Thrive

Meet Kyle Morrand, who turned a college side hustle into a million-dollar business

BY Preta Peace Namasaba June 12, 2024 10:41 AM EDT

Many side hustles have a shallow barrier to market entry. They are a relatively easy way to earn extra income. A 2023 Bankrate survey revealed that nearly two in five US adults have a side hustle with only 19 percent wanting their side hustle to develop into the main source of income. Turning a side hustle into a full-time business is an uphill task, involving risks and a lot of time and effort. Kyle Morrand has successfully achieved this rare feat. From starting a gaming studio while still in college, he has managed to turn his side project into a business grossing $1.9 million in revenue annually.

“I started 302 Interactive when I was 21. I was still in school. It started as a part-time job, then a full-time job, and then a full-time job and a contract. I was just never in a rush about it. I always maintained it in its current state as effectively as I could and I remained diligent. Every week, I made a little bit of progress and, eventually, something stuck,” Morrand explained.

Although Morrand grew up surrounded by technology, he was not quite interested in it. His mother taught coding at his school but he was passionate about music and drumming instead. Morrand decided he wanted to find a career once he got to college and took his first coding class. The ability to communicate with others via computers fascinated him and he immediately fell in love with technology. At 19, he moved to apartment 302, where he met roommates who introduced him to the world of gaming. His company, 302 Interactive was inspired by this apartment number.

Morrand soon found out that most creators did gaming for fun on the side while they worked a job they were not passionate about. This discovery would influence his company’s mission, to redesign the workplace for those who may find it tiresome or draining. Initially, Morrand began learning about game development through books at the library. He decided to take the leap and learn more about the art of game design by switching his majors to the game design program. He then bought his first virtual reality development kit, starting his journey to becoming a technologist.

Experimenting with different ideas for virtual reality, Morrand would showcase his projects at local developer meetups. This strategy of showcasing the technology capabilities and attracting people who needed help became the company’s core marketing strategy for the first five years of its existence. He used little to no advertising and social media while relying heavily on networking at events and word-of-mouth referrals for projects. After much planning, Morrand launched 302 Interactive in 2013 as a game studio that empowers other game studios through collaboration and shared resources. It has since evolved but the core value of creative stability remains at the heart of the company’s culture.

“The idea grew from a desire to start a game studio, looking at how to make games from a non-traditional perspective and seeing how we could apply new technologies to make those games. I’m a big R&D guy. I love tinkering. So that was what got me started,” Morrand said about the inspiration behind his business.

Until 2018, 302 Interactive was a side business that Morrand worked on after work nights and on weekends. The time he spent working at QinetiQ on projects under their internal research and development program and designing solutions for various maintenance and operator training programs for a government contractor helped him learn more about R&D experiments and their real-world applications. Getting the opportunity to work with Steamroller Studios on a project with Universal Studios allowed Morrand to quit his tech job and take on entrepreneurship full-time. The company had a couple of contractors and was generating enough revenue.

The company has since established itself as a service business, working in hospitality, healthcare, and education to help people in their communities. It worked on a VR physical therapy program for Verapy that encourages children to finish their series of sessions based on their therapy exercises. 302 Interactive collaborated with assistive technology company, NuEyes to create a low-vision accessibility solution using audio and visual cues. Morrand and his team have also worked with three other companies to create a mixed-reality simulator with an immersive driver training system that prepares members of the U.S. Marine Corps for real-world operation of the military’s new amphibious combat vehicles.

In 2021, 302 Interactive was averaging $30,000 a month. This figure doubled to an average of $70,000 a month the following year as larger projects came in. The growth curve continued into 2023, with the company grossing $1.9 million for the year. Beyond the box office, Morrand’s former side hustle is changing the world one design at a time.

“We apply game design to real-world problems. We work with companies in industries like health care, education, attractions, you name it, by taking our knowledge base in emerging technologies and bringing it together in a unique design approach,” Morrand said about the impact 302 Interactive is creating.