Turning a Hobby into a Small BusinessAdvice from two people who've been there on what it will take.
Who says you can’t make money doing what you love? Many businesses start out as a fun project or hobby. But transitioning from pastime to small business takes more than passion. You’ll also need a lot of know-how, and likely, some help.
Chris Flores and Candice Simons both turned their hobbies into thriving businesses. They shared some advice for other entrepreneurs considering making the transition.
Flores, owner of Ratio Bakeshop in Atlanta, Georgia, loved cooking and baking as a kid but never saw it as a viable career option until his late 20s. Simons runs J’adore Detroit, an event management company that grew out of a blog and her passion for exploring the unique culture, community and opportunities offered in her city.
Here’s what they had to say.
According to Simons, the first step is to find a mentor, “or anyone who has started a business from the ground up, and get their thoughts and advice.”
Flores suggested connecting with multiple people who are already doing what you want to do. “No one small business is like another small business,” he said. “Situations can be different from business to business, even within the same industry.”
Asking several different business owners about their successes and failures will give you a better idea of the struggles you may face, and how to overcome them.
Do your homework
Baking confections for friends and neighbors bears little relation to building a cupcake business, which necessities a business plan, financing, marketing and possibly leasing a commercial kitchen. In other words, before you start a business, you need to understand the steps involved in launching and running one.
Simons recommended availing yourself of the many resources available, including from the Small Business Administration.
Before you go any further, Simons advised asking yourself if there is a true need in the marketplace for what you’re offering, and check out who your competitors would be.
There’s also one major question to consider that only you will only be able to answer, said Simons: “Am I prepared to have a hobby, that might now include a deadline to complete?” Deadlines, finances — “these are all things that could potentially decrease your love for your hobby and passion,” Simons noted.
“If there is a need and you are passionate, the late nights and little sleep to make deadlines will be worth it when you start seeing progress in your bottom line.”
Try it out first
“If you’re trying to take a hobby and turn it into a career, at least do that hobby in a professional realm first,” advised Flores. Many people find that turning a pastime into work can take all the fun out of it.
When he started considering culinary school, Flores decided to apprentice with a local chef he knew. In return, the chef opened a window into the industry, allowing Flores to test it out in the real world.
“There’s a big change between doing something that you just kind of like to do on the side and actually something that you have to do to make a living.”
Be prepared to hustle
“If you want to make it — if you really want to turn your hobby into something more — you basically have to be prepared to hustle,” said Flores. Because owning a business is such a huge commitment, “you have to absolutely love it, even when you hate it. You truly have to be willing to do it 24 hours a day, seven days a week indefinitely.”
Flores said he knew running a business would be a lot of work. “I just didn’t know to what extent,” he said, calling the realization “a real eye opener.”
The good news? Most people who are cut out to be business owners thrive on a challenge.
If you decide you’re ready to move forward, you’ll need to commit — including to making financial sacrifices.
This is often the hardest part, Simons said, “especially if your hobby is creating something that requires a lot of financial backing. When your hobby becomes your business, everything comes after the business. You have to be comfortable living below your means for quite a while and asking for help where you need it.”
There will probably be parts of running a business you won’t love. “I love baking and that’s never going to change for me, but there’s still aspects of the business and the bakery that I’m never going to enjoy,” said Flores. “You have to be aware of that before you go all-in.”
In spite of the challenges, Flores and Simons both said they’ve found a great deal of fulfillment from starting their own small business and encourage others to do the same.
“If you’re passionate about it,” said Simons, “just go for it.”