Sandisiwe Mbhele
Lifestyle Journalist
9 minute read
18 Jan 2021
9:00 am

‘Honestly I need to make ends meet’- how South Africans are making money through their side hustles

Sandisiwe Mbhele

Job losses, cash strapped and seeking employment, South Africans show resilience in the face of a pandemic.

Picture: iStock

The pandemic brought on much uncertainty, job losses, and desperation with many people struggling to make ends meet.

Usually, people look for alternatives to substitute the financial loss and look for brighter options to make extra cash. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed all of this.

These five side hustlers have made the most of their losses and unforeseen challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic. An entrepreneurial journey’s that were in the works but was pushed by the coronavirus, these jobs need entrepreneurs to stand out of the pack.

Artisanal candles

Always having a passion for the entrepreneurial space and having business in the past to, Zimbini Tokwe -Mpakati a marketing agent opened up another avenue of her business in 2020, D’Light Candles and Diffusers to make extra cash during the uncertainty.

She said: “Honestly I need to make ends meet, without that extra R1,000 could put you in a nasty situation, I couldn’t be comfortable I had to make it work somehow and I had more time to invest in my business because my full time wasn’t taking most of my time.”

D’Light candles and diffusers. Picture: Instagram

D’Light pronounced as delight is what the brand is about, something that is pleasurable. “You want something that would delight you, that would please the customer as well and candles tend to do that.”

Deciding what business idea she wanted to tackle, she says she eliminated what most people were currently doing and found that something she enjoyed and loved was making scented candles and diffusers.

Offering a variety of options for the consumers with different shapes, sizes and scents, Zimbini says that D’Light candles are elegant, affordable and of high quality. Just like any new business, there were a few bumps on the road, she explains that finding the right supplier is everything.

D’Light diffusers new range. Picture: Instagram

“Due to Covid-19, the supplier ran out of stock and that impacted shipment. It was a bit of a challenge, disheartening, I needed to look for a new supplier, developed a range and start from scratch. However, I found a new supplier and things are slowly picking up again.”

Financing D’Light has largely happened through using her money from her fulltime salary but she is happy to report that the business is now breaking even. Zimbini concluded that she has always championed making it work by all means possibly.

“I honestly never been a person who wants one stream of income and I have never believed in having one stream of income. This is something I want to develop and grow, from candles, diffusers to home décor.”

Gourmet snacks

The mass job cuts have affected many people across locally and around the world. A need to create a different source of income offering products that won’t people won’t regularly find in a supermarket are becoming widely popular.

Faiyazi Brey is one of the many people affected by the pandemic and lost her job.

“When we first went into lockdown I lost my job in April 2020. The side business was started because of this and so Gourmet Brittle began. For me, it was to get myself out of a rut I was in for eight months when I lost my job.”

Just by its name the brittle, it is a hard candy made by making a golden brown sugar syrup adding with peanuts and allow to harden, it’s quite a popular snack. But Gourmet Brittle is a healthier version, it’s homemade with different variants such as macadamia nuts, pistachio nuts, dried fruits and even other special variants like salted caramel.

Faiyazi noticed a trend, she said: “Healthier foods are trending and I thought maybe I should incorporate some healthier ingredients to my brittle.”

Coming in easy packages, they are perfect for any time snacks, great for children, can be stored anywhere and very are accessible too.

Snacks that offer healthier options are becoming widely popular and Gourmet Brittle offers these. Picture: Supplied

Faiyazi envisions Gourmet Brittles in stores, corporate and in hospitality as well. She has luckily, hadn’t have much of a difficult process.

“I created my Instagram page and I was surprised that an interested business contacted me which sells wholesale products. They asked if I was interested in getting my stuff from them, so it hasn’t been difficult. If your offering is somewhat unique, its not difficult to find people who want to work with you.”

Gourmet Brittle – Dried fruit option. Picture: Supplied

The future is bright she concludes: “Ninty per cent of people don’t want to work for a boss, we want to be the boss. So yes I would like this to be my full time. Covid has forced people to do more than one job. I just started a new job in a media agency, it is exhausting but balancing both well.”


As more and more consumers ask for customised cakes, sweet treats and many smaller functions at home due to lockdown restrictions.  Home delicious bakes have become the answer, popping into a bakery currently may not be the first option but home bakes can challenge any professional bakery shop.

Pearly Cakes by Pearl Mahachi started in 2016 after being completely unhappy with the result of her father’s birthday cake order.

“The experience wasn’t great; they charged me an arm and a leg, they didn’t follow the instructions I gave for how I wanted the cake to look like. I complained and they tried to fix it but the cake looked like a hot mess in the end. If you can’t get things right might as well do it yourself.”

As a self-taught baker, she says Pearly Cakes also wasn’t a good year for her personally. Food becomes a comfort, found that baking was therapeutic and made her feel a bit better. Slowly picking up momentum and growing by word of mouth by 2018 to 2019 Pearl’s business had some loyal customers, making delicious bakes.

Pearly Cakes stunning birthday cake for a client. Picture: Supplied

But there some pauses over the years admitting that self-doubt has come to play but 2020 was a different kind of pause.

“2020 is was tough, the hard lockdowns in Level 5 and 4 where baking business was not considered essentials. People wanted stuff but it wasn’t accessible, I wasn’t able to make cakes but that time allowed me to experiment and create for my family.”

Pearl says baking was a way for her to make some sort of money, to keep her going as she was still doing some part-time jobs and trying to find a full-time job. Now juggling a full-time job as a sourcing consult, she says it has been difficult.

Pearly Cakes OTT cupcakes. Picture: Supplied

She does, however, want 2021 to be the year where she continues to follow something she loves and is passionate about.

“I do need to strike a balance and set boundaries. Pearly Cakes will continue to become one of my side hustles, it’s not the only thing I want to focus on in the near future but making cakes and sweet treats for people will continue.”

Handcrafted jewels

Local accessories and merchandise have boomed over the years, with South Africans consumers asking for more proudly locally made fashionwear and accessories.

Gugulethu Tshabalala journey for her customised stunning earrings GT Meadow sprang up after she was retrenched as a personal assistant last year.

“After I was retrenched I was in a panic, I had a baby, I had bills to pay that feeling was not nice. I had a lot of time to do soul searching what is the next part for me? What is it I want to do?”

During that tough period, she was currently studying digital marketing, helping her sister out with her podcast and her social media. She was able to explore her creative side and her love for fashion, the name GT is from the initials of her first and last name and Meadow is from Meadowlands, Soweto where she was born.

GT Meadow earrings. Picture: Supplied

Describing her earrings as modern African, rich in colour, stylish, funky, not typical cliché African designs but still inspired by our bright and colourful nation.

She also struggled with the lack of stock due to companies shutting down.

GT Meadow earrings. Picture: Supplied

“I am African I am celebrating Africa, everything I create is all me. It is a young company I am just trying to navigate by making the best quality products, everything is still out of pocket.”

GT Meadow is a buzzing business, Gugu wants to get the word out there and grow her range to feature necklaces and rings in the near future.

Local apparel

Give us more customised branded printed merchandise and wear is Kgomotso Makhubo, a graphic designer who created Mercury Wear. It has been a passion project for years but he finally released after it took a lot of mental will and letting go of his self-doubts.

“I needed some time, I needed perfection that was the problem, the idea of designs for Mercury Wear was stuck in my head. I kept designing new stuff, playing with the logo, changing things. I felt like I was losing my mind so when Covid-19 came, I knew I had to take it further and get it out there.”

Mercury merchandise. Picture: Supplied

He says this made him push himself, help reshape and rethink how people saw him, KG with a certain edge.

The feedback has lifted KG’s spirits: “People would say I have never worn something like this, ask themselves why they only founding out about it now.” He is proud of the turnaround time when people place their orders either for their t-shirts, bucket hats and caps.

Mercury Wear. Picture: Supplied

With concerns of budgeting and marketing, a space that has largely become more saturated, new apparel takes time sometimes to gain notoriety.

“Any competitor could say what differentiates them is quality, you won’t find a logo similar than mine, its something you cant copy even if you try to copy it, it won’t look the same. It’s all in the details.”

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