I launched my first side hustle in September 2012. I don’t recall the launch date, what I recall is that in October, the following month, I turned 28 and bought myself a sexy pair of pricey heels from the first money I made from the side hustle.
There are many mawkish feelings associated with spending money but there’s nothing richer than spending money you’ve made on your own accord.
It’s the same feeling you get from spending your very first salary. My Mum always told me the story of how she got her first teacher’s salary in 1973 and used the money to buy utensils for her mum’s kitchen.
I spent my first salary at Nakumatt Lifestyle buying fancy toiletry. It was silly, really.
The difference, though, between side hustle money and your first salary is that this heady feeling of I-can-do-anything never goes away.
Come to think of it, the novelty amplifies for every shilling you make month after month. It gets to a point where you are devilishly intoxicated by the efforts of your business savvy.
It’s like falling in love with yourself over and over.
Anyway, my first side hustle was a taxi business. This was the age before Uber and Little Cab apps and most taxi drivers were big-bellied men with raspy voices and bad English.
Men who wore beige velvet berets, smoked Sportsman cigarettes and reeked of Tusker, and pimped their car’s dashboard ugly with what looked like a cut out of a living room rug.
Men who didn’t give a mind to etiquette or customer service, and who’d find every excuse to slash money from your monthly dues.
It was the age where taxi drivers built rentals in Umoja from their taxi money.
I started with two taxis, then later – much later – added a third. My taxis were part of a fleet that serviced a corporate company in Upper Hill.
I handed them over to one of the fleet managers. He hired the drivers, fuelled the cars, invoiced me for monthly service and major repairs, and paid me a flat rate at the end of the month.
It was good money. Not Uber-good, but good enough to sustain the business itself with a little extra left for me. (Someday I’ll tell you exactly how much.)
It took me six months to get my taxi business off the ground.
Six months of research, talking to taxi drivers to gather their experience, identifying and building a relationship with the fleet managers, getting financing from the bank, sourcing for the cars, sorting out insurance, reminding myself it wasn’t a futile pursuit… a lengthy list of to-dos.
For the most part, I did this groundwork alone. I have never felt more proud of myself.
The business ran for three years, from that September 2012, to the last car I sold in September 2015. I shut the business a few months before I had my daughter later that year, a few months before the juggernaut that was Uber planted its foot in our gorgeous Nairobi.
My fleet manager had given me a heads-up that ‘something’ was coming to the city, ‘something’ that would forever change the landscape of the local taxi service.
But by that time, I’d made enough money from the business and wanted out. I was ready for the next thing.
The three years of running this taxi business completely changed how I perceive side hustles.
First, side hustles are not a preserve for a selected few. The opportunities to invest are like diamonds lying on the side of the road, waiting for you to collect them. You only need to open your eyes to find where these diamonds are lying and be bold enough to bend down and pick them up.
Second, the experience itself of running the side hustle will teach you in a few months what would have taken years to learn from reading books or attending business school.
Think of it as being street smart versus being book smart. Having my accountancy certification helped though. Well, a little.
Third, a well-managed side hustles can pull more weight than we give them credit for. My taxi business was running smoothly in the months I was transitioning to become a writer – the savings from the business fully supported me until I got back on my feet.
It made perfect sense then, the thing personal finance pundits bang on about having multiple streams of income.
Fourth – and most important – the side hustle showed me where to draw the carpe between a job/career and a side hustle.
If you want to sharpen your skills, get another job. If you want to make extra money, get a side hustle. I’d allow you to stagnate in one job for many years as long as you’re redirecting your salary to grow an empire from your side hustle.
I’ve had three side hustles since this taxi business. Two worked out, one didn’t. I’m on the ground researching for another one as we speak.
For the next few weeks, I’ll share with you everything I’ve learned about side hustles. I will share with you how to brainstorm for an idea, the upside and downside to each type of idea, how to finance your idea, how to structure the business and keep it running… this and such like.
Let’s catch up then.