Even though the gig economy has existed for years and years, it has only recently begun to grow rapidly. Several factors contribute to this surge in entrepreneurial spirit, but perhaps none as pressing as the COVID-19 pandemic. This is something that Romero student, Alyssa Da Silva, can relate to since she took advantage of COVID lockdowns to build her own online business.
What is the “Gig Economy?”
In simplest terms, the gig economy (also known as the ‘sharing economy’) is a job market that includes both part-time and freelance jobs. It is customary for these jobs to be flexible, temporary, in some way allow connection with others through a digital/online platform, and performed by independent workers. Such workers are often referred to as ‘gig workers’.
Gig workers can also be in a variety of areas – ranging from being an entertainer to working for companies such as Uber or Instacart. When compared to employees with full-time jobs, gig workers are able to perform broad tasks and work on a limited, project basis. Gig workers and the gig economy as a whole are often more refined and successful in cities with larger populations.
How has it changed throughout the pandemic?
It is important to note that there were other factors that helped popularize the gig economy prior to the pandemic’s existence. An example of this is the technology we are surrounded by and use in everyday life. This can include digital programs and new app-based platforms that allow us to directly contact and stay in touch with others from anywhere in the world. Once COVID-19 lockdowns were implemented, even more attention was paid to the gig economy and its workers on a global aspect. This is for many reasons.
The first reason for this is that gig work ended up becoming a necessity. With having to be in quarantine for months on end and being encouraged to stay home as much as possible, many people weren’t able or even allowed to maintain their regular, in person “9-to-5 jobs.” Inevitably, many people became jobless and were tirelessly searching for employment opportunities (thus, meaning they were not receiving a steady income; if any at all). This is when the gig economy came to the rescue. For some, it is a way to make additional money to help compensate for extra costs while others who lost their jobs or had their hours shortened became fully reliant on it to earn a living. In cases where parents could not hire a babysitter or someone to watch over their kids, the gig economy gave them the chance to concentrate on taking care of their family’s needs while still efficiently working in the comfort of their home.
The second reason for the prosperity of the gig economy during this era is that it was able to bring people together without having them be physically present. Obviously, the connection that people once had was taken away which led to many repercussions. To counteract that, the gig economy was used to provide home-bound buyers with their needs at a quicker rate.
As another matter of fact, the gig economy kept businesses open that would have shut down otherwise. Many small businesses struggled to hire and retain staff, but the gig economy addressed and resolved this problem. An example of this is when delivery people became an essential part of providing food to hungry consumers – this in turn helped keep chefs employed and restaurants afloat.
Finally, people were able to reap the benefits of the gig economy: these can include broadening their skills, constructing a better resume, having experience in multiple workforces, more economic and work opportunities, and flexibility in working hours along with jobs.
Alyssa Da Silva’s Entrepreneurial Spirit
To bring more understanding to what it is actually like to be a gig worker, I was introduced to a fellow Romero student who had a unique story to tell. At first glance, Alyssa Da Silva appears to be your typical highschooler, but there is a lot more to her than what meets the eye.
Alyssa is a “bracelet making, Hot Wheels collecting, car loving girl” as she likes to put it in her own words. As shocking as it sounds, she started her first business at the start of the pandemic in April of 2020. “…My small business was once called ‘Pinkybracelets’, but is now named ‘Pinky Customs’. I started off with (hand-making) custom beaded bracelets and eventually expanded my business to handmade accessories and car accessories – in connection to my love for the car community.” Alyssa went on to explain to me that the intentions behind creating this business were to make money on her own and of course “essentially buy my (her) dream car” that she can work on in her free time.
Sure enough in May of 2021, Alyssa purchased a 1993 Mazda Miata with some help from her parents. Remarkably, Alyssa is the exact same age as me and is also in Grade 10. When I asked her how she is capable of balancing all of these responsibilities and taking such a laborious role, she responded with “As a student I prioritize my school work and well-being first. I find that it’s important that my education comes first so it can help expand my knowledge for some issues I may come across in the process of my business.” I then followed up by trying to see what type of responses she has been receiving and she went on to say “The response has been overwhelming! The feedback has been amazing and I’m beyond thankful….”
“Although sometimes it is difficult to juggle a business with school and a social life at such a young age, I couldn’t be more blessed….” As I expected, Alyssa did face some backlash simply because she is a prosperous 15 year old girl doing what she loves. “I’ve definitely been doubted a lot…. I find that some people find it impossible and hard to believe that a 15 year old runs her own successful business, and is building her dream car. I tend to just put the negative criticism behind me because I’m continuously working towards my goals, and I know what I’m capable of as an individual! I also find that when I tell some males that I’m building a car that they think that I’m making it up…. I don’t let it phase me! I may not have the best knowledge on cars and I may mess up some (car) names here and there, but I know what I’m capable of…. ”
Alyssa has already made it this far in such a short span of time and it got me thinking – what is next for this entrepreneur? “My biggest goal is to get Pinky Customs BIG! I want to expand it as much as I can. I want to fulfill everyone’s desires as much as I can as well as to relate my car back to my business and expand my car accessories line as well as continuously building my car!”
Personally, I think Alyssa is fantastic at what she does and I highly suggest you check out Pinky Customs on Instagram/Facebook @pinkycustoms and follow her car’s journey at @pinkyyata (only on Instagram).
More and more people like Alyssa will start developing their own businesses and being a part of this economy and in response to this, we should start to get rid of the mentality that all gig workers are someone with a ‘side hustle’ or taking on ‘extra work’ – some are developing a full career from this. I also think that as the world continues to advance, we must advance with it. We need to prepare for these types of changes in the workplace and support gig workers to the best of our abilities.
Thanks for reading!