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Finding Your Passion Call it passion, enthusiasm or fire in the belly--it's what energizes successful entrepreneurs. Here's how to unlock yours.

By Sean M. Lyden

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Marianne Szymanski discovered her passion as a young girl."I've always loved children and believed in helpingothers," says Szymanski, the president of Toy Tips Inc., aconsumer-focused international consulting firm in Milwaukee thattests toys based on appropriate age and skill development. "Asa pre-teen, I enjoyed holding MDA [Muscular Dystrophy Association]carnivals in my backyard. I would donate my old toys as prizes andhave games and go-cart rides set up to raise money for MDA.Sometimes I would raise [only] $32, but I was so proud to turn itin because that was the outcome of my little carnival."

Szymanski has since parlayed her passion into a thrivingventure. The idea for Toy Tips came when she worked as a sales repfor LEGO, her first employer after graduating from college in 1989.Her job was to sell the LEGO line to toy store managers, but oftenwhen she would visit a store on a sales call, the customers wouldthink she worked there and ask for advice in search of the bestbirthday or holiday gifts for their kids. "I'd usually tryto sell them LEGOs or direct them to a store employee, but allthose questions [from parents about what to look for in toys]piqued my interest," Szymanski recalls. "I was 23 and hada lot of determination and a Visa card, so I was willing to takethe risk."

In 1991, she took the plunge, leaving LEGO to start Toy TipsInc. and offer parents objective advice about toys. Started as atoy advice hotline, Szymanski's company today conductsextensive toy research and publishes the findings in Toy TipsMagazine (distributed at Toys "R" Us and Targetstores). The magazine summarizes research findings for parents andhas such sponsors as Jiffy Lube, Curad, Hilton Hotels, NorthwestAirlines and Gerber. Szymanski is recognized across the country asa leading expert on toys, regularly appearing on such shows asGood Morning America, Oprah and Later Today aswell as on the Lifetime cable TV network.

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