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How a Side Hustle Led to a $1 Million+ Passive Income Stream


This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Chris Haroun, CEO and founder of Haroun Education Ventures. It has been edited and condensed for clarity.

After I graduated from business school at Columbia, I worked at Goldman Sachs for five years. Then, I switched to the hedge fund industry, and Citadel hired me and relocated my family to the San Francisco Bay Area. There, I eventually switched to the venture capital sector. And I found that my happiest day at work was always the first day. And then it went downhill, and I couldn’t understand why. I did fine at work, but I thought maybe I was depressed or something. But it was because I hadn’t found my passion.

During the years I worked at other companies, I found that during my annual review, it was always uncomfortable for my bosses because they would say something like, “You’re doing a great job. You’re a top performer. Everybody loves working with you. But can you spend a little bit less time mentoring other people on other teams?” And I always said, “It’s just who I am. I can’t change the DNA of who I am.” I love helping people. So I started teaching.

Related: 4 Passive Income Ideas to Try as a Side Hustle in 2024

In 2016, while I was still working in venture capital, I started teaching during the evenings in East Palo Alto. I felt alive helping those students. I loved it. Then I started to teach at a couple of Bay Area MBA universities. One Saturday, I taught a course that I called “MBA in a Day” through the LEMO Foundation, which serves under-resourced student-athletes. And the next day, I just threw up a camera at home and recorded myself for eight hours. Then I uploaded it to the online learning and teaching platform Udemy.

That course has sold close to 500,000 times, generating a passive income stream of seven figures in net profit after all expenses. And I continued to scale: Now, I have 72 other courses on Udemy and nearly two million students across the globe. And although this work can be relatively low-touch from a customer service perspective, the goal isn’t just to make money. It’s to help others. I spend a lot of time helping students, jumping on Zoom calls and answering questions.

The profits from what I do go toward building schools. If you go to Project Magu, you’ll see the first school that I built with one of my students in Rwanda. And with another one of my students, I’m building the second school now in Kenya, about a six-hour drive from Nairobi. It’s a school for girls.

Related: Anyone Can Start a Passive Income Side Hustle For Easy Money — But Only If You Know These 5 Essential Tips First.

It’s a great sense of purpose for me. When I was at the LEMO Foundation, the founder of that charity told me something that changed me. He said, “You can’t expect to realize your dreams in life unless you help others achieve theirs first.” So we’re all here, as Tony Robbins once told me, to serve others and to help other people. And so that’s what I did.

The pandemic was tragic, but it really pulled forward my vision of the future of education by at least a decade. And I think that in my lifetime, only 50 universities will make it. I think what’s going to happen, ultimately, is that most will deplete their endowments, and then there’ll be a Hail Mary pass to alumni to save the schools, and then people will think to themselves, Why bother going to university unless it’s a great brand like a Harvard or Oxford? The system is elitist to the extent that a lot of children get into top schools because their parents went there or they donated money. Another problem is that you pay $100,000 for 20 hours of class per week, and you graduate without any skills.

In my book 101 Crucial Lessons They Don’t Teach You in Business School, I outline the problem with MBA schools. They don’t teach you how to sell. They don’t teach you how to network to get a job. They don’t teach you how to manage your own money. They teach you how to manage other people’s money. They don’t teach you how to present. They don’t teach you how to start a company. Graduate and undergraduate business programs teach you theoretical concepts that were relevant maybe last century. So I think that the sector is ripe for disruption. I think Udemy is going to be the catalyst to kind of change the industry where more people are going to learn online.

Related: Access our best side hustle stories and make more money. Subscribe to Entrepreneur+ now.

What’s more, everybody has something to teach. For instance, there’s a woman named Teresa Greenway who’s a great teacher on Udemy — and she teaches how to bake bread. And it’s an amazing story: Years ago before she started teaching on Udemy, she was in an awful marriage with an abusive husband. It was terrible. And she got the courage to leave him and take her kids with her. So she was living off food stamps, and she thought to herself, What can I do to help other people? What am I passionate about? And she’s passionate about baking bread. So she put up a camera at home, and she started showing people how to make bread on the platform. Again, everybody has something to teach you.

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