Creating a business from your hobby

If you enjoy something and are good at it, why not earn your living from it? SmallBusiness.co.uk looks at how combining your passion with your day job can work for you.

Strong successful businesses tend to be run by people who enjoy doing what they do. Would it be worth the pain if they didn’t? Passion acts as fuel to stay motivated and cope with the demands of running your own business. People like to buy from people who are passionate about what they are selling and investors choose to invest in businesses that have passionate people at the helm.

Being skilled in the area in which you are starting up also gives you much-needed confidence from the outset. ‘Doing something I knew I could do well gave me the extra confidence to start up on my own,’ says photographer Hilary Wells, who started Hilary Jane Wells Photography after choosing to do something for herself which used the photography she studied at art college.

However, passion for and confidence in a particular pastime is merely one small requirement of building a successful enterprise. To transform from hobby to business, you need to bring a whole host of personal and practical skills to the table.

The commercial realities

In order to build a commercially viable business you should operate within a growing market with demonstrable demand. However, demand alone is not enough. Business owners must understand the core needs of their market and how they can satisfy those needs in order to create and sustain competitive advantage.

Importantly, you must do all you can to ensure that:

  1. Competition is not too fierce, or, if it is, you have equipped yourself with enough Unique Selling Points (USPs) and a fantastic value proposition to swiftly gain competitive advantage.
  2. The location and market are healthy in terms of attracting enough customers.
  3. You know all you can about the existing market.
  4. You are differentiated from the competition.

Secrets of success

  • Be prepared. Contact your local hobby association to see if they have statistics on the growth or decline of the market in your area. Ring suppliers and stockists: what are their best sellers and what can they tell you about the market in terms of demand? Evaluate the competition and differentiate yourself accordingly.
  • Build a support network. Find people in a similar situation that you can turn to for support.
  • Find a mentor.
  • Exceed expectations. Happy customers will spread the word and send new ones your way, reducing your own marketing investment.
  • Keep your marketing simple.
  • Be prepared to spend a good deal of time working on the business.
  • Delegate. It’s easy to take on too much in a hobby business, remember to share the burden and free yourself up for what you are passionate about.
  • Partner with non-competing businesses which share your target market and refer business to each other. For example, wedding photographers could partner with florists, hairdressers, DJs, or wedding dress boutiques. If you bake cakes, do you know any hand-made card designers you could refer business to and vice versa?

© Cobweb Information 2011

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Hobbypreneurs

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