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Rediscovering the Side Hustle, one saucy clip at a time

04 May 2020

By Andrew Adie, Managing Partner

‘Joe from South Wales’ may not be someone that many of are familiar with, not that we’d admit to anyway.

But, according to @granttucker writing in this week’s Sunday Times, Joe is one of a small army of amateur quarantine adult entertainment ‘stars’ who are branching out during lockdown.

Joe’s story comes at an appropriate time, he details how he’s making money ‘on the side’ just as the Government launches its small business bounce back loans scheme [no sniggering].

While the Scheme is aimed at more established SMEs than Joe’s “start-up” it highlights the importance of small enterprise and its role in the economy as we move forward.

I live in rural Kent and the signs of enterprise in the lock-down are everywhere. People making and selling cakes from their kitchen tables, Friday-night meal kits being made and delivered by more culinary-minded residents, the vineyards doing a roaring trade in online deliveries and the local coffee shop is now advertising its vegetable and meat boxes from banners on A-road bridges.

As we become more accustomed to living in lock-down, and many are facing the hard reality of job loss or income reduction, the UK appears to be rediscovering its entrepreneurial spirit.

Even those with jobs are exploring the opportunity of the ‘side-hustle’, selling their skills, produce, time and creativity through online platforms and even Facebook, to boost their income.

Turning back to ‘Joe’, he made a very telling comment on the value of his personal brand. He claims part of the appeal of what he and others do is that “people love that we are normal people you would see in Tesco.”

Here lies the rub of the side hustle and the new SME.

In a world of lock-down where we are compelled to live and shop more local, our brand is far more tangible and easily elevated and destroyed than in usual times.

One disgruntled customer can poison the well, posting their angst on social media and starting a negative spiral of local comment that has a greater impact on a concentrated geographical client base. In a world where we’re confined to our homes our echo chamber for rational consideration and a wider, balancing viewpoint is far more limited. Paranoia and fear can be a ready companion and any start-up business needs to treat its customers and communications with as much care as an established brand.

That means that even a SME start-up needs to consider some of the broader environmental, social and governance issues that are usually the preserve of larger enterprises.

Questions around the environmental footprint of what you do, provenance and safety of products, end of use recycling and the way you deal with complaints and unsatisfied customers needs to be addressed up front and made into a virtue that summarises the values of your business.

SMEs also need to consider and showcase the purpose of what you are trying to do. ‘Earning a few quid’ isn’t an option. You need to showcase passion and a desire to bring a better service, joy and wellbeing to fragile and frazzled communities.

Whether ‘Joe from South Wales’ achieves that is something I fear I am unqualified to comment on but for wider business, even those made up of one person running a side hustle, building a trusted brand with a vision for ‘better’ is every bit as important as the income stream.