Most of us only have a few hours a week that we can devote to our pastimes and passions. What if you could transform your career into a business and quit your day job in the process? Four entrepreneurs share their best advice on moving from passionate hobbyist to successful business owner.
1. Be prepared to hustle.
They say if you enjoy your job, you’ll never work a day in your life. But this old adage is a little too simplistic for Peter James Lovisek, CEO of Fossil Realm.
His hobby of fossil collecting began in high school. His parents worked at the Royal Ontario Museum and ran a nature camp, so he inherited an interest in natural history. Lovisek recalls saving his allowance at 13 to attend a mineral trade show in Detroit. There he purchased a few pieces, including a trilobite from Morocco. Returning home to Canada, he managed to sell all of the pieces for a profit.
This initial success led to more trips south, and eventually Lovisek began auctioning his finds online. The business remained a side hustle to fund him through college. But by graduation, he had opened his own e-commerce store and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Running Fossil Realm is rewarding, but he says, that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
“Just because your business revolves around your passion doesn’t mean that it will take off easily, nor will it necessarily be enjoyable or fulfilling.”
Fossil Realm has expanded to include Lovisek’s father, a warehouse and sourcing museum-quality finds, such as an Ichthyosaur skeleton valued at $195,000. But at the root of his thriving business is Lovisek, a man who never lost a childhood curiosity of fossils.
2. Treat your passion like a business, and it will become one.
Jessica Childress is an attorney turned children’s book author. Writing has always been her passion and she penned her first book while attending law school. Although writing was an enjoyable hobby, Jessica had hopes of doing more; she wanted to bring about social change through her characters.
“Throughout my career as an African-American female attorney, in each legal setting in which I worked, I noticed the lack of racial and gender diversity, especially in senior positions,” Childress says.
Enter literature character Juris Prudence, an 11-year-old African-American female lawyer, who encourages children to be leaders and to take an interest in the law. Childress used her legal background to leverage her passion, making for a seamless transition.
Rather than simply “becoming a novelist”—a dream many people have but find hard to monetize—Childress used her business acumen to launch a content company with the goal of taking her literary creation and launching a series of books and educational materials. Her approach proves that creativity thrives with a solid business foundation.
Now, Childress continues to practice law with a little added freedom. “I have complete autonomy over the way that I structure my day—from the time that I wake up until the time I go to sleep,” she says.
3. Find a need.
Jonathan Heine, owner of You Are Loved Foods in Los Angeles, was a Wall Street banker for 25 years before turning a passion for health foods into a new business. Suffering from diabetes and fibromyalgia, Heine’s journey began with a simple search for ways to live a healthier life. He created a selection of sugar-free, gluten/grain/starch-free, strictly certified paleo foods and snacks. They were a big hit with friends and family, which eventually led to the inception of You Are Loved Foods.
Jonathan describes the difference between his former work life and his hobby-turned-career in terms of human connections. On Wall Street, there was always a barrier between the decisions he made that affected real people’s lives, and the consequences. You Are Loved Foods changed that. “I know every decision I make has real impact on people’s lives,” he says.
4. Be authentic.
After chemical relaxers destroyed her hair and forced her to shave it off, Rochelle Graham-Campbell—then a college student—experimented with an online journal of styles for her natural hair while she tested out homemade organic conditioners. She began posting her tutorials to YouTube, and the channel BlackOnyz77 grew to attract more than 104,000 subscribers. Graham-Campbell went on to create Alikay Naturals hair care, which is now available in many stores nationwide.
An initial investment of $100 from a part-time serving job served as marketing funds. Graham-Campbell converted her kitchen into a makeshift laboratory where she created and tested her products. She grew a niche, offering content for African-American naturally textured hair—a niche where only five competitors existed at the time. By interacting genuinely with her audience, Graham-Campbell built a loyal customer base when it was time to launch the product.