Side Hustle Spotlight: How This Side Hustle Became a Thriving B2B Marketplace


One of the best ways to become an entrepreneur is to start a side hustle. Earning extra money while keeping your day job is good for your bank account, and starting as a side hustle can give you time to test the concept for a new small business, without taking on too much financial risk.

One entrepreneur who used this method to build a successful business is Gianluca Ferruggia. He is the general manager of DesignRush, a B2B marketplace for companies to hire verified digital agencies to help with marketing, design, AI, and other projects. Ferruggia got inspired to create DesignRush based on the experience he gained from his day job.

Let’s look at a few lessons learned from Ferruggia as he built DesignRush, starting from a side hustle into a global company with over 100 employees.

Starting a side hustle by building upon professional expertise

Ferruggia has extensive professional experience in digital marketing and consulting, such as SEO (search engine optimization) and other solutions like digital strategy and project management. As part of his day job, he realized there was a gap in the market: It was too hard for companies to find the right kind of help when they needed to hire for digital marketing projects.

For example, if you’re a small business owner who wants to hire a web designer, software developer, or AI expert, how do you know where to look? Sometimes business owners don’t have time for a lengthy search, don’t have people with the right skill sets in their professional networks, and need to hire fast.

This is how a lightbulb went on for Ferruggia: He realized there needed to be a better way for companies to connect with digital marketing agencies. By founding DesignRush, Ferruggia has helped companies find verified agencies and digital marketing teams that have the right skills to tackle their projects.

“DesignRush serves businesses of all sizes, helping them find high-quality digital agencies that can meet their requirements,” Ferruggia said. “Our mission is to bridge the gap between businesses and agencies and to ensure a smooth and successful collaboration.”

Starting a side hustle: Test your business idea before you scale up

By starting as a side hustle, Ferruggia was able to test the concept for his business and ensure there was strong market demand for what he wanted to sell, while still keeping his full-time job. This had a transformative effect on his personal finances and enabled him to build a successful small business.

“Guided by the need to help people find the perfect professional agencies for their needs and motivated by a gap I perceived in the digital landscape, I embarked on my side venture,” Ferruggia said. “Starting as a side hustle not only helped me meet my financial goals but also broadened my project management skills and understanding of the intricate dynamics of the digital landscape. The incremental success of my side hustle led me to scale it up, eventually giving life to DesignRush.”

How a side hustle can become a global business

The market for digital consulting, marketing, and design solutions is diverse and international, because people all over the planet can contribute their skills and talents. Ferruggia’s DesignRush company operates in Lisbon, Portugal; Rome, Italy; and has recently posted job openings in Bulgaria and Serbia.

“An intriguing learning experience from our early days at DesignRush was transitioning from a small team to an international company,” Ferruggia said. “It involved navigating diverse cultures, understanding global market demands, and building a resilient and skilled team that could meet these demands.”

Because Ferruggia’s company was trying to communicate — and create business hiring relationships — with people and teams all over the world, DesignRush needed to scale up its brand presence. The company needed to be reputable and top of mind for digital marketing agencies and corporate hiring teams in a wide range of countries and languages.

“One of the major challenges we faced at DesignRush was building a global brand presence,” Ferruggia said. “We tackled this through robust digital marketing strategies, SEO, and creating unique user experiences for our site visitors.

Small business advice from Ferruggia, DesignRush

We asked Ferruggia to share some software recommendations and advice for other side hustlers and entrepreneurs. Ferruggia’s favorite small business software includes:

“My advice to other side hustlers and small business owners would be to start with a clear understanding of what problem you’re solving and who you’re solving it for,” Ferruggia said. “And remember to stay flexible. It’s not a linear journey, but the learnings you gain along the way are invaluable. Perseverance and a clear vision are essential in overcoming obstacles and ensuring the continuous growth of a small business.”

Learn more at DesignRush.com or follow Gianluca Ferruggia on LinkedIn.

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