How 4 Entrepreneurs Turned Hobbies into Successful Businesses

By: Andrea Lotz Monday September 21, 2015 comments Tags: entrepreneur, small business

Most of us have hobbies—work that we do in our free time to nourish our spirits and challenge ourselves. Have you ever considered turning your hobby into a business?

All four of these successful entrepreneurs built their businesses around hobbies that enriched their lives long before they considered using their talents to generate income. They’ve had different paths to entrepreneurship, and hopefully you can learn from their inspiring journeys.

Here’s how 4 ordinary people turned their hobbies into livelihoods, and how you can do the same!

hobbies-gardening

1. Build an Unbeatable Support Network: Jennifer Trebisovsky – Sally’s Syrup in Minneapolis, MN

Jennifer Trebisovsky started her small, local, simple syrup company in honor of her grandmother.

“I worked in bars and restaurants for eight years, and love to cook and experiment in the kitchen,” Jennifer said. “Last summer my grandmother passed away. She was a very important part of my life.”

To pass the time, Jennifer took to gardening—one of her grandmother’s favorite hobbies. Inundated with more herbs and vegetables than she knew what to do with, Jennifer started making simple syrups to use for cocktails and cooking.

Her friends encouraged her to start selling simple syrups at the local farmers markets. She came up with the name for the business, Sally's Syrup, after her grandmother.

It took a little less than a year to start her business, encouraged and supported by friends and family, who told her, "The worst that can happen is it doesn't work out."

"The worst that can happen is it doesn't work out." [Tweet this]

“I could not have done any of this without their kindness, time and encouragement,” said Jennifer.

Takeaway:

Like Jennifer, if you want to start your own business, you’ll need support from your friends and family. Talk to the people you love about your passion. Some of them likely have some great ideas you can put to use, but more importantly, you’ll find out who’s got your back when things get tough in the future!

2. Believe What You Do is Worthwhile: Maegan Watson, My Dear Watson

“Shopping has always been my hobby- I now own a wardrobe building firm!” said Maegan Watson.

In grad school, she started buying designer clothing and selling items on Ebay. That was the first incarnation of what would later become My Dear Watson, her online wardrobe-building company.

Later, when Maegan left a job as a wardrobe director, she was approached by clients who missed her work. It took her three months to decide to start working with them “on the side,” and another year to decide to commit to starting her own business.

 “The biggest thing that held me back was being embarrassed of what I do,” she admitted. “I'm completely over it now but I felt like building wardrobes for people wasn't good enough and didn't warrant my two expensive degrees. I now know how silly that was.”

“The biggest thing that held me back was being embarrassed of what I do” [Tweet this]

Her courage and self-assurance has paid off, allowing Maegan to live a life doing what she loves.

“I still loooooooove to shop. I love it. It’s my favorite part of my job,” she said. “I hand select every single piece for my clients' wardrobes from a variety of stores and designers. It's so satisfying when I send a client a few thousand dollars worth of clothes and they return nothing.”

Takeaway:

Many of us don’t try starting our own businesses because we’re afraid that what we’re good at isn’t “important enough” to spend our lives on it. Tell this voice in your head to be quiet! If you devote your life to what makes you and others happy, you can find success in whatever industry your talents lie.

3. Share What Makes You Feel Alive: Steve Silberberg, Fitpacking

Steve Silberberg’s love of backpacking started when he was young, walking in the woods behind his house and backpacking with his Boy Scout troop. Backpacking faded into the background as he went off to college and began a software programming career, but he soon found he missed it.

“In my 30s I felt there was more to life than office work, so I started to backpack once again,” Steve said. “In my 40s, I began to experience a middle age crisis.” His career was going well, but “something was missing.”

He turned to his passion for the outdoors and backpacking to restore his health and mood.

“On vacations I went backpacking and when I returned to work my clothes fit better and my disposition was stress-free,” he said. “It then hit me that this was something others might enjoy.”

“It then hit me that this was something others might enjoy” [Tweet this]

Steve started Fitpacking Weight Loss Backpacking Adventures 10 years old ago, and has been sharing his passion ever since, offering adventure vacations that help people lose weight while having fun in the outdoors.

“Although it's far less lucrative than my previous career,” Steve said, “I get to spend my days in beautiful National Parks and Forests under big skies, near thundering rivers among towering trees in the shadow of incredible mountains.”

Takeaway:

If something lights you up with passion and brings clear benefits to your life, consider the fact that you might have stumbled upon something that lots of people need and want. When you share something that has truly enriched your life, satisfaction and success are likely to follow.

4. Find Entrepreneurial Mentors: Sarah Mullins, Feya Candle Co.

Sarah Mullins began making candles as a hobby in college. She started selling to friends, family, and co-workers, as well as at local farmers markets to test her candles’ marketability, and found that there was enough demand that she had trouble keeping up with the orders. A year and a half after she started making candles, she decided to open a store.

“In just 3 months, I'd written a business plan, obtained financing and completed the build out on my location. It was easy to open the store, much more difficult to run it,” Sarah said. “Business was not in my background. Slowly, through research, networking, and a lot of learning lessons the hard way, the store began to pick up and become more steady.”

“It was easy to open the store, much more difficult to run it” [Tweet this]

Sarah didn’t do it all alone—she learned a lot from networking with other business owners.

“Meeting other business owners and hearing their ups and downs, successes and failures was the most valuable tool I could have gained during my first few years in business,” she said. “Many of those first few business friends are still my primary go-to contacts for all business related questions and hurdles.”

As her store grew, Sarah continued to face challenges as she worked to grow her business with creativity and integrity.

“Overall, I've had a lot of steep learning curves with merely 'jumping into' a business life," she admitted, “but through networking and support of those who have ran businesses before me (as well as a stubborn drive to work long hours until I figured it out) I was able to successfully keep the business going and evolving.”

Takeaway:

Many of us don’t like to ask for help. We’re confident that if we just keep trying harder, we can power through any obstacles that come up. But there’s no shame in seeking out more experienced opinions and advice. Take a leaf out of Sarah’s book and combine hard work with humble willingness to ask for help.

Do you have a hobby that you’ve always wanted to turn into a business? Tell us all about it in the comments!

 

Andrea Lotz

About the Author: Andrea Lotz

Andrea is the resident writer for AllProWebTools. She loves to write about just about anything, especially small businesses, sustainability, and whatever is new and upcoming on the horizon.  She lives in Fort Collins and spends her free time cycling, welding, cooking, and playing ukulele. 

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