The side hustlers: how Covid-19 influenced a new breed of entrepreneur

Covid-19 has had a profound effect on us all, in the blink of an eye, life as we know it changed forever. 

Companies that we have grown to love have closed their doors permanently, and some don’t know when, or if, they’ll be able to open again. 

LIGHTS ON: Maria has started an up-cycling business in the coronavirus pandemic

This has led to thousands of people across the country losing their jobs, and many still uncertain about their futures.

People now have more free time than they know what to do with, as for most their lives, work has been their lives.

However, there is a group of people whose new found freedom has given them another purpose, and a fresh lease of life.

This group of people are called ‘The Side Hustlers’.

Instead of concentrating on the negatives the pandemic has brought, the side hustlers have utilised this time to start up businesses, or rekindle past passions that they just didn’t have the time to do before.

Maria Nouafasse, 30, a primary school teacher at Welbourne Primary School in north London, was depressed when schools closed, as she didn’t know what she would do with herself, as teaching was her life.

She said: “I was devastated when I was told that schools had to close, I put my heart and soul into those kids, from when I opened my eyes in the morning until I closed my eyes at night, they were my focus.”

COMPUTER LOVE: Rhian took up digital animation while on furlough
JOIN THE RIDE: A closer look at one of Rhian’s animations

One morning, she was watching a daytime television D.I.Y show which gave her an idea, she thought to herself, ‘hold on, I can do this’, and the idea of up-cycling old furniture was born.

Maria continued: “I would drive around and see old bits and pieces that nobody wanted, bring them back home and start working on them, this took my mind off not being at school, I put my passion into this instead.

“At first it was a hobby, then I put a few pieces on my social media and the response was amazing! I thought hold on, I could be onto something here, and the rest was history!”

Her Instagram profile (Maria.Creates) continues to amass new followers everyday, with people wanting her creative twist on their old bits and pieces they have laying around the house.

Social media has been pivotal in the surge of people seeking new ways to create other streams of  income.

People can now directly communicate and market with others without needing much capital, or the backing of any major companies.

And it’s a similar story for other side hustlers.

Another person hit hard by the sudden halt to his employment was personal fitness trainer, Rhian Thomas.

Initially, when the gyms were told to close, Rhian, 27, said he didn’t think too much of it, thinking that this would all blow over soon.

HIT THE LIKE BUTTON: Maria’s creations have been a hit on social media where she sells most of her goods

But when he was placed on furlough by his company, the reality of the situation finally sunk in.

He said: “I thought to myself, I can’t just sit here and wait, I’ve still got bills to pay!”

Rhian used to draw in his spare time, so he thought this would be a good time to do a digital animation course.

He seemed to have done it at the right time, as one of his friends – a musician, needed some art-work done for an upcoming project.

Seeing an opportunity he offered to do it free of charge. 

His friend loved it, and now he has others requesting him to do similar work for them.

He added: “I can’t believe my luck, I’m still pinching myself!”

But one person who’s happy that everyone is at home is handyman Ossie Bourne.

His business had hit the skids before the pandemic, but with everyone indoors and the summer beckoning, he started getting calls to fix up peoples’ gardens again.

He said: “Things weren’t going well for me before the pandemic, business was really slow and I was thinking to pack it all in to be honest.

“But then my niece took a picture of me doing her garden, and before you know it my phone wouldn’t stop ringing.”

He’s been doing regular work since March, and sometimes can’t keep up-to the demand.

Ossie added: “Coronavirus is the best thing that’s happened to me this year!”

You can also read about a Teddington baker who quit his job to set up a donut business here.

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