Could you turn something you love doing into a job opportunity? Here are some things to consider. By Lisa Templeton
Love what you do, and you will never work a day in your life. So the old saying goes. But before you grab your crafting scissors, needle or glue, take a second to think about it carefully. Ask yourself some probing questions and then start small and think big.
Before you take the plunge
Answer the following:
• Will I still enjoy my hobby? You will need to be certain that you won’t take the joy out of your hobby once it becomes all about deadlines, customer requirements, billing and financials. One reader, who asked not to be named, said once she had turned her hobby into a business, she could no longer enjoy it and eventually gave up on the whole thing.
• Do you like the idea of being an entrepreneur? While you may love your hobby, if you are going to turn it into your bread and butter, you will need to be businesslike. Are you up for doing the hard sell, keeping your eye on costs and money made, and dealing with customers? Virtually any business will be tough in the beginning.
• Can I cope without a regular income? Going at it alone is a big risk. Running your own business means your income can be erratic and your overheads high. All of the business-women interviewed for this piece had other jobs when they started selling their hobby products at markets, for example.
Making your venture work
1. Do your research Once you know what you plan to sell, ask friends and family for their forthright opinions on whether they would buy it and what they would think is a fair price. See who else is out there selling something similar. What are they charging and where are they selling it? Then start at informal markets or online to test-drive it and see what you need to tweak.
2. Think laterally You don’t have to manufacture something. Perhaps you could teach lessons, or you could fix and maintain items you’re interested in. You don’t just have to sell a product to enjoy it.
3. Persist When the going gets tough, the tough get going, so keep it up and remember your goals.
4. Get the word out If you make jewellery, wear it. Make sure you have an online presence, use social media to punt your business and maybe run a small competition with your product as a prize – and always carry business cards you can hand out.
5. Build a network See if local shops will stock your products or if they’d be happy to have fliers near the tills, and chat to others doing similar things at markets to see if you can team up.
6. If things take off, consider doing a business course Business is all about money, budgets and reconciliations, as well as marketing and selling, so consider boosting what you know with a short course in business skills.
A few tips from those in the know
Make sure you have a market for your product – Kathleen Quillinan, the Pesto Princess
Once upon a time, Kathleen – wanting to be an opera singer – tapped into her cooking hobby to make pesto to sell at a local market to raise money for studies. Today, her Pesto Princess business employs some 40 people at the factory they call The Palace and produces close to 100 tons of pestos, pastes and soups a year.
Kathleen says ‘Make absolutely sure there is a market for the products or service you would like to sell. When we have a passion for something, it is not always easy to tell objectively if others will want it.
Test your product informally in a safe environment – such as among friends, family and at a local market – to see if there is indeed a market for it, and if your price is right. It doesn’t have to cost you a lot upfront. Don’t fear that your idea will get stolen – better that than having the wrong product at the wrong price.’
Do your research. You do not need a formal education to be an entrepreneur – Thandie Dowery, Nomi Handmade
Thandie started out with a passion for crochet, but when her hands started to ache, she looked for a new creative outlet. It was at that point she first saw shweshwe material on sale and bought it ‘out of pure love’, not knowing what she’d do with it. What she did was to create bright and beautiful jewellery and accessories. Spotted at her local market, she now sells her products locally and internationally online.
Thandie says ‘Always have an open mind and ask many questions. There is a wealth of information out there. We have a culture of expecting things to be given to us on a plate, but it takes work. Always look to improve and you can make things happen.’
Believe in yourself – Linda ‘Lulu’ Fellowes, author of the African Penguin range of books
Lulu started out writing for her family, initially just doing Christmas greetings and short rhymes. Then she decided to try her hand at writing a book, with
a conservation message for younger children. The very successful tale of oil-spill-surviving penguins, Peter, Pamela and Percy in the Big Spill, was followed by five more books on other species under threat, and Lulu has sold close to 40 000 books to date.
Lulu says ‘Just do it. Because it is something you love, you can’t fail. You will succeed. Believe in yourself and don’t allow anyone to talk you out of it.’
Don’t ever give up, even on the days you really want to!
– Melanie Stieger, Melsbuzz
A love for fabric painting would turn into a business while Melanie was busy finishing a 13-year stint as an au pair. Asked to clean out a sandpit where cats had been messing, she came up with an idea for a sand-pit cover. She then approached Baby City and from there on out, her business slowly grew to include baby accessories such as bandana-bibs, dummy ribbons and bib mats.
Melanie says ‘Persevere – even if others copy you. I had my idea copied in the very first month, and since then, I have had my whole range copied.
Remember, if someone copies you, it just means you have a great product. You just have to keep going and have faith in the quality of your products. Try to get in with the bigger retailers and go to the big trade shows.’
CHECK IT OUT
• Pesto Princess
• Nomi Handmade
Facebook: Nomi Handmade
• African Penguin series