.
However, Virgin wasn’t spawned into the machine it is overnight. It started as Branson’s side hustle in the form of a magazine he published in high school, which became more popular than he anticipated. Confident with his success, he was determined to turn his side hustle into a business, and the first iteration of Virgin Records was born.
The company grew as a retail and delivery service for vinyl records and needed warehouse space. In the beginning, Branson used his basement and garage for storage. From there, Virgin’s offerings expanded, and over time, the side hustle blossomed into the conglomerate it is today.