Lots of people start small businesses to supplement their main income or to dip a toe in a new career. Call it a side gig or hustle, starting an enterprise in this manner has its pros and cons.

For some people it can be a great way to earn a little extra for the nicer things in life, while for others it can open new pathways to greater work satisfaction. If you’re not careful, it can also distract you from doing the thing that provides your main source of income and get you fired! And for a very lucky few, that little side earner can go on to become a bona fide business in its own right, even one that exceeds the wildest of expectations.

One inspirational example of a side gig that really took off is the story of husband and wife team Adi Tatarko and Alon Cohen, who turned their online home renovation lookbook into a billion-dollar company called Houzz.

Tatarko and Cohen started Houzz in 2009 when they were renovating their own home. “We bought a house. The process (renovation) itself was really bad. So we just wanted to make it better. So it started as a side project with our community in the Bay Area and took on a life of its own,” Tatarko told TechCrunch, explaining the origins of the business.

The early incarnation of the Houzz website was more like an online lookbook but over the years it has become an amalgam of lookbook, shopping portal and content hub for home renovators. In less than a decade, Houzz developed into an online platform for home improvement and remodelling, architecture, interior design, decorating and landscaping. It now has more than 35 million monthly users, acting as a platform to connect home owners and renovators with around a million home and building professionals, such as architects, tradespeople, landscapers and others.

It attracted its first round of funding in late 2010, securing a modest $2 million investment. Last year, it completed a Series E funding round for $400 million, putting estimations of the company’s value at a whopping $4 billion. Not bad for a couple working on their side project over nights and weekends while still holding day jobs and raising two children.

Of course not every side gig ends up as a billion-dollar company. But more and more people are exploring the possibilities of starting their own little earner as a way to make a little more money and grow something for the future. The idea of a side hustle, and the accompanying phenomenon of the gig economy, has really taken hold in the US over the past five years, especially among digital native Millennials, who have plugged into the potential for online money-making ideas in maybe a more intuitive way than older generations.

The rise of the smartphone and apps have made it a lot easier for people to start up an eCommerce venture or provide some kind of service quickly and at minimal cost. That business could be anything from freelance professional services through to people indulging their passion for baking and running a cake business on the weekends, or simply selling things on eBay.

The casualisation of big sections of the workforce has also forced many people to start thinking beyond the old economy idea of safe and secure full-time jobs. Events like the GFC also served as a warning sign that maybe it is worthwhile having something going on the side in case of an emergency.

The chances of turning your side gig into a billion-dollar business like Adi Tatarko and Alon Cohen did are pretty slim, but there are plenty of opportunities out there for those with an entrepreneurial bent to generate some extra income on the side.

Fi Bendall

Fi is Westpac / AFR 2015 100 Women of Influence, described by CEO Magazine as the CEO's Secret Weapon she is one of Australia's most respected thought leaders in the digital space. As an expert and pioneer in digital strategy and with over 23 years experience in the digital / tech sector over three continents, Europe, USA and Oceania; Fi has a depth of understanding unique to Australia.

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