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Got Skills?

Jim Mousner has a photo of himself at age 5 donning a fedora and carrying a briefcase, playing secret agent. He went so far as to interview with the Secret Service but chose to pursue a different career. His interest in espionage, however, never waned.
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the October 2007 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Today, as the founder of Houston-based creative design firm Origin Design, Mousner puts the skills he's learned as a sleuthing enthusiast to work for his clients, from employing investigative techniques to determine what clients really need to finding graphic design inspiration from counterfeiting investigations. The Secret Service had a lasting effect. "Working in the background and being the quiet hero isn't too different from making corporate CEOs shine and helping protect their brand image from threats," says Mousner, 37, whose business projects more than $3 million in sales this year.

Many entrepreneurs find hobbies an ideal way to unwind after a strenuous workweek. And some entrepreneurs say their hobbies offer skills and lessons they can take back to the office to become better entrepreneurs.

Hugh Braithwaite uses his love for theater and improv as a guiding principle in his PR firm, Braithwaite Communications. He even created a corporate improv division to help his clients communicate at corporate events, annual meetings and media training sessions. Braithwaite, 46, projects 2007 sales of $3.5 million for his 11-year-old Philadelphia business. He says, "We can sit back, take orders from clients and become a press release factory, or we can take risks and help our clients achieve what they never knew was possible. But that requires risk taking--kind of like putting yourself out there on stage with no script and a group of people you trust."

VC, angel investor and Web 2.0 guru Joi Ito is well-known for his espousal of the business lessons he's gleaned from the online multiplayer game World of Warcraft. He spends hours each week with his guild--a group of players who join together for multiplayer quests.

"Working with hundreds of people with different goals and trying to get 'in the zone' and stay there is a challenge for any group, and it's something you live with every day in managing a guild," says Ito, 41, who has lived and worked in the U.S. but currently runs his VC firm, Noeteny, from Tokyo and is an investor in Six Apart and Technorati. "[The game's] context-oriented leadership is really useful in companies that are open and involve the community, such as open source or Web 2.0."

Ito says anyone interested in the future of interfaces, leisure and play would do well to sign up for an account. You might not only have fun, but learn some new leadership skills as well.

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