‘I’m gonna have to make my own money’: the rise of the side hustle

‘I’m gonna have to make my own money’: the rise of the side hustle

‘It is important to be mentally and financially stable, and one should not cost the other’: Adwoa Owusu-Darko, who opened her clothes store, Mini’s World, on Depop aged 18. Gen Z entrepreneurs are turning their backs on office 9-5s and promoting their personal passions into full-time jobs

In 2010, not long into my first job on a magazine now in the great magazine graveyard in the sky, a fellow junior and I were appraising the performance of a new intern. Fresh out of university, this person had arrived late and then suggested they conduct the celebrity interview for the next issue. “That’s the thing with these young ones coming through now,” my colleague said with a solemn shake of their head, “they just don’t want to put the graft in.”

Twelve years later and society is in a moment of transformation when it comes to work and our attitudes towards it. The Great Resignation – or at least the Great Thinking About Resignation – is upon us. The Covid pandemic smashed through many of the grand narratives we have passed down for generations about having a job: the need to be present in an office, the idea we are somehow indispensable to the wider machine we are operating in.

For older people already in charge, this meant scrambling to adjust the modern workplace to be more flexible and inclusive in the hope this would keep the young people in their organisations happy. But Generation Z already had other ideas. It’s not just that many of them entered the workplace in the era of Covid. It’s that they had already watched my generation – the pitiful Millennials – get sucked into a broken social contract, the one that promised if you found a good job and worked hard, you’d get ahead. They saw us stifled and infantilised by two recessions, mired in existential despair about the housing crisis and now vulnerable again as the cost of living crisis asserts its grip. I can wake up tomorrow and say: ‘You know what, I’m really not feeling great, I can take this day off and chill’ Gen Z stand up to their employers in a way no previous generation has, something usually dismissed as a spoiled sense of entitlement. But in record numbers, they are also mobilising to establish incomes that don’t rely on their elders. They’re drop shipping, Amazon reselling, flipping designer sneakers, spread betting, investing in crypto and NFTs. They’re inventing their own cosmetic lines for TikTok, or selling homemade teeth grills on Instagram. They want to be famous on social media not just because it feels good but because they can monetise it in shrewd ways.

Some people call it a new golden age of entrepreneurialism, others the rise of the side hustle. But at the core of Gen Z’s attitude to work is a desire as old as capitalism itself – to be financially independent, to opt out of old-fashioned ideas, like having a boss, altogether. All of which begs the question: is the problem that they have unrealistic expectations and don’t want to put the graft in? Or do they – gulp – know something we don’t?

In 2014, when Adwoa Owusu-Darko was 15 and working in a greetings card shop, she’d buy new outfits rather than waste her wages on alcohol. “I wanted to look cool on non-uniform days,” she says, “but it wasn’t very practical. I was buying things I’d wear once, or that were ill-fitting and not really me.”

Then, in 2016, a friend mentioned she’d sold a pair of dungarees on an app called Depop , a social e-commerce platform where people were offloading unwanted clothes. Inspired to clear some space, Adwoa got out a camera.

“I decided to model, but I was uncomfortable showing my face,” she says. The solution she came up with – taking shots with the camera held in front of her face – became her signature aesthetic, different from the crumpled flatlays or limp coat-hanger shots elsewhere on the app. Soon Adwoa was being featured on Depop’s hallowed Explore page and, at 18, her store, Mini’s World, was born.

Depop is a proudly young space, with 90% of its active users under 26. It taps into many of the values cherished by Gen Z: sustainability, authenticity and the chance to buy from influencers rather than faceless corporations. Adwoa was able to support herself through university without needing a conventional job. An appearance on Channel 4’s Supershoppers saw Mini’s World take off and now she has a […]

source ‘I’m gonna have to make my own money’: the rise of the side hustle

Leave a Reply