We introduce a new approach to develop stochastic optimization algorithms for a class of stochastic composite and possibly nonconvex optimization problems. The main idea is to combine a variance-reduced estimator and an unbiased stochastic one to create a new hybrid estimator which trades-off the variance and bias, and possesses useful properties for developing new algorithms. We first introduce our hybrid estimator and investigate its fundamental properties to form a foundational theory for algorithmic development. Next, we apply our new estimator to develop several variants of stochastic gradient method to solve both expectation and finite-sum composite optimization problems. Our first algorithm can be viewed as a variant of proximal stochastic gradient methods with a single loop and single sample, but can achieve the best-known oracle complexity bound as state-of-the-art double-loop algorithms in the literature. Then, we consider two different variants of our method: adaptive step-size and restarting schemes that have similar theoretical guarantees as in our first algorithm. We also study two mini-batch variants of the proposed methods. In all cases, we achieve the best-known complexity bounds under standard assumptions. We test our algorithms on several numerical examples with real datasets and compare them with many existing methods. Our numerical experiments show that the new algorithms are comparable and, in many cases, outperform their competitors.