Central Telegraph - - READ - WORDS: DENISE RAWARD

More than 80 per cent of Aus­tralians are in­ter­ested; one in 10 is al­ready do­ing it and modern com­mu­ni­ca­tions have made it eas­ier than ever.

Of course we’re talk­ing about the “side hus­tle”, a small busi­ness ven­ture out­side a reg­u­lar job to bring in some ex­tra in­come or sim­ply in­dulge a hobby or pas­sion.

Sta­tis­tics show about 760,000 Aus­tralians are of­fi­cially earn­ing an in­come out­side their main em­ploy­ment with modern com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy mak­ing it eas­ier than ever to launch and run a side­line af­ter hours.

Spe­cial­ist mi­crobusi­ness ad­viser and au­thor of The One Minute Com­mute

Robert Ger­rish says not all side hus­tles nec­es­sar­ily set out to be money-mak­ing ven­tures but he’s seen many trans­form into highly suc­cess­ful busi­nesses.

“The beauty of the side hus­tle is it lets peo­ple do some ex­per­i­ment­ing in the world of com­merce, whether they in­tend to or not,” he says.

“With rel­a­tively low risk, they can find out their strengths and their weak­nesses in busi­ness even if they’re just start­ing up a pas­sion pro­ject.”

In­deed it’s worth bear­ing in mind Ap­ple started as a side gig with founders Steve Jobs and Steve Woz­niak build­ing com­put­ers in the Jobs fam­ily garage in their spare time while each worked in tech in­dus­try jobs.

Life­guard Liv Hall, 24, has no such plans for world dom­i­na­tion. She launched her busi­ness Salty Pet Sup­ply as a way of ex­press­ing her creative side.

“I love my job but I wanted to do some­thing where I could be creative,” she says. “I looked at the bikini mar­ket but that was so clut­tered.

“So I thought ‘What do I love more than biki­nis?’ and that was my dogs.”

Liv says the idea of dog­gie beach ac­ces­sories came to her from watch­ing the sheer num­bers of dogs and their own­ers strolling on the beach ev­ery day.

“I de­cided to come up with my own prod­ucts when I couldn’t find any­thing that I per­son­ally liked for my own dogs,” she says.

Liv’s dogs, Kona the cho­co­late labrador and Pene­lope the french bull­dog, were the per­fect prod­uct testers for her range of col­lars, har­nesses, leads and a lifevest.

The two are Liv’s faith­ful com­pan­ions on her stand-up pad­dle­board. In fact, Liv and Kona are the reign­ing Surf­ing Queens­land PUPs on SUPs 500m short course cham­pi­ons af­ter tak­ing out the ti­tle in Oc­to­ber.

“I started stand-up pad­dle board­ing when I was train­ing for the Maui Jim Shootout event in Hawaii,” Liv says. “One of the dis­ci­plines in the event was the SUP and I thought it would be good to in­volve the dogs in a bit of ac­tiv­ity with me at week­ends.

“They loved it, although some­times they’d get dis­tracted and they might jump off into the wa­ter.”

En­ter the dog­gie life­jacket. Liv’s dis­tinc­tive de­sign fea­tures a nov­elty fin, just for a bit of fun.

“I wanted my stuff to be bright and beachy, to rep­re­sent where we are from,” she says. “I wanted ev­ery­thing to be quick dry­ing for dogs go­ing in and out of the wa­ter and strong, able to stand up to salt wa­ter and the beach.”

Liv spent 18 months do­ing her home­work, de­sign­ing and re­search­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers, test­ing the mar­ket through her net­work be­fore launch­ing her on­line shop three months ago.

“The part I like is get­ting creative,” Liv says. “It works in well with life­guard­ing and my life­style. For me, it re­ally is just some­thing on the side.”

Univer­sity lec­turer Su­san Sul­li­van says her side­line is also her ther­apy. Su­san taught her­self to make kokedamas – Ja­pa­nese-in­spired or­na­men­tal plants grow­ing in balls of soil and moss – af­ter see­ing one at a gar­den cen­tre that she thought was “ob­scenely ex­pen­sive”.

The solo mum of four went on­line to see if she could learn to make one for her­self and that was the start of an al­most ac­ci­den­tal busi­ness.

“I’m not arty and crafty and not a green thumb so it was trial and er­ror but I found it so ther­a­peu­tic,” she says. “I hadn’t had a hobby for so many years. Who’s got time for a hobby when you’re work­ing and run­ning around four kids?

“I just made them for my­self and when peo­ple vis­ited and ad­mired them, I’d give them one and make a re­place­ment.”

In the lead–up to last Christ­mas she


de­cided to book a stall at the lo­cal week­end mar­kets to test whether there was much in­ter­est in them – or whether her fam­ily and friends were just hu­mour­ing her.

“They were very well re­ceived so I de­cided to set up a Face­book page and a web­site for them and it’s re­ally gone from there.”

Kokedamas are hardy cre­ations, with the plants grow­ing in a mix of soil and peat moss wrapped in sphag­num. Su­san now pack­ages and couri­ers them to buy­ers in four Aus­tralian states (North­ern Ter­ri­tory, Tas­ma­nia and West­ern Aus­tralia have quar­an­tine re­stric­tions).

“I just find it a re­ally re­lax­ing thing to do. Af­ter a hard day at work, there’s some­thing ther­a­peu­tic about beau­ti­ful plants and mak­ing mud­balls and ty­ing it all up with string.

“I do it af­ter work two to three times a week and it’s a real labour of love. My rule is if I don’t feel like it, I don’t do it.”

Su­san puts the money she earns from her side hus­tle in a sep­a­rate ac­count and uses it for sup­plies and any­thing left over is her travel fund for hol­i­days and week­ends away. Her first big trip was, where else, but Ja­pan.

“I don’t want it to be­come big­ger than Ben Hur,” she says. “That’s not why I do it. For me, it’s just lovely to be around beau­ti­ful things.”

But de­spite early in­ten­tions, mi­crobusi­ness ex­pert Robert Ger­rish says he’s seen many side hus­tles grow into de­mand­ing busi­nesses.

“That’s ac­tu­ally a good thing,” he says. “I’ve seen peo­ple use their side hus­tles to test their prod­ucts or con­cepts and step away from their jobs to build very suc­cess­ful busi­nesses, but some peo­ple can get to a point where they’re just strug­gling to do both.

“I ad­vise peo­ple to see what it feels like when they get 20 peo­ple want­ing to buy some­thing and they have to spend their week­ends in their garage wrap­ping things.

“One thing I al­ways ask is: Are you still en­joy­ing this?”

Robert says it’s also im­por­tant to re­mem­ber it doesn’t have to be a choice be­tween your job and your side­line.

“There are al­ways op­tions. See if you can work one less day a week in your job or whether it’s worth pay­ing some­one to give you a hand with the rou­tine stuff in your busy times.”

Robert urges prospec­tive side hus­tlers not to be put off by the fig­ures that get trot­ted out about small busi­ness fail­ure rates.

“Those fig­ures are taken on busi­ness reg­is­tra­tions,” he says. “There are lots of peo­ple who reg­is­ter a busi­ness and sim­ply lose in­ter­est in it and they might go on to reg­is­ter an­other busi­ness name.

“It makes the so-called ‘fail­ure rate’ look much worse than it re­ally is. My best ad­vice is to just go ahead. It’s such easy en­try these days and if you can do it around what you can af­ford, it’s a low-risk way to learn some new things and hope­fully have a bit of fun.”


ABOVE: Univer­sity lec­turer Su­san Sul­li­van taught her­self to make kokedamas, Ja­pa­nese-in­spired or­na­men­tal plants.RIGHT: Liv Hall and her dog Kona at Cur­rumbin Creek.

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