The Southeastern Chapter of SCORE is a non-profit organization that has been offering free business guidance and encouragement to small business owners and entrepreneurs for over 50 years. Over the course of a year we engage and support hundreds of clients throughout Southeastern Connecticut, through individual mentoring, business workshops and online support.
Some clients have established businesses and others are just starting, but all have the same goal; to be successful. One of the questions we frequently encounter is whether or not someone’s hobby can become a business.
We have had clients come to us because friends and family have told them that their chocolate cookies, or ink sketches, or knit caps, or wood sculptures, or chili recipes, or business acumen, or web skills are so good that they could sell them, and start a business.
Running a successful business centered on doing something you love is the dream of many entrepreneurs. What could be more gratifying than making a living sharing your talents and skills with others? In fact, the internet is full of stories about people who have made this transition; turning ‘passions’ into profits.
While it’s encouraging to know that some people are very successful in making the transition from hobbyist to small business owner, it is not an easy road. Before you quit your day job keep in mind that not all hobbies (and the people participating in them) are well suited for entrepreneurship.
At SCORE we encourage our clients to draw a distinction between a hobby that generates some income, and a sustainable business idea that warrants significant investment. Questions that need to be addressed include:
• Does your hobby deliver a product/service that meets an unmet need in the market place?
• Does your product/service offer a clear advantage compared to the competition?
• Is your advantage something for which people would be willing to pay a premium?
• Are there enough people in your area to support sufficient sales for your business? If not, are you comfortable creating a virtual store, and marketing via the internet?
If you can say yes to all the questions above, you may very well have a viable business idea. As a next step, we encourage you to evaluate if turning your hobby into a business is something you, personally, want to pursue.
1. Set goals: Do you want to create a business that produces a living wage for you, or just earn some extra spending money? Both are valid, but require different strategies.
2. Assess enjoyment factor: Would your hobby still be fun, and rewarding for you if you ‘had to’ do it on demand? Would it still be satisfying if what you produce was put ‘out there’ to be scrutinized by others?
3. Evaluate drive: Are you willing to put yourself out there? Do you have the resources, both in terms of finances and ‘know how’ to market your product or service? Are you willing to learn how to get them?
4. Consider multitasking capability: Running a business requires more skills, time and energy than your current hobby. Are you good at multitasking?
5. Do the math: Can you sell your product or service at a profitable price, to a large enough customer base to make money? Make sure you consider overhead costs in addition to cost of goods sold, and your time.
Are you ready to turn your hobby into a business, or expand the business you currently have? If you need assistance in getting started, or if you want to take your business to the next step, SCORE can help.
Margo Weitekamp is a SCORE mentor. SCORE is a nonprofit association that offers free and confidential advice on starting your own business or improving and growing your existing small business. All 45 counselors in Southeast Connecticut are volunteers, receive no compensation, and are working or retired business owners, executives, and managers. SCORE’s nine counseling sites in Southeast Connecticut include Guilford, Madison, Old Saybrook, Essex, Waterford, Middletown, Mystic, Norwich, and New London. For more information on upcoming free workshops and how to schedule a free small business mentoring session with our counselors, visit www.sect.score.org. Would You Like To Become A Score Volunteer? Your business knowledge and experience can help others start or grow a small business. Learn more about becoming a SCORE volunteer at: www.score.org/volunteer