Passion Into Profit

Get the Timing Right

Szczurek encourages entrepreneurs to research the market to ensure they are launching a business at the right time. "Before you take the leap, get feedback from the marketplace, create a business plan, and run the numbers to see if your idea will work," she says.

Stone, 37, started thinking about publishing a magazine for active women several years ago, but put the idea on hold because the timing was not right. "I was competing in the Ironman, and I started talking to a magazine publisher about the fact that there were no sports magazines targeted specifically to women. [I] joked that I should start one," Stone recalls. "But shortly after that, Sports Illustrated for Women came out, and I put the idea on the back burner."

But Sports Illustrated for Women was short-lived, and when it folded in 2002, Stone revisited her dream of launching a magazine. "The same day I found out that [Sports Illustrated for Women] was publishing their last issue, I went into my home office and didn't come out for hours," Stone says. "Later that night, I had a rough business plan and announced to my husband that I was going to start a magazine."

Stone quit her job as the chief marketing officer for a multimillion-dollar company and spent months working on putting all the pieces together to launch Her Sports from her home in St. Petersburg, Florida. Says Stone, "When the first issue came off the press... I literally broke down, because I had realized my dream of putting together this phenomenal magazine."

Timing is important, but Anderson warns that waiting for the right time may simply be a tactic to put off taking the next step. "Most people wait for everything to be perfect before starting a business," she says. "Turning a passion into a business means that you would be doing it even if you were not being paid for it. Getting paid for it is the next logical step, so sometimes you just have to go for it."

Learn From Others
Stone was confident that Her Sports would succeed in large part because she was careful not to make the same mistakes as other magazines that have failed. "One of the reasons the other magazines failed was because of costs," she says. "Most magazines spent millions to launch, whereas we spent almost nothing. They also had the overhead of Manhattan offices and hundreds of employees, but we have small offices in Florida and only eight employees."

According to Anderson, hearing success stories and learning about the challenges of the industry is an important first step in turning a passion into a business. She also recommends talking to potential suppliers and customers about their experiences with the industry, and approaching networking groups and small-business associations for guidance and feedback. "Talk to people who have experience and love what they're doing," Anderson advises. "Those are the people who will tell you about the challenges, but they will also highlight the positives so that you are getting balanced advice."

Capitalize on Consumer Demand
David Young has had a passion for playing pinball since he was a little kid, but he never imagined that he would grow up to own a leading international gaming company. In fact, selling pinball machines never entered his mind until a passerby stopped to ask about a pinball machine being delivered to his Florida home in 2002, and he realized that his collection was in high demand.

"He stopped to talk to me because he thought I sold pinball machines," recalls Young, 44. "I said, 'No, I collect pinball machines.' He wanted to know how many I had and then asked if he could check them out."

Minutes later, the passerby offered Young $5,000 for the pinball machine that had just been delivered. "I only paid $2,000 for it, so of course I agreed," Young says. The passerby returned with the money and a friend to help move the machine, and by the time the pair left, Young had sold them $15,000 worth of arcade games.

At the time, Young owned a successful computer-chip distributor, but curiosity about the potential revenue stream that could result from selling his collection of pinball machines led him to learn HTML and launch BMIGaming.com in Boca Raton, Florida, as a side venture. "I put together a simple website, I made my first sale 48 hours later, and in the space of a few weeks, I sold all of my pinball machines," Young recalls.

Though Young is still involved in his high-tech business, his primary focus is on growing BMIGaming.com. His efforts have paid off: The company expects sales to top $8 million in 2005. "I have been excited about every venture I have ever [started]," Young says. "But I have never done anything like this that combines a passion that is also highly profitable."

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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