CNBC make it 2024-02-23 02:50:49

28-year-old has lived in an old NYC laundromat for 5 years, pays $1,900 in rent—take a look inside

When Sampson Dahl, 28, found a former laundromat in Maspeth, Queens on an online forum back in 2019, he had no idea how much the space would become his life.

Early last year, CNBC Make It met Dahl after his former laundromat-turned-apartment went viral on TikTok. At the time, he was paying $1,850 a month — his rent has since increased to $1,900.

At the start of 2023, Dahl was working in TV and film set design — which allowed him access to a lot of the furniture and décor you see throughout his apartment — but the Writers Guild of America strike put a pause on any new work and forced Dahl to rethink the unlikely home he had created.

“I’ve gotten to focus on the space a lot, so I’ve been throwing shows, events, and intimate gatherings almost weekly at this point,” Dahl tells CNBC Make It. “It’s been a great opportunity to kind of dive into the space more.”

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Dahl doesn’t make a lot of money from the events, but he says what he earns from the door charge is enough to help make his monthly rent payments and continue living alone.

Last year, Dahl told CNBC Make It that he only lives in the former laundromat because it’s what he can afford. Now, Dahl says he is looking more seriously into moving. “I don’t want to be there forever. In my best case scenario, I leave, and I don’t think about it for a while, and then come to visit in 10 years, and it’s something surprising to me,” he says.

While he has enjoyed living in an alternative space, Dahl thinks he might be ready for a more traditional apartment.

But he doesn’t intend to leave the old laundromat behind completely.

In an ideal world, Dahl says he would renovate the laundromat and have a core group of people continuing to operate it as an event space.

“My goal with this space is just to keep it existing, and I think that my friends have no ulterior mission to make a functioning business out of it,” Dahl says. “I’m not against utilizing it as a storefront but I think the neighbors appreciate having a space that adds a different mood. The block I live on informs me and a certain pace of life. Most of my neighbors are retirees and the laundromat is the same.”

When Dahl does move, he says he’ll miss his neighbors and hosting old and new friends in his home at all hours of the day. “I love them so much,” he says.

“I’d love to live across the street. I’ve been looking for years and always keep my eye on the block.”

Living in such an unconventional space has helped Dahl learn to enjoy his home for what it is now instead of trying to turn it into something bigger. “In a place that values commercial success and economic growth, it’s rare to be able to enjoy stasis in a place like this,” Dahl says.

“I think the greatest thing I’ve found living in the laundromat is providing a room where someone can exist without direct purpose.”

Want to land your dream job in 2024? Take CNBC’s new online course How to Ace Your Job Interview to learn what hiring managers are really looking for, body language techniques, what to say and not to say, and the best way to talk about pay.

How a 23-year-old started a side hustle that brings in $10,300/mo: ‘It doesn’t feel like work to me’

Sophie Riegel turned her boredom into a six-figure side hustle.

Riegel was a Duke University freshman in 2020, when Covid-19 turned her first year of college into a remote experience. She was “so bored” at home, and began searching her childhood bedroom for unused clothing and other items she might sell online to “make some extra money,” she says.

She found a few items, and netted roughly $200 selling them. “I probably sold, like, an item a week for the first couple months of me selling my own stuff,” says Riegel, 23.

Hooked, she combed through thrift stores around Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Within weeks, she was selling roughly $50 per day of thrifted clothing, mostly buying T-shirts for $1 apiece and selling them for up to $10.

Last year, Riegel graduated from Duke with a degree in psychology, and her side hustle brought in nearly $123,800 in sales — more than $10,300 per month — on online marketplaces like eBay, Mercari and Poshmark, according to documents reviewed by CNBC Make It.

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Riegel has pocketed more than $192,000 in total net profit since starting her venture, after accounting for platform fees and the cost of goods. The total figure is slightly higher, she says, due to in-person sales and other revenue for which she doesn’t have documentation.

Now, Riegel sells around 10 items per day, averaging between $400 and $500 in revenue daily. She spends up to 25 hours per week working on her side hustle, she says — in addition to her day job as a professional writer, speaker and mental health coach.

“I’ve been doing [my side hustle] for about three and a half years now, and I wouldn’t do anything else,” says Riegel. “I love it so much. It makes me so happy.”

‘It gives me so much freedom’

Riegel’s full-time career is the kind of job that can require time to develop and build a steady stream of clients. That makes her side hustle money particularly valuable.

’It just gives me so much freedom to do what I really want to do,” she says. “Not only financial freedom … I can have coaching calls at any time, do speaking gigs anytime, because I’m not bound by a 9-to-5 job.”

The payoff isn’t accidental: In her side hustle’s early days, Riegel conducted a lot of research. “I followed tons and tons and tons of other resellers [on YouTube],” she says. “I spent hours and hours learning brands, learning how to use all of the platforms. And in my first year, I had $70,000 or so in sales.”

I followed tons and tons and tons of other resellers [on YouTube]. I spent hours and hours learning brands, learning how to use all of the platforms.
Sophie Riegel

Riegel studied bestsellers across multiple marketplaces to learn which specific items and brands would likely sell quickly or fetch a high price — like Lululemon leggings or Hoka sneakers. Once-expensive items tend to have good resale value, no matter how cheap they are to thrift, she says: A jacket from J. Crew or Carhartt might cost her $10 to $20 in person, but fetch $50 to $150 online.

She learned her local thrift stores’ restocking schedules, too — so she could avoid repeatedly wading through the same items, and get early dibs on new ones. Once, she bought a vintage Chanel purse for $2 and sold it on eBay a few months later for for $1,000: “That was incredible,” she says.

‘I’m going to do it for as long as I can’

Riegel’s side hustle comprised roughly 70% of her income in 2023, she says. This year, she expects a more even 50-50 split as she adds more coaching clients and speaking opportunities.

The side hustle comes with challenges — like keeping track of the roughly 1,300 pieces of inventory she usually has in stock. Riegel spends much of her time researching clothing, photographing items, editing the photos, listing the items online and cataloging them so she can find them quickly in storage once they sell.

Eventually, she might hire employees to help with the aspects of reselling that can feel like a slog, she says — just not the actual shopping.

“Technically, the thrifting takes the most time,” Riegel says. “But it doesn’t feel like work to me.”

As her two careers tracks evolve, Riegel sees no reason to slow down or stop her side hustle. Thrifting makes her happy, and “you can’t put a price” on that, she says. She’s even growing that part of the business by posting her own instructional videos on YouTube and selling her services as a reselling coach.

“I’m going to do it for as long as I can. Both of these [careers] make me happy,” says Riegel. “They both allow me to be independent, and I don’t have to choose between one thing or another.”

Want to land your dream job in 2024? Take CNBC’s new online course How to Ace Your Job Interview to learn what hiring managers are really looking for, body language techniques, what to say and not to say, and the best way to talk about pay.

How an accidental college major pushed an ex-Disney star into running a space startup

Bridgit Mendler’s path from Disney Channel star to space startup CEO started with — quite literally — an accident.

The 31-year-old is the CEO and co-founder of Northwood Space, a company based in El Segundo, California that aims to mass-produce ground stations — otherwise known as the antennae that communicate with space satellites. It’s a far cry from her youth spent as a child actor and recording artist, known for roles in Disney Channel shows and films like “Good Luck Charlie” and “Lemonade Mouth.”

“While everybody else was making their sourdough starters [during the Covid-19 pandemic], we were building antennas out of random crap we could find at Home Depot … and receiving data from [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] satellites,” Mendler told CNBC on Monday while announcing her startup.

Mendler was still acting on screen as recently as 2019 — but her new career path began more than a decade ago, when she unintentionally marked a box on her University of Southern California college application.

“I’m studying anthropology,” Mendler told ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” in 2015. “But it was an accident … I was doing the application all on my own. I think I didn’t really understand how it worked. I put down like five different things that I would potentially want to be in as a major, and I got my acceptance letter, and it’s like, ‘You’re in anthropology.’”

The educational field resonated with her: She graduated from USC in 2016, and parlayed her anthropology degree into a master’s degree in humanity and technology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2018.

Earlier this year, she completed programs at the MIT Media Lab and Harvard Law School, obtaining a technology-focused PhD and a juris doctor degree. While at Harvard, she served as co-president of the Harvard Space Law Society, according to her LinkedIn profile.

“I have two engineer parents,” Mendler said at an Atlantic Live event in 2018. “My mom’s an architect and my dad designs car engines. So there was a lot of math-y science-y talk when I was a kid.” 

Mendler’s off-screen qualifications lend credence to Northwood, which she co-founded with her husband, CTO Griffin Cleverly, and head of software Shaurya Luthra — whom she referred to as her “two favorite ground nerds” in a LinkedIn post on Monday.

The startup is already on the radar of several venture capital investors, raking in $6.3 million in initial funding from firms like Founders Fund, Andreessen Horowitz, Also Capital and Humba Ventures.

Some of Northwood’s early employees have track records at Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Peter Thiel’s Palantir Technologies and aerospace technology company Northrop Grumman, Mendler noted in her LinkedIn post.

“At Northwood, we’re rethinking infrastructure for satellite backhaul from the ground up. We have our sights on building a data highway between earth and space,” she wrote, adding: “We have a lot of work ahead of us but that’s the fun part.

Want to land your dream job in 2024? Take CNBC’s new online course How to Ace Your Job Interview to learn what hiring managers are really looking for, body language techniques, what to say and not to say, and the best way to talk about pay.

23-year-old’s dorm room side hustle brings in $124,000 a year: ‘You can start with as little as $5’

This story is part of CNBC Make It’s Six-Figure Side Hustle series, where people with lucrative side hustles break down the routines and habits they’ve used to make money on top of their full-time jobs. Got a story to tell? Let us know! Email us at

Technically, Sophie Riegel didn’t spend a penny starting her side hustle.

She began with items she already had, searching through her closet for old clothing to sell online. After making $200 off her own used clothes, she turned to some of her favorite places to shop: thrift stores.

“I’ve been a thrifter my entire life, because I don’t like spending money,” says Riegel, 23. “I’d much rather spend $5 than $100 on a pair of pants.”

Since April 2020, she’s turned that habit into a lucrative side hustle. Riegel brought in nearly $123,800 in revenue last year reselling items she bought from thrift stores on online marketplaces like eBay, Mercari and Poshmark, according to documents reviewed by CNBC Make It.

She’s made more than $192,000 in net profit over the past four years, because her costs are minimal: Riegel estimates she’s spent just over $50,000 on the thrifted clothing she’s sold. Other expenses include shipping costs and gas money for driving from thrift store to thrift store. Online marketplaces keep between 10% and 20% of her sales.

Much of her business’ growth came from her dorm room at Duke University, where she graduated last year with a degree in psychology. She’s pursuing a full-time career as a professional writer, speaker and life coach —  and expects her side hustle to comprise roughly 50% of her income this year, she says.

“I started buying things for $5 to $10, flipping them for $50 to $100,” says Riegel. “That seemed to work really well. I had maybe 200 or so items in my dorm room my sophomore year, and now I have 1,300 items [in a storage unit].”

Here, Riegel discusses the work she put in to turn her love of thrifting into a six-figure annual business, along with tips for anyone else to follow in her footsteps.

CNBC Make It: You’re already coaching clients to start their own thrifting side hustles. What are some of your best tips for people who want to replicate your success?

Riegel: The biggest thing is you’ve got to have fun with it. If you’re not enjoying it, don’t do it.

Start with what you know the most about. If you know a lot about clothing, start with that. It can be really easy to just buy a lot — that’s the fun part — but it doesn’t sell if you don’t list it. So even if your listing is imperfect, get it up, get it out there, because there’s a market for everything.

Keep learning. If you go in with a mindset of “I already know this stuff, I don’t need any resources,” it’s likely that you won’t do as well as if you went in with the mindset of “This is a great opportunity for me to learn more about myself, about brands, and all of that.”

I followed tons and tons and tons of other resellers on YouTube. I spent hours and hours learning brands, learning how to use all of the platforms. I’ve learned the strategies of each of the stores I go to, and figured out when they put out the new shoes when they do X, Y and Z.

The Goodwills in my area put a new color out every week. So, when I go to those stores, I only look for that color.

How much cash do you need to start a thrifting side hustle?

Factoring in shipping and all of that stuff — obviously, you need to pay for gas — $100 makes sense.

[In terms of the thrifting], you can start with as little as $5. You get one good thing for $5 and you’ve got more money already: $5 turns into $20, turns into $100.

If you start with your own stuff, you need $0.

What are the most important traits someone needs to succeed at this?

You’ve got to be consistent and persistent. Right now, I list 10 to 20 items a day. And because I list every day, things are selling constantly.

You’ve got to be organized. You have to be patient — I’m not very good at that, but I’m working on it.

The biggest thing is: You’ve got to be willing to ask for help when you need it. You don’t have to do this all alone. When I first started, my dad helped me with all of my shipping. He helped me move everything from different storage units. I didn’t have to do it alone because I asked for help.

Do you see yourself expanding your side hustle in the future? What would that look like?

I’m pretty happy with where I am. I do see, in the future, potentially having employees do all of the stuff that I know I don’t want to do — like the shipping, listing and photographing. That would be great. It is a lot of work for one person.

But right now, I wouldn’t change it because I love what I do.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Want to land your dream job in 2024? Take CNBC’s new online course How to Ace Your Job Interview to learn what hiring managers are really looking for, body language techniques, what to say and not to say, and the best way to talk about pay.

42-year-old spent $1,000 to launch her Amazon side hustle—now it brings in $33,000 a week

Jenny Woo came up with her seven-figure side hustle in a classroom.

She was working on her master’s degree in education at Harvard University, learning about emotional intelligence and child development. The former C-suite consultant and school director thought just about everyone could benefit from learning more about both.

She wasn’t sure how to make the topics easy or interesting to learn, until her professor passed out a deck of cards to play with in class. At that moment, she says, it clicked: She could make an EQ game.

Woo spent roughly $1,000 from her savings to launch her side hustle, Mind Brain Emotion, in 2018. The company, still a one-woman side hustle, makes 11 different EQ-focused card games meant to help train people of all ages on concepts like relationship skills, critical thinking and even job interviews.

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Mind Brain Emotion brought in more than $1.71 million in revenue on Amazon last year, according to documents reviewed by CNBC Make It. It averages roughly $32,900 in revenue per week, and Woo, 42, estimates 40% of that revenue is profit.

It’s relatively passive profit, too. Between Woo’s four income streams — the games, lecturing at the University of California, Irvine, running an online course on EQ and freelance business consulting — she works anywhere from three to 30 hours per week, she says.

Here’s how she built her biggest income stream, and how she balances her time:

Juggling careers, education and family

Most of Woo’s professional life has revolved around people. After college, she became a Deloitte consultant, training managers on how to communicate and lead efficiently. She worked as a personal trainer, got an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley, and helped train Cisco employees “in the pipeline to become C-suite executives.”

Those roles taught her something: People climbing the corporate ladder didn’t always have EQ skills like social awareness, self-awareness, self-management and relationship management. It held some major organizations back, she says.

Woo left Cisco to pursue a party decoration side hustle called PropMama. When all three of her children became preschool-aged, she got involved in their Montessori school in Southern California — researching child development and deciding to apply for the school’s administrative director role.

She got the job, and did it while running PropMama and freelance consulting for select clients. The change was exciting — she had a history of pivoting careers when jobs started to feel “cookie-cutter,” she says — but balancing her interests left her life and resume scattered.

“Juggling part-time jobs and side hustles aren’t easy,” says Woo. “It’s a lot of sheer grind and not knowing the payoff.”

A million-dollar idea

When budget cuts hit the school, Woo was laid off. Still interested in education, she applied to Harvard University’s Mind, Brain, and Education program, got accepted and moved her family to Boston.

She arrived on Harvard’s campus with one goal, she says: “Smuggle out wisdom and research” about EQ, and package it for people outside “the ivory tower” of higher education. For three months, Woo developed the game at the Harvard Innovation Labs, buying sample decks of cards and testing them in local classrooms.

Her first deck, called “52 Essential Conversations,” has two questions on every card: an icebreaker and a longer prompt designed to prompt deeper conversation. Players flip over the cards and take turns answering the questions.

On one card — the five of spades — the icebreaker asks you to describe who you are and how others describe you. The longer prompt, designed to promote social awareness, asks you to think of two other people you know, and consider how you’re alike and different.

A month before graduating from the Harvard program, Woo launched a Kickstarter campaign for the deck with a $1,500 goal. Thirty-one days later, it’d raised more than $10,000, and she launched her game on Amazon.

In 2019, Woo raised an additional $7,500 in a second Kickstarter campaign, and the business brought in six figures in revenue, she says.

A burgeoning family affair

After graduating from the Harvard program, Woo — never one to sit still — moved her family back to Southern California and started an education PhD program at the University of California, Irvine.

She graduated in 2022, and is now a lecturer at the college. She occasionally hires friends to help her handle Mind Brain Emotion’s administrative tasks, so she can keep her working hours minimal, she says.

She’s hesitant to hire anyone in a full-time role, she adds, partially because she wants her pre-teen and teenage children to take over the business one day. EQ is already part of their lives, says Woo: She helps them host videos on Mind Brain Emotion’s YouTube channel, teaching other kids emotional intelligence skills.

Her kids are mostly enthusiastic about it, she says — she motivates them by asking if they want to channel their “inner YouTubers.” Some of the videos only have double-digit views. One, titled “Teach Your Toddler How to Set the Table,” has more than 75,000.

To Woo, the videos and card games show that humans want to learn more about themselves and the world around them.

Emotional intelligence is one of “the essential things that never go out of style,” she says. “We all need [EQ skills] in order to be happy, fulfilled, purposeful and, honestly, decent, good human beings.”

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Jenny Woo attended Harvard University’s Mind, Brain, and Education program.

Want to land your dream job in 2024? Take CNBC’s new online course How to Ace Your Job Interview to learn what hiring managers are really looking for, body language techniques, what to say and not to say, and the best way to talk about pay.