How 3 Entrepreneurs Used Facebook Marketplace to Launch Lucrative Side Gigs

These photos show a portrait of Sara Chen and two nightstands she repurposed.
Photo courtesy of Sara Chen Design

When you think about Facebook Marketplace, do think about posting your old futon in hopes of snagging $40 or $50? Or maybe you’re in the market for a microwave, and a used one for a good price will do just fine.

Those are great uses of Facebook Marketplace, essentially the classifieds of the social media behemoth. 

But for a hustling, entrepreneurial-minded go-getter (maybe that’s you?), we’ve discovered that Marketplace can be an actual business resource. Adam Hardy, a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder, recently profiled three enterprising business owners who, in one way or another, launched their gigs using Facebook Marketplace.

Here’s how they did it.

Tapping Into a Hot Idea

This photo shows an old fire truck Kevin Mullan made into a tap room.
Photo courtesy of Kevin Mullan.

Some of us have a vague idea of a business we might start, that might be cool and might someday possibly make money. Not Kevin Mullan. 

The 38-year-old marketing executive had a crystal clear vision for turning a decommissioned fire engine into a beer truck and spent years — literally — scanning listings for the right rig. 

On Marketplace, he finally found it, sinking into an Ohio farm field, priced at $5,000. Now, that 1987 E-One engine is Tapped 419, a rolling tap room in hot demand for parties and beer fests across Toledo. It’s also a side gig success story that Mullan is using to pay for his three kids’ school tuition. 

“The whole business,” Mullan told The Penny Hoarder, “has been a series of happy accidents.”

‘That’s What I Like About America’

In many ways, Sara Chen embodies the ideal immigrant experience. A former HR executive from Shanghai, Chen moved to the U.S. 10 years ago, got married, had a daughter and became a teacher.

Oh, you thought that was all? 

This tireless 40-year-old heard about Airbnb, so she started renting out a room in her family’s house. She spotted a cool mid-century dresser on Facebook Marketplace, so she bought it — along with a second one that she spruced up and sold for a tidy profit. 

Chen took that experience and ran with it. Now in her spare time, she operates Sara Chen Design, regularly snapping up dressers on Marketplace for between $40 and $120, then upcycling them into gorgeous pieces that fetch prices of $300 and up. 

Her secret? Taking meticulously staged photos of her work. She’s so good behind the camera that her skills have launched yet another side hustle: photography staging courses. 

What’s not to love about that go-getter spirit and apparently boundless energy? But Chen finds that it’s all coming back in spades in her new homeland.

“That’s what I like about America,” she said. “This is a country that really promotes hard work and creativity.”

A DIY Project That’s Just Getting Rolling

This photo shows a portrait of Sarah Lemp and the bedroom of the 90s RV she renovated.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Lemp of All Things With Purpose

When you’re a stay-at-home mom of five kids, taking the occasional vacation is a downright necessity. But how to take seven people on a getaway without going broke?

For Sarah Lemp, the answer was in a dilapidated camper, circa 1956, that included not one, but multiple dead rodents in the $1,700 asking price. Lemp enlisted her kids and got the old girl — which they named Gidget — road-worthy and rodent-free. Gidget took the family on countless road tips until they needed a bigger ride. Then Gidget sold, same day, on Marketplace for $8,900.

That got the Lemps thinking: Could this be a business opportunity?

Short answer: Yes. Lemp is now a bona-fide DIY camper-flipper, pocketing about $6,000 in profits per project. And she’s kept her kids in on the action, using the burgeoning side business to teach them about costs, profits and the fruits of good day’s labor.

Molly Moorhead is a Senior Editor at The Penny Hoarder.