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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Region’s gig economy leads to more “side hustle” jobs

Shipt personal shopper Desiree Harrison checks to see if she has selected the correct item from the shelves at Target, June 17, 2019. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

When Desiree Harrison needed to spend more time with her son while earning extra income, she began a side hustle as a shopper for Shipt, a same-day grocery delivery company.

Working for Shipt allows the Coeur d’Alene resident the freedom to pursue other interests, too, such as operating an art company and working as an executive director for the Spokane Renaissance Faire with her husband, Matthew.

While Harrison enjoyed her previous full-time job with the state of Idaho, a traditional 9-to-5 schedule just didn’t work for her lifestyle.

“I’m an artist. Trapping me in a square box office just doesn’t work, so I think (working for Shipt) has been really good for my family because I’m happy with what I’m doing,” she said. “So that makes them happy.”

Harrison typically works a few hours every day for Shipt, delivering items from Target, CVS, Safeway and Petco to customers. Shoppers working for Shipt – a subsidiary of Target – can make between $16 to $22 an hour.

Harrison said while some family members have questioned her side hustle because it’s not a 9-to-5 job, working for Shipt is more traditional than people may think.

“What did the milkman do? He brought milk to your door,” she said. “We’re going back to a service-based society that also builds relationships. If you think about it, everybody from your pizza delivery guy, to managers, to people who work in overnight stores – they work nontraditional jobs. We need people to work those jobs.”

Harrison is one of many Americans working a side hustle. Since the Great Recession, the gig economy – a labor market consisting of workers that don’t work for a traditional employer – has grown exponentially, in part, because of advances in technology.

People can now drive for Uber or Lyft, deliver groceries for Shipt or become a pet sitter through Seattle-based startup Rover.

Three in 10 Americans are working in the gig economy for reasons as varied as earning extra income for living expenses, personal fulfillment or flexibility to explore passions and hobbies, according to a survey by Bankrate.

Americans spend an average of 12 hours per week completing tasks related to their side hustle and earn an average of $1,122 per month, meaning there’s an opportunity to make more than $13,000 a year, according to the survey.

Millennials are more likely to have a side hustle than other age groups, and they claim it’s the source of at least half of their monthly earnings, the survey said.

Harrison, who’s been a shopper for Shipt for about a year, has no plans to quit.

“I love the customers we get to work with. It’s such a community feeling to be able to go out and meet people,” she said. “Even if I decided to take a part-time job at the school cafeteria, I can still pick up some hours. There’s no reason to not participate in it. They are just easy to work with, the pay is consistent and every Friday there’s money in the bank.”

Sometimes, a side hustle can evolve into a full-time business.

In 2017, Spokane resident Dillon Hueser launched the appropriately named Side Hustle Syrups, a line of drink mixers and simple syrups.

Spokane-based Dry Fly Distilling asked Hueser, who has a background in commercial brewing, to create a signature ginger beer for its tasting room.

After testing various recipes, Hueser’s ginger beer evolved into a syrup. Dry Fly encouraged Hueser to take the housemade syrup to the next level by creating a business, which grew to feature eight flavors of craft and simple syrups. Although the syrups were intended for use in cocktails, they gained popularity as flavoring for tea, coffee and in baked goods.

“Side Hustle Syrups evolved into being this desired thing among other local people,” Hueser said. “It kind of blew up and has just been growing.”

Hueser said it has been a challenge balancing his day job as a distiller at Dry Fly with his business.

“It’s important for me to have a work-life balance, and it has been pretty hard since I’ve started Side Hustle Syrups,” he said. “Last week, I had my first orders through URM go out and worked 80 to 90 hours a week between my two jobs. It’s definitely taxing, but also super rewarding.”

Hueser aims to eventually make Side Hustle Syrups a full-time job.

“I enjoy making beverages, spirits and beer, but I guess every day my side hustle picks up more and more momentum,” he said. “It’s really exciting that it could be my main hustle someday.”

For people wanting to start a business outside of their full-time job, the biggest step is just doing it, Hueser said.

“The big thing is finding people that will invest in you,” he said. “That has shaped my business more than anything else. But it all started with me taking a risk and learning.”

Jon Maroni, business development and education officer at Canopy Credit Union, a Spokane nonprofit, transformed a much-loved hobby – video games – into a lucrative side hustle.

Maroni buys and resells old video games and consoles that he finds at yard sales, thrift stores and Facebook Marketplace.

“I made about $300 a month without having to put in an exceptional amount of time,” he said. “I see my side hustle as taking a hobby and passion that I have and making money at it.”

Maroni’s wife, Krista, has a side hustle buying and reselling clothing, which generates about $600 a month. The couple’s side hustles – in addition to income from four rental properties they own on the East Coast – will allow them to retire early.

Maroni has talked to several Canopy Credit Union members with traditional full-time jobs who are looking to turn their hobbies into moneymaking ventures.

“When I’m talking with people, I just encourage them to think about a hobby or passion that people would benefit from, and you have something that could become a side hustle,” he said.