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10 Side Activities That Became Successful Businesses To Inspire You To Start Your Own

Times are hard. Talk is cheap when it comes to the government’s promise to create more job opportunities for the unemployed.

This is why many have taken it upon themselves to create their own opportunities or go into a side business to generate more disposable income.

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If you’re thinking of heading in this direction, but need some inspiration to get started, the team at Business Name Generator have revealed 10 extremely successful businesses that started as side hustles.

yankee candle

In 1969, 16-year-old Mike Kittredge made a candle out of crayons as a gift for his mother. A neighbor saw the candle and asked Kittredge to make him one for $2 (about R35).

Eventually, Kittredge turned this into a side hustle, operating out of his parents’ garage.

In 1973, Yankee Candle moved into a former paper mill in Massachusetts and the business was later sold in 1998 for $500 million.

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Today, Yankee Candle has 500 stores worldwide, with more than 19,000 retailers selling Yankee Candle products. Photo: AP


The home of side hustle, Etsy started as a humble side hustle created by a team designed to market all things crafty, handmade, and unique.

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The online platform was launched in 2005 as a small marketplace for artisans to market their creations.

Etsy was earning millions in revenue in just a few years, reaching a $100 million IPO in mid-2016.


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In 1995, sent an e-mail to his friends, highlighting interesting events around San Francisco. The initial email was sent to 10-12 people, but eventually it spread by word of mouth.

The mailing list grew rapidly, as Newmark moved to a larger listserver and website.

In 1999, Newmark quit his day job as a programmer and turned Craigslist into a business.

let’s group

In 2006, Andrew Mason wanted to cancel a mobile phone contract, but his efforts to do so only frustrated him further. So in 2007, he launched Le Point.

It didn’t gain much ground as a community of benefactors until a group organized to save money. Mason quickly took notice and considered making Money Saving Businesses a separate page to house all community activity.

In 2008, The Point became Groupon and focused solely on saving people money.

In 2009, he raised his first major funding, $30 million to be exact.

under protection

Kevin Plank was a college football player at the University of Maryland in the 90s.

Meanwhile, he grew tired of the way his cotton shirts stuck to his body when he sweated on the pitch.

The new Under Armor store in Sandton. Photo: Instagram.

He started a side project to develop a shirt that wouldn’t absorb sweat.

When he graduated from college, his side business became a business, known as Under Armour.

Initially running operations from his grandmother’s basement, Plank found success shipping his products directly to NFL players.

Today, Under Armor is one of the most successful athletic brands in the world.


Believe it or not, the world’s biggest tech company started as a side hustle.

Steve Jobs and his high school friend Steve Wozniak worked together in Jobs’ parents’ garage building computers in their spare time in the 1970s.

Jobs worked at Atari, while Wozniak worked at Hewlett Packard. Their passion project resulted in the creation of the Apple I in 1976.

Today, Apple is worth over $2 trillion.


As depicted in the 2010 film “The Social Network,” Harvard freshman Mark Zuckerberg created Facemash, which allowed students to judge other students based on their attractiveness.

Although the site was taken down within two days, it inspired Zuckerberg and his friends to create a social networking site called The Facebook in 2004.

Students could log into the site using their Harvard email address, and eventually it spread to colleges all over the United States.

Today, Facebook is considered one of the largest social media platforms with over 2 billion users worldwide.


Another social media platform, Twitter started when founder Jack Dorsey worked as a programmer for podcast company Odeo in 2005.

Dorsey continued to work on twittr as a side project at Odeo until it was officially launched in July 2006 and renamed to the more familiar name Twitter. Photo: AP

A year later, the company faltered after Apple allowed podcasts on iTunes. In response, Odeo CEO Evan Williams organized a hackathon, in which Dorsey created twittr – a site where people could update AIM-like statuses in real time.

Dorsey continued to work on twittr as a side project at Odeo until it was officially launched in July 2006 and renamed to the more familiar name Twitter.

Twitter now has over 152 million daily active users and is worth around $40 billion.


Social media hustles were clearly the way to go in mid to late naughties.

When he wasn’t at his day job, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom spent his evenings and weekends learning to code.

He eventually built Burbn, which was a mobile check-in app, similar to FourSquare but more image-based.

Systrom quit his day job and eventually raised $500,000, which led him to hire co-founder Mike Krieger. In 2010, the duo officially launched Instagram and had 100,000 users in the first week.

In 2012, Facebook bought the company for $1 billion. Today, there are over a billion active Instagram users.


By now, nearly every employee and freelancer has used — or at least heard of — Slack.

After founders Stewart Butterfield, Eric Costello, Cal Henderson and Sergei Murachov spent years on a failed side project, they turned to communications because it was their only viable idea.

When it launched in 2013, 8,000 businesses signed up for Slack on day one. Slack now has over 6 million daily active users.

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