College Side Hustles — A Kaleidoscope View of Opportunity

Matthew Thornton’s alarm rings at 6:45 a.m. It’s too early for classes and too late to watch the sun rise, but it’s the perfect time for this junior entrepreneurship major to make a few bucks. Thornton hopes to be one of the lucky few to get their hands on a new pair of shoes which will be released at 7 a.m. and sold out within minutes. 

Re-selling shoes is Thornton’s side hustle as he finishes his studies at Point Loma Nazarene University. An average month of buying and selling shoes, in Thornton’s experience, can bring in an extra $200-$300. The massive profit margins are exactly what drew him into the world of shoes.

“I just got a pair of shoes that I paid $280 for and I have buyers who are interested in buying them for $950,” Thornton said.

Side hustles aren’t just limited to options that already exist, said Randell Schober, professor of management and advisor for PLNU’s Entrepreneurship Club.

“I define entrepreneurship as creating value by leveraging resources to exploit an opportunity. And you can create value in every aspect of your life,” he said.

Right now, Schober said more nontraditional side hustles are available due to the circumstances brought on by COVID-19. Change brings about opportunity, and it takes an entrepreneurial mindset to find ways to exploit the change. Schober offered examples like running errands for neighbors who are in the high risk category or walking dogs. 

“You’re always looking for opportunities that exist and then go, ‘What resources do I have to meet these challenges?’” Schober explained.

Side hustles can take many forms. They can be a one-time job like selling LED lights to freshmen, or it can be something small on the side like buying and selling shoes. It can also be something you’re truly passionate about that you want to eventually become the “main hustle.” 

Susan Laughlin, CEO of Nut Crumbs, a bread crumb alternative, went the route of creating a new main hustle. Laughlin’s business, Nut Crumbs, had the humble beginnings of a side hustle. After developing her bread crumb alternative in her home with some nuts, spices and a coffee bean grinder, Laughlin began product testing and making sales at a farmers’ market. 

When Nut Crumbs first began, Laughlin was the director of student financial services at PLNU and an evening MBA student. She wasn’t satisfied with Nut Crumbs being just a side hustle and worked toward making it her main job. 

“My word for the last year has been resilience,” Laughlin said. “I feel like if you’re [going to] make it, you have to get up so many more times than you want to. It’s way harder than I thought it was going to be, but it’s rewarding going into Whole Foods and seeing my product sitting on the shelf.” 

For Laughlin, the business was the end goal and starting small as a side hustle was the only way to get there. When approaching a potential side hustle, Laughlin said making goals and knowing whether you want the side hustle to take the spotlight or stay on the side are important. 

So, where does one find these side hustles? Schober said just look around. Take advantage of the opportunity coronavirus has given everyone to step back, and think of whatever passion you have but were too scared to pursue. Maybe all that’s needed to discover your next side hustle is a fresh perspective.

“It’s a matter of having what I call a kaleidoscope view of the world,” Schober said. “The inside of the kaleidoscope doesn’t change, but you can look at it differently by rotating the lens.”


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