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Sugar babies, used lifesavers and window cleaners

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“I can work Mondays and Wednesdays from 11am to 3pm, Tuesdays from 10am to 4pm and Thursdays after 8.30pm. Well, the weekend. Except when I have heart club meetings or events on Saturdays, which is twice a month. Does it work?”

The number of employers willing to say yes is unsurprisingly small. One NYU high school student found a solution on the Internet—the Sugar Daddy website, to be exact.

About a year ago, the NYU graduate needed money, and she needed it fast. She relied on funds from stock market investments to pay the $3,680 rent. When the stock market crashed in late 2021, she suffered a $10,000 loss. Her family’s business in China was also taking a hit, so she knew it wasn’t the best time to ask her parents for money.

Apart from the hectic and sometimes inconvenient class schedule, international students face another obstacle when it comes to earning money. In order to work in the United States, these students must have a visa sponsored by their employers. For startups and small businesses with limited funds, this is out of the question.

She Googled ways to make fast money in New York, and that’s how she came across Seeking.com, an online dating site that connects people looking for financial relationships. She chose to remain anonymous because of the stigma of sugaring.

Finding men to date was not an easy process. She was only interested in platonic companionship, which required her to weed out matches. Although some men said they were only in the market for company, that wasn’t entirely the case — some simply wanted to use the women on the site as escorts, which often involved sexual acts.

It took her a few weeks, but she finally found a man who was looking for what she was willing to give: companionship and conversation.

He is a former diplomat and a single father with spirituality. He became a regular customer – or her mentor, as she calls him – which meant going out to lunches, brunches and even getting high together.

“I really think I have something to offer from a company perspective,” she said. “If they want to talk about art, history, politics, I’m the person to do it.”

It wasn’t always pleasant, and not all of her dates with other men turned into casual outings. There have been several occasions when she has left in the middle of dinner after a man made unwanted advances or simply failed to plan a second date – a “one-night stand”, as she puts it.

In her experience, she has become convinced that some men actually like more than just sugar.

“They have the money — they can pay the therapist if they want to,” she said. “But they are looking for a listener and a good friend.”

She’s talked to men as young as 25 — others as young as 40 — and even a few NYU grads. Even though she walked away with 10 grand in just three months, never accepting less than $500 for her exit, she didn’t just win financially. She met different people and even got advice from the older men she met.

“I only told a few very close friends that I was doing it, just because of the association and the stigma around it,” she said. “I am afraid that I will be labeled a prostitute. But in reality, nothing more than platonic happens.”

The internet is a hub for more money making opportunities than just a career as a sugar baby. Thrifting is a popular hobby for many, and the Internet has made it more accessible. It also turned used clothing into a potential revenue stream.

NYU student Anna Hildebrand is the owner of Poshmark SavedGemsByAnna. Since opening her store in 2016, she has amassed over 70,000 followers and 700 listings.

“I had too many clothes and I wanted to sell them in a way that I knew wouldn’t just end up in the trash,” Hildebrand said.

When she first opened her account, it was just a way for her to make some extra money. Then it grew into an environmental effort.

ThredUP is another online thrift platform where users can consign boxes of clothing and receive a small portion of the sales profit, but only if the item is deemed acceptable. Items that aren’t purchased are bagged up and sent to the landfill — unless you want to buy clothes by the pound, like Hildebrand does.

For about $150, she got about 50 pounds of clothes in her “rescue box.” For Hildebrand, one person’s trash can be turned into treasure with needles, thread and OxiClean. Factoring in her time, labor, and the price of supplies to clean and update the clothes, the cost of each item is about $0.20. This allows her to keep her list prices low while keeping her profits high. She hoped to disrupt a market filled with sellers who buy used clothes cheap and charge full price.

“You can eat something cute and cool while still being on a budget,” Hildebrand said. “This is my main mission.”

If this year she earned about $3,000, then in 2020 she earned almost $9,000. She can’t afford rent on this income alone, but it allows her to earn extra income despite her busy schedule. In addition to majoring in psychology, she is double majoring in Spanish and child and adolescent mental health studies. She is taking the maximum number of points this semester, and will do the same in the spring.

“This is my way of living in New York,” Hildebrand said. “It supports my lifestyle and I feel like it makes a small difference.”

After 10 a.m., high school student Maksima McDermott studies English and film studies. Before classes, he is a window cleaner.

Window cleaning is somewhat of a family business for McDermott. His father is the manager of one of the largest window cleaning companies in the city, and she is responsible for keeping the windows of the World Trade Center sparkling.

In 2014, just a week after the World Trade Center reopened for business, two window cleaners were boarded their rig. Fortunately, both men were rescued. McDermott has met and worked with them ever since.

He started washing windows when he was 19, working full-time during a gap year and at the height of the pandemic, as maintenance workers were considered essential workers. McDermott didn’t have to complete the full certification required to work on the rigs, as he basically cleans windows by opening them from the inside or through a small ledge on the outside known as a fail. However, he had to do what was required Labor Safety Administration training.

He switched to part-time work as soon as he entered college. While many students cringe when their 8am class alarm goes off, McDermott is up and out of bed by 5am. On most days, he and his crew clean one or two floors in about three different buildings in Midtown or the Financial District. After that, he goes to class and is about $125 richer.

Washing windows may not be the ideal job for someone afraid of heights, but that doesn’t necessarily put anyone off the job. According to McDermott, some window cleaners are afraid of heights, as incredible as it may seem. Maybe the skyline views are worth it – the ones from the gargoyles on the Chrysler Building certainly are.

“You really get some good views,” McDermott said. “It was definitely quite difficult at times, but I don’t scream – even if I sleep for two hours, I go to work.”

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