Sophie Riegel turned her boredom into a six-figure side hustle.

Riegel was a Duke University freshman in 2020, when Covid-19 turned her first year of college into a remote experience. She was “so bored” at home, and began searching her childhood bedroom for unused clothing and other items she might sell online to “make some extra money,” she says.

She found a few items, and netted roughly $200 selling them. “I probably sold, like, an item a week for the first couple months of me selling my own stuff,” says Riegel, 23.

Hooked, she combed through thrift stores around Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Within weeks, she was selling roughly $50 per day of thrifted clothing, mostly buying T-shirts for $1 apiece and selling them for up to $10.

Last year, Riegel graduated from Duke with a degree in psychology, and her side hustle brought in nearly $123,800 in sales — more than $10,300 per month — on online marketplaces like eBay, Mercari and Poshmark, according to documents reviewed by CNBC Make It.

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Riegel has pocketed more than $192,000 in total net profit since starting her venture, after accounting for platform fees and the cost of goods. The total figure is slightly higher, she says, due to in-person sales and other revenue for which she doesn’t have documentation.

Now, Riegel sells around 10 items per day, averaging between $400 and $500 in revenue daily. She spends up to 25 hours per week working on her side hustle, she says — in addition to her day job as a professional writer, speaker and mental health coach.

“I’ve been doing [my side hustle] for about three and a half years now, and I wouldn’t do anything else,” says Riegel. “I love it so much. It makes me so happy.”

‘It gives me so much freedom’

Riegel’s full-time career is the kind of job that can require time to develop and build a steady stream of clients. That makes her side hustle money particularly valuable.

‘It just gives me so much freedom to do what I really want to do,” she says. “Not only financial freedom … I can have coaching calls at any time, do speaking gigs anytime, because I’m not bound by a 9-to-5 job.”

The payoff isn’t accidental: In her side hustle’s early days, Riegel conducted a lot of research. “I followed tons and tons and tons of other resellers [on YouTube],” she says. “I spent hours and hours learning brands, learning how to use all of the platforms. And in my first year, I had $70,000 or so in sales.”

I followed tons and tons and tons of other resellers [on YouTube]. I spent hours and hours learning brands, learning how to use all of the platforms.

Riegel studied bestsellers across multiple marketplaces to learn which specific items and brands would likely sell quickly or fetch a high price — like Lululemon leggings or Hoka sneakers. Once-expensive items tend to have good resale value, no matter how cheap they are to thrift, she says: A jacket from J. Crew or Carhartt might cost her $10 to $20 in person, but fetch $50 to $150 online.

She learned her local thrift stores’ restocking schedules, too — so she could avoid repeatedly wading through the same items, and get early dibs on new ones. Once, she bought a vintage Chanel purse for $2 and sold it on eBay a few months later for for $1,000: “That was incredible,” she says.

‘I’m going to do it for as long as I can’

Riegel’s side hustle comprised roughly 70% of her income in 2023, she says. This year, she expects a more even 50-50 split as she adds more coaching clients and speaking opportunities.

The side hustle comes with challenges — like keeping track of the roughly 1,300 pieces of inventory she usually has in stock. Riegel spends much of her time researching clothing, photographing items, editing the photos, listing the items online and cataloging them so she can find them quickly in storage once they sell.

Eventually, she might hire employees to help with the aspects of reselling that can feel like a slog, she says — just not the actual shopping.

“Technically, the thrifting takes the most time,” Riegel says. “But it doesn’t feel like work to me.”

As her two careers tracks evolve, Riegel sees no reason to slow down or stop her side hustle. Thrifting makes her happy, and “you can’t put a price” on that, she says. She’s even growing that part of the business by posting her own instructional videos on YouTube and selling her services as a reselling coach.

“I’m going to do it for as long as I can. Both of these [careers] make me happy,” says Riegel. “They both allow me to be independent, and I don’t have to choose between one thing or another.”

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