Culture Counsel: The Legal Stuff You Need to Know Before Turning Your Side Hustle Into Your Main Hustle

By Ashlee Froese

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Culture Counsel is a monthly column focusing on the intricacies of law through the lens of pop culture and business. 

2020 is here and it’s pretty exciting! In your “do better, be better” new year’s resolution planning, don’t forget to also consider your professional self. It’s quite possible that you’re hearing the entrepreneur career path call your name where you finally turn your side hustle into your main gig. Fortunately, Canada is welcoming to entrepreneurship. In fact, statistics demonstrate that Canadian entrepreneurs are a growing segment and that small-medium businesses positively contribute to the Canadian economy. Will you be a part of this movement?  

The law is not intuitive. You may not know what legal issues are relevant to your business, but this doesn’t stop them from impacting your business or exposing you to liability and/or risk.  Here’s a run down of what you may want to consider in every stage of your business venture, from initial concept to global domination.  

Is 2020 the year you are finally ready to make the leap to launch your business?    

Do you have a passion or hobby that you’re ready to fully commercialize? Is your side hustle growing to the point that you’re ready for it to become your main hustle? Ensure that you’re operating the business under the right business entity. There are a few options: sole proprietor versus incorporation versus joint venture versus partnership. There are advantages and disadvantages associated with each type of business entity. Make sure that you pick the right type of business entity for your venture. Enter into non-disclosure agreements to make sure that your concepts are protected when you’re making your pitches to third parties. Conduct appropriate due diligence and invest in your intellectual property before you bring your concept to market. If you’re working with consultants to build out aspects of your business, make sure that you enter into independent contractor agreements.  It’s never too early to invest in legal protection.  

Have you already launched your business?  Is 2020 finally the year you’re going to dot your legal “i’s” and cross those “t’s”?

Some of you may be along your entrepreneur journey and are well entrenched (or well in the trenches – depending on your perspective) in your business. You’ve tested out your side hustle and you know that there’s legitimate traction. Now may be the time to focus on the legal issues. You may be operating as  a sole proprietor and are ready to incorporate.  You may be ready to properly codify all of your third party business relationships through written agreements. This extends to clients, service providers all along your supply chain, contractors, etc. You should take bigger steps to protect your competitive advantage and invest in protecting your intellectual property. Build out the proper legal structures to ensure that your business is best protected and ready for growth.  

Is 2020 the year you will grow your team?

There is something to the adage: “you’ve got to spend money to make money”. There comes a point when you realize you can’t do it all.  You can’t be the creator, the marketer, the book-keeper, the sales engine, and the overall do’er. If you dilute your efforts, guess what?  Your returns are diluted. At some point, you need to build a team. There are lot of permutations to this growing team: a business partner, an investor, an employee, a freelancer, a sales agent, a licensing partner. When you inevitably do grow your team, understand the implications and make sure that your legal arrangements are properly set up.  

Is 2020 the year you will make a big marketing push?

Is now the time for you to really expand your brand’s reach outside of its current customer base?  How will you activate this? Through sponsorship?  Hiring a brand ambassador?  Creating an influencer marketing campaign? Hosting a series of retail pop up activations? Pushing your digital marketing campaigns? With each marketing push comes a different set of legal concerns: compliance with Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation, negotiated contracts, compliance with the Competition Act, abiding by social media platform rules, avoiding copyright and trademark infringement claims, staying onside of influencer marketing campaign laws. The greater the brand exposure, the greater the exposure to risk.  

Is 2020 the year you will expand beyond Canada?

We love Canada. Truly. But with a population of only 35 million or so, you can reach your full potential somewhat quickly. Compare that with our neighbour south of the border, who have a population of about 325 million, and there’s a lot more opportunity for growth. In today’s Shopify-powered world, global domination is that much more accessible. If you’re expanding internationally via e-commerce, ensure that your website policies are compliant and that your business is complying with privacy laws. Be cognizant that as you expand internationally, your business will have to comply with the laws of the target country.  

Is 2020 the year you will fully embrace corporate social responsibility?

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a significant motivator for consumer purchasing behaviours and it’s unlikely to change. Will your business fully embrace CSR? Have you created corporate policies that bring into account human rights and environmental concerns? Will you bind your third parties to abide by these policies when they’re working for you?  Will you become B Corp Certified?  Do your manufacturing agreements bring into account sustainability, human rights, and environmental issues?  Do you have an internal supplier diversity procurement system?  If not, you may want to factor these in.  

Starting a business venture is an exciting endeavour.  It can also be overwhelming. Knowledge is power and hopefully this articles gives you a small idea of what types of issues you should be considering as you shift your side hustle into your main gig.


Ashlee Froese is a branding, entertainment and fashion lawyer.  She is the founder of Froese Law, which is an award-winning cross-border branding law firm that provides branding, business, contract and intellectual property law services.  Prior to launching Froese Law, Ashlee was a partner at a Bay Street law firm.