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  • Writer's pictureCalla Norman

Level Up: How to Upgrade Your Pandemic Side Hustle into a Small Business Success

Updated: Aug 10, 2021

A baker sprinkles flour on dough at Rolling Pepperoni, a Pittsburgh bakery and Honeycomb alum

It’s no secret that, despite the downturn in employment, many people affected by the coronavirus pandemic have been turning their hobbies (or picking up new ones) for comfort, and sometimes to even make a buck. Side hustles exploded in 2020, with new business applications growing to nearly 43%.

So, as the spring turns into summer, vaccines become more readily available to the population, and people begin to leave their homes again to go shopping and out to eat, how can you adapt your pandemic side hustle to these changes? How can you level up your side hustle so that it’s now your main source of income?

Adapt your business model for easing Covid-19 restrictions

Maybe you started your side hustle as a mail-order business, or no-contact delivery service in order to stay safe during the pandemic. While pandemic or no, these are both great and efficient ways of running your business, have you considered how you might be able to grow when the specter of the pandemic isn’t upon us?

For example, if you started a handcrafted, small-batch ice cream delivery business over quarantine (because who didn’t need ice cream to get through 2020?), maybe your next step is to purchase an ice cream truck or rent out a new space. Adapting from the virtual realm to the physical can be as tricky as most businesses this year have found the opposite to be, and often this shift comes with quite a lot of capital costs.

You can also consider when and where your new business will be. As people come out of lockdown and large events start to come back, where do you think your customers will be more likely to congregate? For example, a great way for businesses just starting out to get in front of a lot of people is festivals.

Squash the Beef, one of our alumni businesses, got their start selling vegan comfort food at festivals in their area until coronavirus caused them to change their plans. They used their Honeycomb campaign to raise $30,000 to purchase a food trailer, which will allow them to get food to their customers more easily long after the lockdown is over.

Another thing to consider is whether you want to keep the delivery, mail, or virtual side of your business going at the same capacity while also working on a physical space or otherwise pivoting your business. Can you do it all yourself, or will you need to enlist help? More on that later.

Start planning your brick-and-mortar space

If you’re really looking to go big with your side hustle, maybe it’s time to look into getting a brick-and-mortar space. The unfortunate truth is that since the past year, vacancies are continuing to rise, and any drive down any Main Street can tell you that there are quite a few empty storefronts out there in our communities.

However, Forbes sees hope for some sectors of commercial real estate, especially retail. As people get out more, they’re going to need places to shop and eat, are they not?

Additionally, rent prices are dropping for retail spaces, meaning now might be a good time to get in there, especially if you can negotiate with the landlord.

There are many factors to consider when choosing a brick-and mortar-location. What demographic do you serve, and where do they live and work? Are there a lot of competitors in the area, or businesses that complement yours (i.e. a pool next to where you’re eyeing putting that ice cream shop)? How much are you going to have to renovate that space when you get it?

Now would also be a good time to consider adding adjustments to this brick-and-mortar space that could be useful in the event of another pandemic or another spike. Do you have outdoor seating? Is it nicely ventilated and can your seating area be spaced out? You can use this experience starting fresh to learn from the disadvantages that other businesses have faced throughout the pandemic.

One shining example of a business making the most out of this experience is Square Cafe in Pittsburgh. Square Cafe was an already established and successful brunch spot when another, much larger space opened up in May 2020.

Square Cafe was able to make the move, thanks to their $250,000 Honeycomb campaign, and now they’re in a location three times as big as their old one, with plenty of room to space people out as well as outdoor seating. This move was perfect timing and sets them up nicely for the future.

Rally the Troops and Start Hiring

If you’re about to be doing a whole lot more in growing your pandemic side hustle, chances are you’re going to need to hire a few people to lighten the load.

First, we’ll start with the obvious. If you’re going to open a new brick-and-mortar store or a food truck, or whatever else are in your dreams, you’re going to need to staff it. Now is the time to start thinking about what you want your future employees to be like.

Will they need a uniform? How will you train them to make and/or serve your product? What kind of wage will you pay them? How skilled do you need them to be?

Chances are, if you’ve been able to grow your pandemic side hustle into a business, you’re probably already pretty good at marketing stuff, especially in the social media realm (but, if you’re looking for some quick tips, we’ve got ‘em). However, are you going to be able to keep that consistent while also operating a new business?

On top of hiring any operational staff, you should consider hiring someone to delegate the business aspects that you can live without doing every day. This could be a marketing manager, an events coordinator, or even something as basic as a bookkeeper, whatever suits your business’ needs. Even if you’re not ready yet to hire like this, it’s still a good thing to keep in mind as your business grows.

Listen, we know this hustle is your baby, we know it might be difficult to give up control, but in the long run, you’ll be happier by not spreading yourself too thin, and your business will be healthier.

Look for funding for your small business

We already have plenty of resources available to help you find investors for your business, whether you’re looking to open a restaurant or even a brewery, but we also know it’s easier said than done to find funding.

Lots of banks who give out loans or Small Business Administrations won’t give small businesses the time of day if they’ve been open for less than a year, and that number dwindles even lower if you’re a business in the restaurant or food industry. So, what’s a hustler to do?

One option could be turning to crowdfunding! While you could go to a rewards-based platform like GoFundMe and Kickstarter to solicit funds from your network, you could also go to Honeycomb and give your community the opportunity to invest in your business while funding it, deepening your relationship with your customers in the process.

Honeycomb Credit’s unique crowd-investing platform not only allows small businesses to take out loans much needed for growth, refinancing, and more, but it strengthens your relationships with your customers in the process! Not only will those who invest in your business help you grow, but they’ll transform from regular customers to brand advocates, as now they have a stake in your success.

We’ve found that after a Honeycomb campaign, small businesses see a 33% increase in revenue thanks to not only this community connection but also because of the buzz a campaign such as this creates.

Honeycomb is no stranger to helping start-up small businesses… start up. Rolling Pepperoni, a social enterprise bakery specializing in Appalachian pepperoni rolls, started as a side hustle during owner Katt Schuler’s last year at Point Park University. Thanks to her Honeycomb campaign, which brought in $46,750 from 73 investors, Katt was able to open a bakery storefront!

Level up your side hustle with crowdfunded loans

With a crowdfunding campaign through Honeycomb, you can unlock capital to prepare for your small business’s next steps and expand your customer base at the same time.

Are you ready to turn your side hustle into your main gig? Sign up below, and check out how Honeycomb can help get you there at


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