Interview: How to Turn Your Hobby Into a Money-Making Venture

|Posted by | Make Money

turn-hobby-into-businessEe-ling Ting of The Missing Piece, and Melissa Wang of Shop Wonderland, offer insights and tips on how to turn your hobby into a profitable business.

Starting your own business can be daunting, especially if it’s based on a hobby. Who needs another cupcake shop. Or café? Or florist? Will people like and buy my dresses? Will I make enough money for my next meal? Doubts conspire to cloud your mind, dissuading you from what could be your life’s purpose.

If you find yourself having this debate in your head: Should you? Or shouldn’t you? And how? We reached out to two women who have taken the path you have been staring at with cold feet for months, and have succeeded.

How did they do it? What advise, financial and otherwise, do they have from their own experience? Find out, and good luck!

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Ee-ling Ting, Founder & Designer, The Missing Piece

What made you decide to turn your hobby into a business?

Ee-ling: Honestly, it wasn’t planned. I picked up sewing when I was living in Australia and I loved to shop for fabric and make my own clothes. After I became a mum, I started making one-of-a-kind pieces for my own kids and when I had a daughter, I started making matching outfits for the both of us! It all started out as a creative outlet away from being a stay-at-home mum to three kids. Before I knew it, others started asking where they could get clothes like ours, and the rest, as they say, is history. 

What were some of the initial financial concerns or challenges?

Ee-ling: I’ve always been risk averse, so naturally I did not want to pump in large amounts of cash into starting something I wasn’t even sure I wanted to commit to 100%. I also didn’t want to use my husband’s money, so I only had a small amount of savings to work with from the beginning.

How long did it take before you started earning enough to make a living of your hobby?

Ee-ling: I used a small amount of my savings to produce the first collection. To minimise costs, I did everything myself, and to minimise risk, I sold primarily to friends on a pre-order basis and through word of mouth. Everything I made in that first collection then went straight back into the business to make the second collection.

With each collection, I scaled up a little more and for my most recent CNY collection, which was my biggest collection yet, I pumped in all of my profits to date and boosted that with a bit more of my savings to scale up and have ready stock. It probably took me about a year before I started making enough to call The Missing Piece a legitimate business. 

Looking back, what are the biggest lessons learned?

Ee-ling:

  1. Don’t do it for the money! It sounds ironic, but for me, the minute I stopped enjoying myself, the business side of things also started to fail.
  2. If you’re a creative, find someone who can help you with the business side of things and can help you grow your business.
  3. Always trust your gut. At the end of the day, no one knows your passion, goals and ideals better than you.
  4. Help others and enlarge your circle of friends. It is always worth spending on your relationships.
  5. Keep books in a systematic manner from the very start to make your accounting easier.
  6. When you’re ready and fully committed, it is worthwhile to spend the money in order to grow.  Whether that means outsourcing, hiring or scaling. Once you have tested your market and done your due diligence, just go for it!

What advice can you offer from your experience? What should one take into consideration — in terms of money — before diving into their venture?

Ee-ling: I came from a medical research background and my PhD obviously has nothing to do with fashion or starting a business, but I think you would be surprised how far passion can get you. If you enjoy what you’re doing, the tasks at hand will come naturally to you and you will instinctively do well. It may not mean that you’re hugely successful overnight, but it would mean you have a pretty good chance of getting there and sticking it out in the long run.

I also learned that you don’t need a lot to start a business. It is perfectly fine to start out small and pace yourself. I took minimal risk in my approach and tested my market and made mistakes with my smaller collections. Do your due diligence and look at your numbers after a trial period and be honest with yourself if your business idea is viable. Tweak it if possible and invest only what you’re comfortable losing.

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Melissa Wang, Founder, Shop Wonderland Café and Floral Studio

What made you decide to turn your hobby into a business?

Melissa: When I started Wonderland in 2010, there was a gap in the market for an event aesthetics that were trending in the United States. I was very pleased to have entered the market when there was growing desire for good aesthetics and that I was able to put my experience acquired from my retail management background and my personal inclinations to good use.

What were some of the initial financial concerns or challenges?

Melissa: The financial concerns I faced six months into the business was the need to hire a full-time staff to assist me, but the business had yet to stabilise and I was concerned about whether I would be able to create a job for another person and provide him or her a career in my team.

Did you have to dig into your savings to get started, and how long did it take before you started earning enough to make a living from your hobby?

Melissa: Yes I did, it took me about a year before it was financially viable.

Looking back, what are the biggest lessons learned?

Melissa: The most important lesson and thing for any new business owner to do is to set your margins, and keep to them. Sales turnover is pure vanity, the bottom is your sanity.

What advice can you offer from your experience? What should one take into consideration — in terms of money — before diving into their venture?

Melissa: For any official pursuit of your passion, it is important to go into it 100%. There is difficulty to ensure that your passion benefits as a business if your attention is divided between the business and your full-time employment. However, before you take the plunge, speak to many people especially those already in business. They would be able to provide the harsh realities of doing a business.

Read This Next:

A Money Minute with Shireena Shroff Machharam
Why Having Hobbies Can Help You Save Money


Karman TseBy Karman Tse
Karman Tse is the founder and editor-in-chief of WearOhWhere.com. She is a believer of the Bradshaw-ist philosophy of personal finance — specifically: “I like my money where I can see it: Hanging in my closet.