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Tools of the trade

Posted 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024

UWL student Ethan Campbell has generated a steady income by cleaning gutters and performing other odd jobs for homeowners around La Crosse and his native River Falls.

Student side hustles: Ethan Campbell finds success through neighborhood jobs

For Ethan Campbell, a strong vision and good old-fashioned elbow grease have been the keys to launching a successful side hustle. 

Campbell, a sophomore majoring in management, started a roof- and gutter-cleaning business during the summer of 2023, and has enjoyed steady business from homeowners around La Crosse and his native River Falls. 

“I came up with the idea when thinking of some extra ways to make some money during my free time and looking into getting experience in my intended major field,” Campbell says. “Looking at low-cost entry businesses that are in demand, I decided to go with the gutter-cleaning route. I did some research on the business and came up with a plan to introduce and execute jobs.” 

At first, Campbell’s marketing efforts revolved around social media platforms such as Facebook and Nextdoor. This no-cost approach allowed Campbell to build a customer base that has since grown through word of mouth, allowing him to launch a more comprehensive campaign.

Ralph Heath, the CBA's executive in residence, has been mentoring Campbell and other students with business concepts.

Now, Campbell runs paid ads on social media and is in the process of creating a website, which he hopes will get listed on sites like Google and Yelp. 

He also promotes his side hustle through signs and business cards he gives to customers, which has led to neighbor referrals. 

In addition to roof- and gutter-cleaning, Campbell takes on other odd jobs such as washing siding and painting chimneys — a reliable way to earn repeat customers. 

Ralph Heath, the College of Business Administration’s inaugural executive in residence, says Campbell is a classic example of a successful entrepreneur — someone who identified a niche and is putting in the work to fill it. 

“It is a high-demand business: Who hasn’t heard people remark that they can't find anyone to perform work?” says Heath, ’73. “He is also learning valuable associated business tips to enhance his customer base and earnings. He has learned that neighbor referrals, and the database that holds those names, are valuable for growing his business and the many ways to enhance the customer relationship to obtain more referrals and eventually customers.” 

Although he’s only in his second year, Campbell says his UWL education has set him up to succeed in the real world. And running his own business has brought many additional lessons that are impossible to simulate in the classroom. 

“UWL and its curriculum has helped me succeed in my own side hustle journey,” he says. “Being able to connect concepts from classes to my business as well as challenges in my business to in-class exercises has given me a different view on issues and knowledge that has continued to help me succeed outside the classroom.” 

After college, Campbell hopes to find a career that blends his major in business management and his minor in recreation management.  

In whatever he pursues, Campbell knows his education and real-world experiences will serve him well. 

“I have gained a ton of valuable experience and skills through starting this side hustle,” he says. “Skills such as self-marketing, working directly with customers, generating leads and interest, and a variety of other skills. I have enjoyed the challenge and success I have gained through the ups and downs of starting my own side hustle and look forward to the future challenges and solutions I will face.” 

Campbell shows off his company-branded hat.


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