Passion Into Profit

Can you really make a living doing what you love? These entrepreneurs prove it's not only possible, it can be profitable, too.

Snake Rock has recorded a number-one single and played alongside legendary bands at some of the hottest venues in the country, but the 46-year-old musician never imagined that his passion for rock 'n' roll would become a lucrative business. "I always thought I would work all day and play clubs at night," says Rock. "I never imagined that my passion would become my full-time job."

Entrepreneurs around the country are ditching the idea that hobbies are just leisure pursuits, opting instead to turn their passions into thriving businesses. "There is a wonderful trend that has [entrepreneurs] starting businesses that add meaning to their lives," says Nancy Anderson, a Larkspur, California-based career counselor and author of Work With Passion. "People are letting go of the belief that it is impossible to make money and also do what you love."

Rock eventually grew tired of working as a construction supervisor, and playing gigs in local clubs began to lose its appeal. He was convinced that playing with his band was the only way to feed his passion-until his wife and band manager, Karen, suggested an alternative. "Karen encouraged me to start giving music lessons so I could turn my love of music into a career," he says. "At first, I was a little intimidated by teaching, and I was worried that no one would sign up [for lessons]."

Fear of failure is common among almost all business owners, but Anderson believes that entrepreneurs who are passionate about their businesses are much more likely to be successful. "Working with passion is about more than just making money; it is about being fulfilled by your work."

Lay the Groundwork
Dawna Stone spent months researching the viability of a magazine for active women before launching Her Sports in 2004. In addition to holding focus groups to assess reader demand, Stone spoke with advertisers to gauge their interest and sought advice from people with experience in the publishing industry.

"I am so passionate about participating in sports and being active, and I wanted to take that passion to the next level and turn it into a business," says Stone, who used a combination of savings and loans from family and friends to start Her Sports. "[But] I did a lot of research to make sure it would work."

The risk paid off. Her Sports published its debut issue in March 2004, and the magazine has grown steadily over the past year. Sales, which reached $300,000 in 2004, are expected to more than double to $800,000 in 2005.

To ensure they were ready to open their own business, Snake and Karen Rock decided to offer music lessons on a part-time basis from their home studio in 2002. "Snake was teaching in the evenings and on the weekends, and it got to the point where we couldn't take on any more students," Karen, 49, recalls. "We had to make the decision to [keep] our regular jobs or take the leap and turn it into something bigger."

Before they started S&K Music last fall, the Rocks developed a business plan and spent a significant amount of time assessing the likelihood that their business would be successful. The couple evaluated the competition, talked to prospective customers and asked students for feedback about similar businesses. Based on this research, they created the plan for S&K Music, a full-service instructional facility offering music lessons, instruments, sheet music and a recording studio. Additionally, the couple chose a location in an up-and-coming area of Las Vegas where there was little competition. "In Las Vegas, the market is somewhat untapped," Snake says. "We did a lot of research and decided to take the plunge."

"A lot of would-be entrepreneurs have a passion but lack the courage to follow it through to a business," says Theresa M. Szczurek, a Boulder, Colorado-based technology and management consultant and author of Pursuit of Passionate Purpose. "There will always be people who want to rain on your parade and tell you all the reasons you can't do something. If you want to turn your passion into a successful business, you have to have self-confidence."

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Jodi Helmer is a freelance writer living in Portland, Oregon. Visit her online at www.jodihelmer.com.

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This article was originally published in the October 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur's StartUps with the headline: Passion Into Profit.

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