'Shark Tank' investor Barbara Corcoran: 'Not every side hustle is a business' — how to ensure yours can make money

If you want to turn your side hustle into a business, make sure you've tested the market, says Barbara Corcoran. Here are her tips to take yours to the next level.

John Fleenor | ABC via Getty Images

If you're one of the millions of people considering their next career moves during the coronavirus pandemic or simply trying to make more money, you may be thinking about how to take your side hustle to the next level. But look before you leap, says Barbara Corcoran of "Shark Tank," because "not every side hustle is a business."

"I would say the great majority of what people start as a side hustle and business are not businesses, they're hobbies," Corcoran tells Grow. The key difference: Many hobbies aren't particularly lucrative. 

Your side hustle has "got to be able to make money," she says. "Money is the name of the game in a business."

Here are three pieces of advice from Corcoran about how to gauge if your side hustle could be a successful business, and how to take it to the next level.

You're excited about and dedicated to the idea

"My most successful entrepreneurs started as a side hustle," says Corcoran, "and their interest was born out of a passion for something."

Corcoran gives the example of Grace & Lace, a company she invested in on "Shark Tank," which started when founder Melissa Hinnant sewed a baby blanket while pregnant and on bed rest. That developed into a business selling leg warmers online, and "that turned into a [multimillion-dollar] business five years later," says Corcoran. "So 'born out of passion' is most important."

Barbara Corcoran: How your hobby can become a side hustle

Video by Stephen Parkhurst 

You've tested the market

"Test your passion," says Corcoran. "Is there a market for it?"

In the case of Grace & Lace, for example, the first pair of leg warmers Hinnant made were for herself. Everywhere she went, people would ask about them. When Hinnant finally put them up for sale online, she found that, according to her website, "in a matter of days I was overwhelmed with orders I could not possibly fulfill on my own." In other words, there was real demand for her product.

Corcoran says, "What you have to ask is, 'Will people buy it, and what will they pay and can I make a buck on it?'"

What you have to ask is, 'Will people buy it, and what will they pay and can I make a buck on it?'
Barbara Corcoran
Investor, "Shark Tank"

You're open to surprises

Continue investing in your hobbies and interests: You never know when one might turn into a business opportunity. Corcoran tells the story of a few entrepreneurs she recently met who had built a business off a vehicle upgrade they made for camping.

"They wanted a truck that had a bed [for sleeping] in the back," she says. "They decided when they weren't camping around Phoenix, they would rent them out. What do you think happened? It exploded. Everybody wanted the truck."

"Happens all of the time," she says. "You say, 'Whoa, I didn't know everybody else likes what I like.' But when that happens, it's a great place to start a business."

More from Grow: