The best businesses always start as a passion project.
Let's say you really love to hike. And you love talking to fellow hikers, talking about your favorite trails, gear you like, places around the world to visit. Wouldn't it make sense, then, to put yourself in a position where you could be surrounded by those things all day, every day?
I've never really understood how people could say, "I don't know what my passion is."
Sure you do.
You know the things you like, don't like, and want to spend your time doing. The real question is what's holding you back from building a life, or a business, around your passion.
Take the hiking example. Why not have your own store that sells hiking gear? Why not create a hiking retreat program that takes hikers to different trails in your state? Why not build a marketplace website for hiking brands to reach the hiking community?
If your response is, "Well, I don't know how to do any of that. I've never built a business before," then here's my answer to you.
Neither did I.
There are three things that hold entrepreneurs back from building a business around their passion.
1. Lack of belief in themselves
It's the truth.
Ask any entrepreneur whether they had it all figured out before they started, and they will laugh and say, "Absolutely not. I had no idea what I was doing."
That's part of the fun of entrepreneurship. You're figuring it out as you go along.
When I was building my first company, Wilmar Industries, I didn't know anything about plumping or hardware products. But I was confident in my ability to learn, and become knowledgeable about the industry. Now, were hardware products my passion? Not necessarily. My passion was building a successful business, impacting an industry and becoming profitable.
But Wilmar Industries never would have become Interline Brands, which never would have become a publicly traded company had I not started the whole journey with a belief that I could make it happen.
2. It's just not the right time in life.
Another truth is that not every day is the best day to start a business.
I know there is no time like the present, but you also have to take into account all the other things you have going on in your life. Maybe you just had your first kid. Maybe you graduated from college with a ton of student debt. Maybe you're in the middle of moving across the country. Whatever it is, these things can make it difficult to go all in on what it is you're passionate about.
However, that doesn't mean you should abandon your passions completely. It just means you need to solve for a few things first, so that you can go at it successfully.
Be diligent about making decisions that will move you to a place where you can devote the time necessary to your passion, and you will get there. Just take it one step at a time.
3. Lack of encouragement from those around you.
It's unfortunate when I see people held back by those in their immediate vicinity.
Whether it's family members, friends, authority figures, etc., you have to separate what it is other people say you can do, versus what you know you are capable of doing. Otherwise, you'll spend your entire life trying to be what will make other people happy--rather than doing whatever it is that is going to make you happy.
Here's a great example:
My daughter, Laura, owns a company called Hound and Co. But before that, she was working as a marketing manager at a rapidly growing company, then worked at my company, LendingOne, and eventually came to the conclusion that none of these things were really making her happy.
"You have to follow your passion," I said, remembering being her age.
"Well, I've always loved dogs," she said. "I want to do something with animals."
So she decided to build a marketplace for dog products, which today is Hound & Co. Think Etsy for dog lovers. And now, this is her full-time job.
The point is, whatever you're doing, just make sure you love it. There's no sense in working a job you don't enjoy. Instead, build around your passion--and be passionate about the process. For me, I was a student of the game. I learned everything I could, and I was passionate about being the best I could be.
I encourage you to do the same.