Turn Your Passion Into Profit

Making a living doing what you love doesn't have to be a pipe dream. Here are some tips on turning your hobby or favorite pastime into a profitable business.

so you can test the market.”

Learning the nuts and bolts of an industry before you hang out your shingle is key. An excellent way to do this is by going to work for a company where you can be trained, and where you can decide if it’s truly your calling. It’s also a way to make mistakes with no personal financial loss. “I encourage people to get a job in their field of interest,” says Fallek. “Many people say they want to sell their product, but they know nothing about sales. Even a one-day sales training seminar at a department store during the holiday season can give you some experience.”

As a little girl, Kimberly Lee Minor of Columbus, Ohio, began designing and sewing dresses on her mom’s sewing machine. She even designed and sewed her own prom dress. Today, her clothing label, MSL Collection, is sold in boutiques, featured in fashion magazines and earns this 34-year-old $100,000 in sales annually.

But Minor first learned her industry. Before launching MSL Collection in 1998, she worked as a junior executive for Macy’s before being recruited by the Limited Corp., where she worked in the planning and allocation and fashion and merchandising departments. As a regional distributor for the company’s Express division, Minor was responsible for 200 stores. “I got to [choose] fabrics, styles, colors, lengths, and I got the opportunity to meet with vendors,” says Minor. “It was a tremendous learning experience.”

A challenge from her mom to “live out her dreams” prompted her to leave the company and design her own clothing line. “As a buyer for the knit tops division, I was pretty much running a $350 million enterprise for the company. I was responsible for product, sales, staff and financial plans. I thought, ‘Why am I running someone else’s business? I can put this experience to work for me.’ So I did!”

Joscelyn Wainwright also had exposure to his industry before cutting his entrepreneurial teeth. Wainwright, 58, transformed his passion for African American art into the National Black Fine Art Show: a massive exhibition of African American artists’ work attended by thousands of art lovers each winter in New York City. After retiring from the New York City police force after 21 years, Wainwright went to work for Sanford Smith & Associates, a small firm sponsoring antique shows, where he learned the business side of art.

“I started doing security for their art shows, then eventually I became operations director,” says Wainwright. “I had a chance to experience the ins and outs of getting shows up and running, from hiring security to interfacing with dealers.”

Getting a job or internship in your hobby industry is also a great way to build a customer base. Although Thompson’s internship at the recording studio didn’t earn him much money, it brought him in — to contact with artists and executives in the music business. “Back in those days, guys like R. Kelly, Rakim or KRS One would come record there,” Thompson explains.

“I also got to attend seminars

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