1. Don't count on passion alone.
While enthusiasm is a great place to start, it's not enough to sustain your business for the long term. Before launching your business, do a reality check and make sure you have the other components needed for success, such as a willingness to work hard and a market for your services or products.
"Sometimes passion can blind you to the potential downside of your idea," says John Torrens, a serial entrepreneur and an entrepreneurship professor at Syracuse University. "The one non-negotiable factor for any sustainable business is that they solve a problem for a specific customer segment in a way that is appreciably better than the next best alternative. Get as much feedback from potential customers as possible. No matter how great you think the idea is, you still need to understand what your market thinks."
Without excitement for your venture, you probably won't be successful, according to Doug White, a small-business consultant and co-author of Let Go to Grow: Why Some Businesses Thrive and Others Fail to Reach Their Potential. However, that alone won't guarantee success. White says would-be entrepreneurs who want to turn their hobbies into a business must be aware of the following things:
Be good at what your business does. "This is probably not an issue if the primary work of the business is your passion," White says. "But we have seen too many people buy a franchise or start a business only to discover that they didn't like or weren't good at the primary work of the business."
Remember the details. There are tons of ancillary functions that go along with running a business that must be performed well for it to succeed. These may include ordering inventory, paying the bills, invoicing customers, keeping the books, sweeping the floor, marketing and selling. "You will need a plan for accomplishing these tasks," White says. "You can do them yourself if you have the inclination and the skill set. You can outsource them if the cash flow of the business will allow that. Or, you could take on a partner to perform some of the functions."
Dole out responsibility. When the business grows, you'll have a choice to make: You'll either have to delegate the primary work to others, or you may choose to delegate managing the operation to someone else so you can continue to focus on the primary work yourself.
2. Hire passionate people.
Most new hires get a job at Red Frog Events through the company's internship program, and there are approximately 150 applicants for every internship position. "If you go through our application process and our internship program, we know you're passionate about the job, the company and about life," Reynolds says.
3. Share your passion.
If you have a hobby, likely there are others out there who share that interest and would like to learn more about it. Sharing your knowledge can be a great way to build your business, says Katie Weber, who quit her job in 2001 to turn her feng shui hobby into a consulting business. She started by launching an e-mail newsletter, the Red Lotus Letter: Feng Shui for Wealth, which helped establish her name in the field.
"People would forward my e-mails and I'd get new sign-ups," Weber says. "And at meetings, I could offer free content to anyone I met." After launching with 22 names in September 2001, Weber's e-zine has grown to more than 15,000 subscribers and earned her $200,000 last year.
4. Keep the passion alive.
Once your business gets going, you can become mired in the daily tasks of running a company and watch your original excitement dry up. "Keep your passion alive by staying involved in the aspects you love most," says Alan Hall, founder of DooBizz, a free resource that offers online lessons in entrepreneurship. "Spending too much time on repetitive tasks you can delegate to others will ultimately dampen your enthusiasm and end up burning you out. Remember the elements you loved most at the start of your business, such as creating a new design or a product or meeting new customers in hobbyist groups, and make a conscious effort to include at least some of those activities in your ongoing role. Otherwise, your work will turn into a form of drudgery that may kill your passion for the original hobby."