3 Alarm Bells: It’s Time To Make Your Hobby Your Business

How do you know when it’s time to stand out of your own way, dive in and become an entrepreneur to start your own business? Here are three surefire signs that your time is NOW:

1.You can’t stop obsessing about a better way

We often underestimate our own value as consumers. Many successful businesses, including Virgin (started by my former boss and mentor Richard Branson), get their start by one person being frustrated about the lack of quality options and doing something about it.

If you are constantly moaning that there has to be a better way, maybe it’s time to listen to yourself and do something about it. For example, I know a couple in Brooklyn, originally from Norway, who decided to raise their children here in the US. However, when they went to find quality alpaca and merino wool baby and children’s clothes (the kind they grew up with in Norway), they realized they couldn’t find any.

After some informal market research they realized there was indeed a market need, but no readily available supplier. So they contacted some manufacturers of these clothes back in Norway and struck some distribution deals. The result? Ellaswool.com recently opened online and is developing partnerships with stores up and down the east coast.

Do you find yourself spending more and more time trying to solve your “pet peeve”? Do your friends and family joke that it’s become a bit of an obsession? Maybe it’s time you took the leap (like my Norwegian friends) and followed through to see if your obsession has legs as a business idea.

2. Friends, family (even strangers) constantly encourage you to take the leap

Maybe you’ve already taken the first step to starting a new business, but have limited its scope to smaller, safer “friends and family” markets. Many times we are afraid to make the leap to becoming a broader scale entrepreneur because we are afraid there is not enough demand for our products and services – so we keep our passion as more of a hobby. And despite the overwhelmingly positive response to what we have to offer, we still find excuses not to go forward on a larger scale.

For example, my husband and his friend have been selling organic French crepes out of a makeshift stand at our local farmer’s market for over a year. Every Saturday they are the hit of the market, often they sell out of crepes before the official 1 pm closing time. And if I had a dollar for every time one of their customers asked whether they had a more permanent restaurant near by…  Well, I’d have a lot of cash.

Recently, they finally decided to take the leap and open Grenadine Creperie in our Westchester town. The response has been phenomenal. They are now asking themselves, “why did we wait so long?”.

Are you getting similar positive feedback and dismissing it as people “just being nice”? Maybe it’s time to start paying attention to that praise and looking at it more like market research.

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3.Your day job has become a drain on your reputation, energy and health

What’s the real cost of delaying your dream? Often it can be your reputation, energy … and sometimes even your health. Many entrepreneurs come out when the sun goes down. They work 9 to 5 at a job they are no longer passionate about, but really come alive at night or on the weekends when they can spend time tending to their hobby or their sideline “passion” business.

This is understandable. After all there are bills to pay, college tuitions to save for, the necessary health care benefits that many day jobs cover. But for many entrepreneurs the downside of clocking in every day (for a significant part of your day), working for someone else when you’d rather be starting your own company, can have some tangible, negative consequences.

No matter how good an actor or actress you think you are, chances are your boss notices this dip in enthusiasm, and may even be secretly recording the office time you are using to make phone calls or search the web as research for your passion project. Over time this lack of commitment can lead to a damaged reputation, career stalls or even dismissal… and chances are it won’t be on your own terms.

Also, we all know someone who finally made the move to pursue their passion after a life-changing event brought on by stress (like a heart attack or cancer or someone close to them dying). Do you really want to wait until that happens to you? Or do you want to start something on a positive foot, when you still have your health and energy?

Sound familiar?

Do these examples hit a nerve? Is this year finally going to be the year that you invest in yourself and your dreams? I know it’s a very personal decision. But having started my own business this past year, I can say that my philosophy is that life really is too short and there really is no downside to failure. It’s just a dress rehearsal for ultimate success.

What do you do first? 

So what if you have taken the important first step and acknowledged you are ready to turn your passion into a business… What do you do first? Well, that’s tricky. But what you do during the period to tee up your new business can make a huge difference between success and failure.

For example, spending some time upfront developing your bulls eye target and your core brand promise, can help you crystallize your idea and help all the decisions that entrepreneurs need to make, that much easier and focused. Also, creating an identity and a name for your business can help make it more tangible and help others (potential partners, investors, employees) get more excited and want to help out. Whatever the path you take: The time to act is now. You need to invest in yourself, your future and your happiness.

How do you do that on limited time and budgets? 

Brand School by BrandTwist is the premier program specifically designed for entrepreneurs and small businesses to help them build their brands. Brand School takes best practices of beloved brands such as Virgin, Apple, and Zappos and brings them to life in engaging videos, interactive homework exercises and access to a private community of other entrepreneurs. Learn more about the next semester of Brand School HERE.

The time to act on your dreams is now.

“I received huge value from Brand School. You can’t put a price on that experience. I loved the integrated learning experience and  that we walked out of the series with a working brand strategy.” – Rachel W., Brand School Participant

2 thoughts on “3 Alarm Bells: It’s Time To Make Your Hobby Your Business

  1. Julie! I am SO in this process right now. Transitioning from 30+ years in the ad biz to “Producing” (aka Project Management) of a completely different kind. Turning avocation into vocation. Looking forward to incorporating your advice into the plan.

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