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15 Successful Personalities That Started Their Side Hustle From Nothing

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15 Successful Personalities That Started Their Side Hustle From Nothing

A side hustle is something you do to earn extra money while you’re working the main job. You do it in addition to whatever your regular job is. Probably to make ends meet or as a means to explore a new opportunity.

The term ‘side hustle” has been hijacked by people who took the idea of having a side job and replaced it with building a business so they can quit their main job once it started attaining success. But not everyone wants to or can risk ditching their day jobs. Especially not in today’s economy with the current cost of living.

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It’s not a wise decision to quit one’s daily job to run a side hustle that hasn’t gained footing yet. Most jobs today give room for nurturing one’s side hustle, so the two can be put together pending the time the side hustle starts materializing.

There are a lot of successful personalities that started businesses as a side hustle from almost nothing but had to make it a full-time job after such business starts becoming a success.

Below is a compilation of 15 successful personalities that started their side hustle from nothing till they became successful companies.


SEE ALSO: 30 Evergreen Inspirational Quotes For Aspiring Entrepreneurs

SEE ALSO: 10 Best Side Hustles to Start At 40

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SEE ALSO: 12 Online Side Hustles That Will Pay an Extra $1000 Per Month (And How To Start)

1) Steve Jobs & Steve Wozniak (Apple)

Successful Personalities

Photo credit: Wikipedia

The today famous Apple inc. was founded by Steve Jobs and his friend Steve Wozniak. Steve Jobs was working the night shift at Atari, and Steve Wozniak was an engineer at HP. In their spare time, they worked on building a computer in a garage, which became known as Apple I. They made the machine using Atari parts and presented it to Jobs’ boss, who eventually declined to invest.

Over the next couple of decades, Apple revolutionized the tech industry, developing an mp3 player which became the iPod, a media player software that became iTunes, and a cellular device which became the iPhone.

The story of how Apple got to where they are today is enough to inspire any entrepreneur, as it’s potentially one of the largest, most successful side-projects ever. At the time, the founders; Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak had full-time jobs working for other tech companies.

They attended a computer hobbyist group together, where they saw the first kit computer. Wozniak was inspired to build a simpler kit computer for the everyday person, which is when the first Apple computer, the Apple I, was built.

It was in 1973 when the two paired up to refine the design of the first Apple computer. Wozniak worked on development, while Jobs focused his efforts on sales. One year later in 1976, they founded Apple Computer and quit their jobs to create the Apple II – which went on to be one of the most successful mass-market microcomputers in the world.

Today, Apple is considered the world’s largest information technology company, with products ranging from the iPhone to the Apple Watch and the Apple TV. All of this success stemmed from a passion and philosophy to create something simple, which they implemented in their spare time as a side hustle.

2) Kelvin Systrom (Instagram)

Photo credit: Wikipedia

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Kevin Systrom is an American computer programmer and entrepreneur. He co-founded Instagram, the world’s largest photo-sharing website, along with Mike Krieger.

In 2009, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom was working at as a product manager. During his leisure time, he was teaching himself how to code including during the night and weekends. Due to his love for photography, he eventually built Burbn, which is regarded as the first version of Instagram.

The app was complicated, but it took Systrom just a few months to build: Burbn lets users check-in at particular locations, make plans for future check-ins, earn points for hanging out with friends, and post pictures of the meet-ups.

Systrom quit his day job and eventually raised $500,000, leading him to hire his co-founder Mike Krieger. In 2010, the pair officially launched Instagram and had 100,000 users in the first week. In 2012, Facebook bought the company for $1 billion. Today, there are 1 billion active Instagram users.

3) Jack Dorsey (Twitter)

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Sixteen years ago Jack Dorsey typed out a banal message — “just setting up my Twitter.” — Which became the first-ever tweet, launching a global platform (Twitter) that has become a controversial and dominant force in civil society.

Before he tweeted that first tweet of his, Jack Dorsey started a programming job at Odeo in 2005, a platform for podcasts. A year later, the company faltered after Apple allowed podcasts on iTunes. In response, Odeo CEO Evan Williams hosted a hackathon, in which Dorsey created Twitter — it’s a short messaging service (SMS) for groups, to the public.

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Dorsey continued to work on Twitter as a side project at Odeo until it was officially launched in July 2006 and renamed Twitter. The following year, it became its own company and Dorsey was named CEO.

Twitter has become one of the most popular social media platforms, with 192 million daily active users in the final months of 2021.

4) Craig Newmark (Craigslist)

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Craigslist is a website for viewing and posting local advertisements. It works a lot like the Classifieds section of a newspaper, and it’s completely free to use. You can find a listing for almost anything on Craigslist—jobs, apartments, garage sales, used cars, personal ads, and a whole lot more.

How Craig started Craigslist

Before founding Craigslist, Newmark worked as a computer programmer for companies such as IBM, Bank of America, and Charles Schwab.

In 1995, Craig Newmark sent out an email to his friends, highlighting interesting events around San Francisco. The initial email was sent to 10 to 12 people, but eventually, it spread by word of mouth, and more and more people were getting interested to be part of his email list.

The email list grew quickly, as Newmark transitioned to a list server and larger website. In 1999, Newmark quit his day job as a programmer and turned Craigslist into a company.

Craigslist expanded to 700 cities and 70 countries all over the world as the website itself remained simple and under-designed.

Today, Craigslist has at least 60 million monthly users in the United States alone. Craigslist’s website drives 50 billion page views each month.

5) Kelvin Park (Under Armour)

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Under Armour, Inc. is an American sports equipment company that manufactures footwear, sports, and casual apparel.

Under Armour was founded on September 25, 1996, by Kevin Plank, a then 24-year-old former special team captain of the University of Maryland football team.

How and why Under Armour started

At the age of 23, Kevin Plank, a University of Maryland football player, found himself becoming increasingly frustrated with wearing heavy, sweaty shirts under his jersey, that he’d have to change during training days. He knew there must be a solution out there.

To solve this problem, he created an undershirt that he could wear during workouts that stayed dry and cool even in the hottest of conditions thanks to a breathable fabric. After conducting extensive research, he finally created his first Under Armour performance t-shirt made from locally purchased fabric, produced by a local tailor.

He tested started selling the t-shirts out of the back of his car. He met with former teammates and spoke to equipment managers in the hope that they would buy some of his products. He and his partners worked on the shirts from his Grandmother’s basement; pressing the logos, packing boxes, and shipping orders.

By the end of the first year, Under Armour had generated $17,000 in sales, which was invested into a new product line for products that keep athletes warm and dry in cold conditions. The business continued to grow and by 1998, Under Armour had outgrown Plank’s Grandmother’s basement, moving to a new office and warehouse in Baltimore.

The company has grown to the multi-billion pound company it is today all because of the passion Kevin had to make the best t-shirts for athletes.

6) Aytekin Tank (JotForm)

Photo credit: JotForm

Aytekin develops JotForm; a platform that enables you to create online forms, collect responses directly in your email and create fill-able PDF forms.

Before founding JotForm in 2006, Aytekin Tank worked as a senior web developer for a large Internet media company in New York City. During his five-year tenure, Aytekin Tank was frequently tasked with creating tools with which editors could create unique forms, like surveys. However, Aytekin Tank often found the existing tools on the market wholly insufficient.

Thus, JotForm was born. While Aytekin Tank toiled away at his day job, he spent his free time developing what would become one of the most popular online form builder tools in the world. His work as a senior web developer provided enough additional funds to turn his ideas into a reality.

Over time, Aytekin Tank put away a small fraction of his paycheck until he was ready to launch JotForm. Then, he had the funds to hire a team, grow his start-up into a full-time business, and become one of the dominant forces in his niche. Today, JotForm has over 2 million subscribers and counting!

7) Eren Bali (Udemy)

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Udemy is an online learning and teaching marketplace that allows people to teach and learn. It was founded by Eren Bali.

The story behind the creation of Udemy

Eren Bali In the mid-2000s, Eren Bali worked as a freelance web developer based in Turkey. While working for various clients, including the now-defunct, Bali was putting his extra time and funds toward his passion project.

In 2007, he developed software for a live virtual classroom. He saw a lot of potential in his new creation, so he saved up the funds to move his base of operations to Silicon Valley.

Once in California, Eren Bali met up with Oktay Caglar and Gagan Biyani to found Udemy, an open online course provider. The site launched in 2010 with minimal funding. Eren Bali and his partners tried and failed 30 times to gain the interest of investors. However, the early success of the platform allowed them to raise $1 million in just a few months.

Later, Groupon investors Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell would help raise more capital for the burgeoning company. By early 2020, Udemy was valued at approximately $2 billion!

8) Julie T. Ewald (Impressa Solutions)

Photo credit: Impressa Solutions

Impressa Solutions is a marketing agency that was founded by Julie T. Ewald

How Impressa Solutions started

Julie T. Ewald was once a regular person enjoying life living abroad in Italy with her then-boyfriend — but found she was dead flat broke. To earn more money, she tried her hand at freelance writing.

“But I just couldn’t make it stick,” she says. The following year she returned to the States working several gigs and decided to try freelancing again. She signed up for Upwork (formerly oDesk) and began to apply for jobs.

“When I woke up in the morning, almost all of my bids were accepted,” says Ewald. “I suddenly had a very busy side hustle.”

To help boost her skills she focused on mastering her craft and building her client base. “I continued to develop my skills and learn more about digital marketing, as my writing was being used for articles, blog posts, and website content for various businesses and brands,” she says.

As her skills improved, so did the work. She got so busy that she was at a standstill. She either had to say “no” to new clients or do something completely different.

So she started Impressa Solutions, an inbound marketing agency with a team of employees so she could scale her work. What started as a side hustle in 2012 became a full-fledged business just 10 months later. Ewald now coaches others on how to get started with freelancing in the online space.

9) Amani Roberts (The Amani Experience)

Amani Roberts was working in corporate America when he decided to start DJing on the side in 2008. To get started, he would use his free time to grow his side hustle.

“I would gig out on nights and weekends and grow the business,” explains Roberts. While juggling his full-time job, he continued to DJ on the side and builds his connections. He networked in his free time, while also honing his skills as a DJ.

Within a few years, he was making decent money from his side hustle. “I realized it was time to go full time when the revenue I was earning was half of my current salary. This gave me a good foundation to build upon while going full-time,” he says.

By 2012, he had his own DJ Company, The Amani Experience. Roberts recommends that other side hustlers join specific networking organizations and also get creative on how they can earn money. Roberts doesn’t just DJ but diversifies his revenue streams.

10) Kristin Berry (Miss Design Berry)

Kristin is an accomplished graphic designer that produces high-quality and innovative marketing concepts.

How did she get started?

Kristin Berry moved to New York City and secured a job in pharmaceutical advertising. Though the job was great, she still needed to earn extra money just to pay bills and have some money left over.

So Berry took her graphic design skills to work and opened up an Etsy shop in 2011, selling logo designs, illustrations, and more. While she started with multiple offerings, she realized there was one thing that was selling like hotcakes.

“I quickly realized that the wedding products were selling faster than any others, and my illustration style lent itself perfectly to the designs,” she says.

Two years into her side hustle, she hired her first part-time employee. After a few years of work, she quit her full-time job in July 2015 to pursue her side hustle full-time. Now she has launched her stand-alone site,, and is close to having a million in revenue.

“I now work at home and have over 20 women who work remotely for me, allowing them to each have their creative side hustles as well,” explains Berry.

Her advice for others looking to start a side hustle and make it full-time? Just start. “There is no perfect time, perfect product, or perfect idea. The biggest thing I have learned during my adventures in owning a business is that most people don’t start with their whole business planned out,” she says.

11) Skot Carruth (Philosophie Group, Inc)

Photo credit: Twitter

Philosophie is a technology company that helps companies design and builds software. It was later acquired by Infobeans Technologies Limited after its success.

How it started

Skot Carruth started his career as an investment banker. He thought he chose a safe and traditional career plan and had plans to go to business school, but his plans disappeared after he lost his banking job during the financial crisis.

After bouncing around as a consultant, he ended up as an accountant. Though he had a job, he wasn’t thrilled about the opportunities that lay ahead.

“My job prospects weren’t promising,” explains Carruth. “So I started moonlighting doing something I had done since middle school: making websites.”

He strategically used his day job as a way to fund his side hustle, creating Philosophie, a design innovation company.

“The day job gave me the runway to bootstrap Philosophie with my cofounder, who was also working part-time while finishing his degree,” he says. Eight years after starting this side hustle, the company has 40 employees across three offices and earns close to 8-figures.

Carruth encourages others to pursue a side hustle to leverage their day job while they have it. “I’ve always been an advocate of testing the waters, validating the business model, and building traction while you still have the safety net of employment,” he says. “It forces you to spend your time wisely, and removes the financial stress that may cause you to make bad decisions.”

12) Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)

Photo credit: Wikipedia

This needs no introduction as it’s the most popular social media platform ever. But so you know? Facebook started as a side project for its founders.

Here is a short story about Facebook

In 2003, Harvard freshman Mark Zuckerberg created Facemash, which allowed students to judge other students based on attractiveness.

Although the site was taken down in two days, it inspired Zuckerberg and his friends — Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes — to create a social networking site called The Facebook in 2004. Students could log into the site using their email, and eventually, it expanded to colleges all over the country.

Quickly, the passion project turned into a thriving tech business as Facebook expanded outside of college life.

Today, Facebook is considered one of the largest social media platforms and reaches 2 billion people around the world.

13) Pat Flynn (Affiliate Marketer)

Photo credit: Smart Passive Income

Pat Flynn, Founder of Smart Passive Income and one of the best affiliate marketers. He had planned to be an architect since the day when he was a straight-A high school student.

After he graduated, he got a job with a renowned architectural firm in the Bay Area, where he became one of the youngest people ever to become job captain.

While his main job was going on, he was working on a blog (LEED) as a side hustle. Three months later, he lost his job.

Pat Flynn became an affiliate marketer in 2008 after he was laid off at his job. He decided to work further on his LEED blog and soon monetized his website.

He used Google Adsense and gradually began to make money off his website clicks. Soon after his website took off, he got an offer to sell an e-book and earned a little commission off it.

After one and a half years of working on his website, his first income in November 2008 through affiliate marketing was $8000. And that increased to more than $50000 in 2013. Today Pat Flynn is an extremely successful name when it comes to affiliate marketing and he is completely transparent about it. Although he has other sources of income, almost 80% of his income comes through affiliate marketing.

Flynn believes that as an affiliate marketer, you need to focus on how you can serve your audience. Out of all the information available out there, you need to filter the noise and provide value to your audience. On his blog, he not only talks about affiliate marketing but multiple business services. He also has his podcast with over 400 episodes, where he talks about everything there is to know about business marketing.

14) Shawn Collins (Affiliate Marketer)

Photo credit: Amazon

Shawn Collins is the co-founder of the Affiliate Summit (2003). He has been in affiliate marketing since 1997 and has more than two decades of experience. Collins used to work in the publishing industry but that wasn’t enough to pay the bills. He came across the Amazon affiliate program in 1997 and set up his first affiliate site, which was about things to do in NYC. Soon he got a job at a medical book company that wanted their affiliate program.

He has always used Google AdWords and direct mail as his two strategies. He created lists based on domains that ranked well for a topic and got their addresses from WHOIS. In 2003 he created Affiliate Summit on a cruise ship with Missy Ward and today they’re one of the biggest affiliate marketing event companies.

Affiliate Summit runs the biggest affiliate marketing events in the world and attracts thousands of advertisers, networks, agencies, and affiliates from across 70+ countries across the globe.

He advises young marketers to follow their passion. They should find their voice, start a blog. According to him, it is the perfect kickstart to affiliate marketing. He advises people to try and maximize their time while thinking of topics and covering as much as possible. He has his blog at where he offers a complete guide on how you can optimize your blog.

15) Sal Khan (Khan Academy)

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Khan Academy is an American non-profit educational organization created in 2008 by Sal Khan. Its goal is to create a set of online tools that help educate students. The organization produces short lessons in the form of videos. Its website also includes supplementary practice exercises and materials for educators.

A short story of Khan Academy

Back in 2004, before Khan Academy was even a side hustle, it was simply a way for Sal Khan to provide some long-distance tutoring to a family member. It worked well, and when other family members became interested in Khan’s lessons, he made them publicly available.

Soon, even more, people, including strangers, watched Khan’s short video explanations, found them helpful, and asked for more. Finally, with the growing popularity of his online lessons, Kahn turned his attention to online education, full time

He created a website that featured free online courses, made it a nonprofit organization, successfully solicited donations, and brought in users — lots of users! Currently, Khan Academy has over 10 million unique visitors each month.

What’s more, while Khan and his senior-level employees are well compensated, their salaries are consistent with those of other professional nonprofit jobs, demonstrating that his heart truly is in his work.

Final Thoughts

And it doesn’t end there! Some more great personalities made a career out of their side hustle/project that started from nothing.

By venturing into a side hustle, you have a chance to understand the ins and outs of a business. If the side hustle fails, your current lifestyle will not be affected since you still have your day job. This is the safest way to decide whether you want to pursue your side hustle full time.

The best way to eventually become your boss is to start a side hustle and build your self-employed income, while you still have the safety and security of your day job.

However, building a side hustle to profitability with a limited amount of time outside of your day job is never easy. It takes ruthless prioritization, a psychological shift in how you view what’s most important in your life, and the willingness to get very creative and scrappy daily.

If you want to be an entrepreneur, there are many reasons you should start small with building your side hustle customer-by-customer from the ground up. For one, the prospect of making more money on top of your regular pay is a powerful incentive, especially in a volatile economy. A long-time hobby can also motivate you to grow a business around things you love.

Aspiring entrepreneurs with a strong drive can look to side hustle as a stepping stone toward financial freedom. Your side hustle can also allow you to focus on what you’re most passionate about if you don’t get that satisfaction from your full-time work. It can give you the flexibility (and extra savings) to travel the world, care for the environment, or pursue causes in a more meaningful way.

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