L.A.-based writer, director, and performance artist M.B. Boucai loves putting on a good show. So it makes sense that their ideal side hustle — baking and selling gluten-free bread at farmers markets — feels theatrical.
"Running a pop-up business is no different than directing or producing a play," says Boucai, who uses they/them pronouns. "Every week you set up your tent, you take it down, you have a game plan [but] you never know what the given circumstances are going to be. ... Even baking the bread, loading up the van, getting everything set up so everyone can go to the market — it's theater."
It's also lucrative: At the pop-up bakery Super Bloom, Boucai earns roughly $20 per hour, pulling in between $250 and $300 each week. Boucai makes another $300 to $500 each week from acting lessons, charging anywhere from $40 per hour for beginners up to $80 for professionals. That's a total of up to $3,200 per month in side hustle income, more than three times their $1,000 monthly rent.
"At this point, my side hustles are my income," says Boucai.
In December 2018, when Boucai moved to Los Angeles, they were looking for a flexible side gig that afforded them the time to focus on creative pursuits. Boucai, who holds a Ph.D. in performance studies from the University of California, Berkeley, had previously held a full-time job as a theater director at an arts nonprofit in Providence, Rhode Island, in addition to various writing and editing side hustles.
In Hollywood, they were hoping to break into TV writing — and meanwhile needed to earn enough money to get by in one of America's most expensive cities.
The self-described extrovert says that the "alone-in-my-room, writing/editing side hustles" never quite fit. But when Boucai connected with the owners of a gluten-free bakery at a series of backyard barbecues though mutual friends, they tapped into a completely different set of skills.
Video by David Fang
Boucai's father, a chef and restaurateur, had instilled in them a passion for cooking. They brought homemade hummus, baba ganoush, and other dips and mezes inspired by their Syrian heritage to the barbecues, impressing new friends.
Knowing Boucai had a knack in the kitchen, the owners of Super Bloom — known for its $14 gluten-free sourdough loaf and $16 paleo-friendly super seed loaf — asked them to help out in a pinch.
"They said, 'Can you make pita?' Of course I can make pita," says Boucai. "I made 200 gluten-free pita, special order."
This informal audition earned them a role as a baker and bread seller.
Boucai says it has taken about a year in Los Angeles to feel settled but now, between selling bread and giving acting lessons, the aspiring TV writer is rolling in dough: "I'm making as much as I was working full-time at a nonprofit."
Today, Boucai works about 20 hours per week, total, at his side hustles. They split time between baking in the Super Bloom kitchen, working two farmers markets per week in various locations including Pacific Palisades, Melrose Place, and Calabasas, and doing administrative work for the company.
Toggling between all three parts of the bread business provides Boucai with a sense of balance.
Video by Neha Dharkar
"Baking is pretty solitary, it's just two or three people in a kitchen just pounding it out. The farmers markets are crazy and very social, just people in your face all the time, in a good way. And then administrative work feels good because you're getting s--- done and crossing things off of your list. I think I've found that I'm happiest when I can do all three at once."
What's more, Boucai find the hustles energizing: "I'm an extrovert, so just being paid to be around people is always good for me."
"I'm a theater person at heart," they add. "I like putting on a good show, and ensuring that the show goes smoothly."
As Boucai focuses on working on a number of TV pilots and theater projects, including trying to form a theater company, the side hustles continue to pay off in unexpected ways. While working at a farmers market recently, Boucai informally networked with someone offering personal training in exchange for acting lessons — and through this trade, connected with a new pool of actors.
"Using the hustles to be out in the world connecting to people you wouldn't necessarily connect to is always a really good thing," says Boucai.
A side hustle that bolsters their career and aligns with their strengths has also helped Boucai build a sense of community and place in a new city.
"I'm finding a way to pay my rent, but also put my energy toward artistic projects, and trying to not 'make it,' but work in Hollywood on my own terms."
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