Founder of multibillion-dollar company Chewy: This is the side hustle I’d start now to make extra money – CNBC

In 2011 at age 25, Ryan Cohen co-founded Chewy.com. In 2017, Cohen and his co-founder sold Chewy to PetSmart for $3.35 billion. The company later went public and now has a market cap of more than $23 billion

But if Cohen needed extra cash today, he would go back to his roots to create a side hustle.

“I would go door-to-door searching for local companies that have no web presence [and] I would offer to build them websites,” he tells CNBC Make It.

“I started building websites when I was 13,” Cohen says. “My first client was my father, who ran a glassware importing business. I also built websites for other local companies,” he says. “That was how I began to understand business and the importance of delivering the best customer experience.”

By the time Cohen was 15, he was making thousands of dollars a month off affiliate-link websites he built himself.

Now, amid the pandemic, online shopping has surged — 40% of consumers say they have “increased or significantly increased” their online purchasing, “rising to 48% for households with children and millennial households,” consulting company Kantar recently reported.

It provides the perfect opportunity to make money.

“In the Covid-19 era, consumers are online more than ever but many small businesses lack the technological chops to get up and running,” Cohen says. “Some [small business owners] think it’s expensive or difficult to run their business from the cloud. It’s actually never been cheaper and easier.”

“Getting companies online and America back to work has never been more important, and with average computer proficiency you can learn online and improve your skills,” Cohen says.

And this type of work is in high demand, experts from freelancer platforms Fiverr and Upwork previously told CNBC Make It. You can earn anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands building a website.

But Cohen also has some other advice when it comes to boosting finances, especially during trying times. As his late father taught him, “just as important as making extra money with a side business is saving. My father showed me how to invest and only spend what is left after saving.”

Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect that Chewy was sold to PetSmart in 2017.

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