One of my 11 great ways to earn more money is to turn your hobby into an income. Today we have a post from a Free Money Finance reader who did just that.
A few months ago, I arranged two guest posts from Badger and Blade about ways to save money on shaving (Save Money on Shaving, Save Money with Straight Razor Shaving). In full disclosure, I mentioned to FMF that I have a hobby-turned-small business in the same industry. While the first two posts were published, I believe FMF was more interested in my story of how I turned a hobby into a small business!
I'll be upfront with this; my small business was an accident. While I do have a strong entrepreneurial spirit, I stumbled into this business because I was trying not to get in trouble with my wife. Hopefully, you can use what I've learned to help you see your hobbies and interests in a new light.
When I started experimenting with traditional wet shaving (brush, soaps, double edge razor, etc…) I wanted to try different razor blades, as I had read that they all perform differently. However, this was not easily done because some of the blades were only available in bulk, while others were found only from sources outside of the USA. If I wanted to try the blades at once, I would have had to order from multiple sources, pay a lot in shipping charges, and be stuck with piles of blades I may not like. I figured I'd be in a bit of trouble for "wasting" $100 on razor blades. Instead, I hatched a plan and asked around on Badger & Blade to see if a few people would be interested in buying my excess blades, i.e. a sample of the popular blades. A couple people said they'd be interested, so my wife gave me the OK. I did, and sold the blades at cost, and figured that was it. To my surprise, I received a few messages from people asking if I'd do it again. I'm not exactly sure why I agreed, other than to be nice to a group of people that were nice to me, but I ordered more blades and either sold them off at cost again or traded them for other shaving items I hadn't tried.
Fast forward a few months and I started ordering enough so that my suppliers gave me slight discounts. Now, instead of selling or trading at cost, I made a little bit of money. At this point I realized continuing to offer the razor blade sample packs was worth doing. Over the course of the next few months, West Coast Shaving was born.
Front this point, the story turns into how to run a small business, and not something easily covered in one post. Suffice it to say, there was a lot of work, a lot of planning, and a lot of investments to turn a budding idea into a real business. I happened to "pick" an industry where margins are slim and information is scarce. It wasn't easy getting to where I am right now. I've learned this the hard way, so be aware of the industry structure before you decide to open shop. Additionally, looking back over the last two years, I recognize three important concepts that made this work.
1. Fill a need - This is the most important concept. With any industry, there are needs that aren't being met. Start thinking about the things YOU wish were available with a hobby. What problems did you encounter when you started? Those are areas with business potential.
2. Be different – Early on, I decided not compete directly with established vendors, but instead, compliment them. In addition to not diluting the market, it has led to fun and profitable partnerships with well established vendors. Online retail has enough competition. Be different and people will notice.
3. Be efficient – I have a wife and kids, a demanding full time job, a church to support, hobbies to enjoy, and a few other projects I'm working on. We're all very busy. I decided to keep the options simple so that order fulfillment would be as efficient as possible. Margins are slim in the shaving industry as it is, if I couldn't fill orders and balance the books quickly, I would be better off taking a part-time job. For this type of part-time business, I believe in doing something simple, and doing it well.
It still makes me smile when I recount the origin of my small business. I hope my story has inspired you to take a look around. Business opportunities exist everywhere you look. You just need to know how to look. Lastly, if you decide to start a small business, make sure you have fun with it!