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How to use a side hustle to pay off debt

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Tips for using a side hustle to pay off student debt

After Kristen Heaton graduated from Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, in 2006, she knew she wanted to start her own business. She had $70,000 in student debt and needed $700 to buy her first round of inventory, but she didn't let that stop her. In 2013, she launched a brand on Amazon called Crave Naturals.

"I didn't even have $700 to my name, so I actually had to ask my best friend's husband for that money," Heaton said. "And because he believed in me, he was happy to help.

"So one tip that I would offer is don't be afraid to ask for help, especially when you have people in your life that you know believe in you," she added.

Almost a decade later, she's sold more than a million of her brand's signature Glide Thru Detangling Brushes. The product has more than 60,500 reviews on Amazon, and Heaton has collected total revenue of close to $15 million in that time. As the money started coming in from sales, she knew she wanted to use it to pay off her student loans.

"When I started the business, all I kept thinking was this is going to be the perfect side hustle," Heaton said. "And anything I make from here, I'm just going to throw towards my student debt and just the bills I had."

Within two years, she was able to pay off that $70,000 in student debt. 

"I focused more on growing the business and getting to a level where we constantly had inventory, we weren't doing stock outs," Heaton said. "And then once we got to that point and we were profitable, I started to pay debts off."

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Passion was important for getting Heaton through the early days, as she juggled her full-time job and running a business on the side.

"When it was my lunch, I was making phone calls to suppliers," she said. "I was constantly chatting with them and checking my email when it was after hours.

"I never really felt like it was something that I didn't want to be doing," Heaton added. "So finding something that you actually really love and are passionate about, I think that's going to help you have fun with it along the way."

The success of Crave Naturals took her to a crossroads that's familiar to those who have followed her entrepreneurial path: whether to leave her full-time job and accept that her side hustle was now her main event.

"I definitely chose the road to continue to grow the brand because I also saw the opportunity of growth that the brand was on," Heaton said. "But not only that — it truly made me happy."

In July 2021, Heaton sold Crave Naturals to Amazon aggregator Perch in a seven-figure deal. Now, she wants to pay it forward so her own children won't have to worry about student debt.

"We can fund their creative ideas and any business that they're interested in launching down the road," she said. "And I think it's important that you do what's making you happy and follow that passion."

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