The late Steve Jobs said that if you don't love what you do, you are bound to get sick of it.

I'm paraphrasing here--but it's an old sentiment that has been true in business for centuries. People who merely work at a company tend to get burnt out while people who have jobs doing what they sincerely love tend to be much happier.

I used to own an office supply business. One of the biggest reasons it died--besides the fact that nobody prints anything anymore--was my lack of passion for 'toner cartridges'.

If 2017 is the year you are finally going to start a business and leave that corner office (or middle cubicle), how about starting a business based on one of your hobbies?

It's worked out well for me so far.

I'm a dog person. Now, I know that dog person and person are synonymous for some of you, but that's not true. There are people who like dogs, and then there are dog people--and I'm one of the latter.

I love them to an almost obsessive level, sometimes. Dog people are like cat people, but we're just objectively better (and more humble).

My love of dogs is what prompted me to start a business focused on canines. Getting people to care for their dogs better--and getting more dogs connected with people--is my way of making the world a better place.

That's my example. Let's take a look at three ways to generate business ideas using your hobby:

1. Look at industry trends for your hobby

Check out new companies starting up in the field of your hobby. Learn what the hot, new products are.

You can easily do this by going to a trade show--if you can physically get to one--or by checking out the exhibitor lists online.

Follow industry magazines, blogs and influencer social media accounts. They can tell you about the activity, trends and future of the industry.

My interest in dogs means I follow the pet industry relatively closely. Recently, there have been increases in spending by people per dog, humanizing of dogs by dog "parents," and dog ownership among younger professionals and single people with disposable income. That's valuable info. Some good ideas that come to mind include:

  • A luxury dog apparel business that sells high-end pet costumes and accessories.
  • A dog boarding facility with a special touch like pickup/drop off, day boarding with spa or built-in training. (Something that differentiates your offer in a way that fits with your abilities.)

2. Look at general economy trends

Follow general trends in the economy, and see what you can bring to your hobby's market in a relevant way.

For example, the so-called internet of things (IoT) is a big trend that will only get bigger. From fridges to thermostats, devices that normally wouldn't be associated with the internet are being integrated with the internet. They'll be everywhere soon.

So, if you want to start a dog-related business, how about a dog-related IoT device? Like a smart doggy door that operates remotely via the internet, or a smart feeding device that you can run remotely from a phone. Maybe it tracks how much your dog eats, with multiple options for different kinds of food.

The possibilities are endless.

3. Look at what you do best

Your own expertise can dictate what kind of business you start.

Let's say you're a marketing person. How about specializing in marketing for dog-related businesses?

Maybe you're in the restaurant business. How about a restaurant concept that puts the dogs as a priority?

You're a hairdresser. How about a salon where people can take their dogs to be groomed--so both owner and pet can get a haircut at the same time?

The downside

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that there are drawbacks to turning a hobby into a career.

The first is that the business might make you hate your hobby. What starts out as passion can turn into just another job if things don't pan out the way you want. Be careful to keep the business side of it from drastically outweighing the hobby side of it.

The second is that when you love something, you cannot be objective about it. Make a plan to inject some objectivity into your business. Just because you love something unconditionally doesn't mean everyone else is going to love it nearly as much.

Spending your life doing something you love is most people's dream. If you can do that, you may just become the envy of your friends, family and colleagues.

Published on: Jan 5, 2017