70 million Americans have side hustles. Wouldn’t it be helpful if there were a simple and inexpensive way to grow that hustle into a scalable business? A platform that allowed creatives to focus on what they do best? A solution that provided independence and financial security to women looking to take control of their own careers? Deboshree Dutta thinks so.
A first-generation Indian immigrant, Dutta came to the United States to pursue a master’s degree in computer science and landed 6-figure jobs at top tech firms like Microsoft and PayPal. But as she rose up the corporate ladder, she never lost interest in her side hustle – design.
Dutta moonlighted as an Instagram influencer, creating content that attracted 150,000 followers. As her followers started seeking her help with their own projects, she knew she needed to automate the process to handle the demand. “I quickly created a little booking site and in 2 hours I had literally 50 bookings.” And the idea for Criya was born.
Taking The Guesswork out of Running a Business
With the support of Y Combinator and respected tech-focused VC firms, Criya is already serving creatives in a variety of industries. And they make it simple. “You have the skills your clients want,” says Dutta. “And Criya takes care of everything else.” It’s like a business in a box. The tech-enabled platform provides its community of service-oriented “solopreneurs,” called Criyators, with everything they need to get their business up and running – in hours, not months – for as little as $1 per day.
One Criyator, interior designer Hannah Skaar, explains it like this: “Criya has allowed me to focus on the things I love about my business. No more endless spreadsheets, proposals, or tracking payments, it’s all in one place! My clients love how easily they can schedule a call or book a design package. It’s a game changer for any creative business.”
Criyators get a curated digital showroom where they seamlessly interact with clients by sharing portfolios, managing appointments, creating proposals, sending invoices and receiving payments. The simple and guided setup uses templates and automation to create an elevated user experience, allowing the Criyator to focus less on the business and more on being creative.
“A Criyator can be anyone who has a vision, passion and authenticity to connect with an audience and provide a service,” says Keval Desai. The founder of SHAKTI Capital was an early investor in Criya and believes the simplicity of the platform enables “anyone from any generation to instantly set up their business to serve consumers in the real world and in the metaverse.”
In the Right Place at the Right Time
There has never been a better time for a business that essentially runs your business, while at the same time allowing the owner to maintain control. “The business model of today’s creator economy is essentially an extension of the broken old media model, where 99% of creators are at the mercy of intermediaries, not in charge of their own business nor receiving the lion’s share of earnings,” explains Desai.
There are several current trends that are pushing innovators like Criya toward significant growth:
Gen Z wants to work for themselves. Gen Zers are the most technologically savvy generation in history and are eager to leverage their digital skills to be their own bosses. According to EY, 53% of Gen Zers want to start their own businesses within 10 years.
Women want more control and flexibility. The January 2022 Bureau of Labor Statistics report revealed that “…over 1 million fewer women were in the labor force in January 2022 as compared to February 2020.” The pandemic gave women challenges with childcare and remote learning that make working from home and controlling their own schedules more appealing.
Side hustles are on the rise. Approximately 45% of Americans enjoy a side hustle. However, because these hustles are often “5 to 9” jobs, women struggle finding the time to grow their businesses.
The costs of launching a creative business can be prohibitive. A lack of capital prevents many would-be solopreneurs from starting their own business. Vistaprint reports that 55% of Americans would like to turn their hobby into a business.
“We believe in her mission to enable creators to better monetize their talent by giving them a platform with the right set of tools, apps and a partner ecosystem to become successful entrepreneurs,” says Eva Ho, general partner at Fika Ventures. The Criya investor believes the company has the potential to help creators of all types make a living doing what they love. “Millions of entrepreneurial creators around the world will have the toolkit, content and platform to build sustainable businesses that will lift up the next generation’s workforce to achieve financial equity and freedom.”
Creatives Need a Platform of their Own
“Consumers all over the world are engaging with authentic creators in imaginative ways,” says Desai. But to date, there hasn’t been one platform that simplifies and monetizes the process of selling creative services while allowing owners to control and scale their businesses easily and inexpensively. Until now.
“So many entrepreneurs, in particular, creative professionals (so often women) are finding ways to monetize their creative skills online, usually through a cobbled together mix of social media accounts to advertise, DMs to broker deals, ad-hoc payments to transact, and clunky services to manage back-office processes,” says Y Combinator’s Divya Bhat. “There’s a lot of room for someone like Deb, with a background in product and as an influencer, to come in and take the pain out of the process, and let creators focus on what they do best.”