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Canines, Trains and Really Great Parties

Topic: Entrepreneur Evangelist,Starting Your Business | Comments (3)

Posted on December 16, 2009 by admin

Christmas Model TrainOne of my favorite things about the information economy is the extent to which a highly commoditized, social web lowers the barrier to entry for prospective entrepreneurs.  While some of us elect to dive into owning our own business head-first with little or no safety net, that’s not the best way for some people.  Many people need to ease their way into entrepreneurship, and one of the ways I most enjoy watching is through their hobbies.

Daniel Kehrer of recently wrote about the new trends of hobbyists-turned-entrepreneurs, and their increasingly noteworthy impact on the small business space.  In reading the six reasons he lists as catalysts for this phenomenon, it makes me think of three different friends of mine who have spent years dancing on the edges of entrepreneurship with hobbies they enjoy.

The Painter
For years The Painter has paid the bills by being a project manager leading development teams in web application environments (which, naturally, is how we met).  She is smart, creative, a great integrator of complex project solutions and very well-respected by her peers.  But her love is painting.  So, as a side business, she not only sells her paintings, but she also does commission artwork: she paints customized pet portraits.

The Engineer
Ironically, “the engineer” is a double-entendre for my second friend: while we used to work together when he was a system engineer for the ecommerce site I worked on, his hobby is an online model train community that includes an ecommerce business.  What started out strictly as an enjoyable past-time has, over time, become an increasingly viable business in its own right.

The Event Planner
Did you ever have a friend who was the go-to person for something for everyone they knew?  My friend is the go-to person if you want an event planned.  Whether it’s one of her best friend’s weddings, my 30th birthday, or the company Christmas party, if there is an event to be planned, she is the person you want to draft.  Not only does she know how to get it all done, but she can even make sure it comes in on budget.

While all of her friends have spent years telling her that we’d love to see her own her own business to do this professionally, it wasn’t until she got laid off and started volunteering for local non-profits that her decade-old hobby started to morph itself into an actual business.

What I love about each of these three examples is that none of them went out looking to start a business, first and foremost.  What they started with was something they simply loved to do.  Over time, the business aspect evolved.

The six reasons that Dan lists are things that, in essence, amount to much of what “the long tail” is all about, and it’s at the heart of the opportunity that the information economy provides.  So while not everyone is going to see the type of run-away success that passionate entrepreneurs like Gary Vaynerchuck experience, what this trend does is remind us that the age-old saying has a modern day variation: “Where there is a passion, there is a way.”

As entrepreneurs in a new era, that’s an exciting opportunity.

Alora Chistiakoff is an entrepreneur, content strategist and project manager who has been developing online business and technology for startups for more than a decade.  She co-owns The Indigo Heron Group, Inc., a content strategy firm in Austin, Texas.