Turning a Hobby into a Business

Find out how these teens made the jump from hobbyists to entrepreneurs.
Magazine Contributor
5 min read

This story appears in the January 2004 issue of Teen Startups. Subscribe »

Most people, whether they're teens or adults, have certain activities they absolutely love. For 18-year-old Charley Baugh, it's fishing and fishing lures. For Erin Ozanne, 20, it's sewing. And for Adam Welti, 19, it's animals.

So what's the difference between these three individuals and the rest of us? The fact that they found a way to turn their hobbies into lucrative businesses.

Luring in Customers

When Charley Baugh was eight, his grandmother gave him several tackle boxes full of lures. They had belonged to her and Charley's grandfather, who had worked for Heddon, a well-known fishing lure company.

Baugh, who lives in Canton, Texas, liked them so much that he began collecting fishing lures, and by the time he was 14, he had between six and eight cases and more than eight tackle boxes full of them.

Not knowing what to do with all these lures, this enterprising teen started a business called Charley's Lures and began selling them at First Monday Trade Days, a monthly open market in his hometown. Soon he was traveling to other shows and, as a member of the National Fishing Lure Collector's Club (NFLCC), has even displayed his wares at the organization's national show.

So popular were his lures that Baugh eventually expanded his offerings to include old duck decoys, hunting items and lamps he and has father create from fishing gear like tackle boxes and lures. "My father helps with the electrical part," Baugh says, "and my mom helps me with the design.",/p>

Baugh's inventory may have expanded, but most of his interest remains in his first love: lures. And while most of his lures run anywhere from $2 to $100, many collectibles, such as glass lures, can fetch up to $20,000. But Baugh says he'd rather stick to the ones he has. "I'm afraid I might drop the [glass ones]," he explains, "so I stick with the plastic ones."

Soul-Satisfying Business

Erin Ozanne of Binghamton, New York, loves to create and sew her own unique brand of free-spirited clothing. But when she came up with the idea of selling her creations, she discovered that running a business required a lot more than knowing how to operate a sewing machine.

So she got her parents involved. "We sat around the table and figured out what costs we would have," explains the owner of Clothes for the Soul. When they did that, lots of hidden costs cropped up, like upkeep on her sewing machines and expenses related to selling her fashions at local music festivals and college campus events. "We even had to figure out the cost of gas to make the trips."

Ozanne now shares a storefront with a candle shop, where she pays rent, and also has monthly expenses related to the Web site she maintains. But seeing someone wearing one of her designs makes it all worthwhile. "I enjoy seeing people out wearing the clothing I make," she says. "I ask them where they bought it-then tell them I made their clothes."

Dog-Gone Good Pet Sitter

So what does a teen animal lover and aspiring veterinarian do when he wants to own a pet store in his spare time but discovers the costs are too high? Just give up?

Not if you're Adam Welti, who simply did a bit more research and discovered that there were no pet-sitting services in his hometown of Plainview, Minnesota. Sounds like a perfect opportunity to open AJ's Pet Sitting Service, which is exactly what Welti did.

But just because Welti has a soft spot in his heart for animals doesn't mean he didn't have killer business instincts. Before opening his business, Welti estimated his start-up costs, began preparing a cash-flow forecast (which he still does on a monthly basis) and filed his business name with the Minnesota Secretary of State.

After his business opened, he found that he was spending $50 to $60 a month on incidentals. "It's mainly advertising," he explains "but also fuel to drive to clients' homes and stamps for promotional materials."

Welti, who does everything from walking, feeding and playing with his clients' pets to cleaning out the litterbox, bringing in mail and newspapers, and taking out the trash, has a growing client list, although he says his business is definitely seasonal. "Usually during the winter months, it slows down," he says.

So what does he do during the downtime? Why, refer back to the trusty cash flow projections, of course. "If my expenses are going to be more than my cash coming in, then I may use my savings to pay for things or try and cut back."

And while he still has plans for a vet clinic and kennel, Welti also has bigger plans for his hobby as well. "I want to do international medicine and work with endangered species in the Third World," he says.

More Resources
  • Read about Brad Kolsky, another young entrepreneur who turned a hobby into a healthy enterprise at YoungBiz.com.
  • Starting a hobby-based business requires more than a healthy interest: It requires business knowledge as well. Read more on this subject at Entrepreneur.com.

Amy Fennell Christian, a writer living in Augusta, Georgia, is a freelance editor for YoungBiz.com

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