When a side hustle is more than just a side hustle

JustPark's Mike Miner on the path from idea to product and side hustle and why sometimes failing is important.

An out-of-work project can become all-consuming. But under the right circumstances, it can be incredibly rewarding and an education in itself, as well as a source of income. Here, Mike Miner (Head of Customer Support) tells us about his side hustle GoLocate, an out-of-the-box GPS tracker that offers real-time tracking of any vehicle with no upfront hardware cost (perfect for SMEs). From how he and his business partner came up with the idea to how it has developed while he’s been working at JustPark, read about Mike’s journey in his own words.

If you have a good idea, get there before somebody else does!

About three years ago me and my mate were somewhere in Europe; it was the classic, two drunk guys asking, “What do we do?” and saying “Let’s build an app!” We thought we would make an app which ranked the best bars in an area because we couldn’t find one, this was a great idea, we thought. We built the app and then two days before we launched it, Diageo came out with an app that did exactly the same thing! So not to be discouraged, we then thought, “What else can we do?” At the time Bitcoin was a big thing and blockchain – and we came to the thought, “That’s easy money” (spoiler alert: it wasn’t easy money).

Listen to those in the know

From this, we built a GPS-tracking torch which used blockchain to verify whether the location was correct or not. This seemed a great idea! Because it uses GPS, I managed to speak with the UK Space Agency about it (I’m part of their entrepreneur programme) and they were very clear saying, “Great, no-one’s going to buy this; you’ll get 500 units a year and that’s not even minimum order quantities in China.” So we went through their process and they explained, “It’s great technology, just take the blockchain out and do something viable with it.” So I mulled it over for a year as I was going through university, and luckily, university started mentoring me on how to get the best product. We took that initial tracking product, put it inside an SaaS-based product so it’s a simple subscription and the hardware’s all free. Over the last couple of months it’s been even more evident that we need to put more effort into offsetting our carbon footprints. We’re still in discussion with three or four organisations on that front. Whoever we partner with, we’ll give them a grant each month to plant x number of trees which will allow us to offset the carbon emissions of every user on our platform.

Failing is par for the course

You learn so much more through failing multiple times, every time you come back and you think, “Why didn’t I think of this before?” or “Why didn’t I get to here before?”. I’m really happy that I failed in places because it made my mindset and outlook better.

Add to your skill-set

I’m not part of the development team at work, I run the Customer Support operation so I had to develop my own skills. I wasn’t a developer until about three years ago; I learnt how to make apps and then I’ve had to teach myself to code as well. Same thing with making the circuit boards: but that’s not easy to learn so I’ve had to spend nights on how that all works!

Learn from mistakes

It helps to work at a place like JustPark. The amount I’ve learnt and again, it comes back to where things have not gone potentially that well, it gives you the realisation of, “Oh, I’m not going to make that mistake because I know about it already”! We’ve made some very simple mistakes which could have been quite impactful, and it’s given me so much guidance on what I should and shouldn’t do. The same when we talk to clients; we’ve had to work out deals and structure. I didn’t know how to write contracts before, the amount of learnings just from the day-to-day of doing everything in the business, it wouldn’t have worked out the way it has without the stuff I’ve learnt from JustPark.

Find your tribe

I think (JustPark) is a place where if you come up with an idea, you don’t need to hide it away and pretend that you’re not doing anything else like at some other businesses. You can talk about it and shout about it and get input and feedback from so many people and they know it doesn’t take away from the work you’re doing every day at JustPark. I’ve had good chats with people across the business, about how I can improve if I’m facing issues. And lots of other people in the business have something going on so you get a nice network of people you can talk to about that.

Aim to give back

This software itself is not built specific to cars, so in the grand plan, we hope for more charitable endeavours in the future. There was an NGO interested in it to track rhinos and track migration patterns. And first responders: a significant issue in the USA is the fire fighters during the wildfires are normally convicts so there’s a tendency to see these people as expendable because they’re convicts. It’s something we want to give people the ability to track, so if something goes wrong – the government sees it as keeping tabs – but friends and family who’ve got somebody out there firefighting, they know they’re going to come back alive. Once we’ve got some cash flow going it’s going to be very much to help out charities rather than us.

Create a unique offer

The number of people I’ve spoken to who were previously in the industry who just said I’m suicidal trying to go into it! It’s an industry very much dominated by big players but none of them provide the hardware upfront at no cost, you have to pay for that; and none of them do the carbon offsetting. So to be able to provide it at subscription cost – any person can pay me £17-£20 and there’ll be a device with them tomorrow – is a great value proposition for us. With a lot of other businesses, you have to go through minimum contract periods. Doing market research, a lot of SMEs don’t want to commit to 6-12 months because they don’t know if they’re business is still going to be going then. We offer a product on a rolling monthly basis with no lengthy contracts alongside no upfront cost for the hardware, and then they can also share their eco credentials as a business by being carbon neutral.

My top tip for succeeding?

Don’t give up and use your network, people are more willing to help than you ever think.

Not quite ready to launch a new product or learn how to code? You can supplement your income easily by renting out your driveway or garage through JustPark. It takes mere minutes to set up your listing and from there you can withdraw your earnings as often as you like. Our space owners earn between £500 and £3,000 a year and the first £1,000 is tax free!

This story is part of a series about side hustles and passive income. Interested to read more? Find out how Frani found a way to share her expertise with a broader audience and how Jeyda spotted a gap in the bike repair market (while taking photos of doors!). Or, if you’re thinking about a side hustle of your own, read our top ideas for boosting your income.

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