Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Hobby businesses

     Free daily advice for people in small business
     from someone who has been there, done that.

     No, this is not about businesses built around hobbies. It's about businesses that are started and operated as if they are hobbies.

     We've seen them. They pop up like mushrooms after a summer rain. And they disappear just as quickly.

     Everyone has seen hobby businesses. They are frequently found in towns that cater to the cognoscenti. Hobby businesses are at the leading edge of current cultural pursuits and interests. They frequently take a politically correct agenda and try to turn it into a business.

     Hobby businesses are not established by people who are serious about business. The owners are serious about something in their own lives and assume that many others are likewise interested. They jump into the stream of commerce and open a little shop.

     Example: A quilter decides to offer in a storefront the quilts she loves to make. She hangs one in the window and settles behind her sewing machine making more. A year later, she decides not to renew her lease, takes everything back to her home, and continues making quilts. During the year, she sold exactly ten quilts. She will spend the next few years recovering from the expense of that year's lease, fixtures, and other outlays.

     Example: A bad economy causes one to wonder if a consignment shop is a viable business. After all, stuff laying around people's houses could be sold to others. The storefront is leased and filled with discarded treasures brought by people anxious to sell their stuff. People wander into the shop, look around, and leave. The owner closes the place and sets up a big yard sale at home to deal with all those consignments.

     Other examples can be found in frame shops, furniture designers, gift shops, decorators, tee shirt makers, muffin makers, chocolate purveyors, lawn cutting operations, and more. People take their interest to another level.

     Don't misunderstand. A viable business can be created with any of these examples. Any hobby can be turned into a successful operation. But a hobby is one thing and a business is quite another.

     I know a business that is built entirely on puzzles and games. Another successful store offers only baseball cards and the like. These owners have taken their interest to the business level. 

     The difference is the business plan. Business plans can exist in the head of the owner or they can be elaborate written documents. But they must be solidly based on market considerations--where is the market, market size, and how to address it.

     A website extends the reach of that quilter far beyond the people who walk past the shop's door. And Facebook can turn a consignment shop into a thriving operation. 

     Turning a hobby or special interest into a business requires more than the hobby or special interest. You will be successful only to the extent that you address the marketplace. That means doing your business plan and reaching out with every marketing tool that works for you. 

     If you have questions on this or any other topic covered here,
     email me direct at: and put BLOG in the subject line.
     Your privacy respected.   



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