6 Examples of Hobbies That Became Legitimate Businesses

By GoForth Guest Blogger | August 5, 2017

We may not always see them, but opportunities are all around us. Traditional jobs are just one way of earning a living; now there are myriad ways to make money, whether you’re freelance, self-employed or contracted. You don’t have to get all Walter White to make the most of a lucrative business opportunity. Below are six examples of people who transformed their hobbies into legitimate, profitable businesses. Could you do the same? First, here are 13 questions to ask before you start a small business.

Photography: Karen Wiltshire

Karen Wiltshire made her mark in business by photographing newborns, a skill that she honed by practising on her own young children while working full-time at a magazine firm. Karen had always enjoyed photography, but it had remained a hobby for most of her life. However, when she was made redundant, she was given a chance to pursue the craft more seriously.

Karen has since been awarded The Guild Photographers Photographer of the Year – so clearly, she made the right choice. She attributes much of her success to social media, as it helped her to network with customers and others in the industry. She also believes it’s important for creative entrepreneurs to seek guidance with the business side of things. I doesn’t matter how brilliant or talented you are at crafts, painting, sculpting or whatever – without good business acumen, it can be hard to sustain success.

Gardening: Craig Jenkins-Sutton

Much like Karen, Craig Jenkins-Sutton was no industry professional when he started out – just someone with a natural talent for landscaping, helped by growing up on a farm. When Craig first started working for a landscaping service, it became clear to him that he preferred not to work for someone else. So he decided to start his own garden design company – Topiarus.

It began with a series of ads in the Chicago Tribune. Gradually, Craig built himself a customer base and was able to get the business off the ground. He puts his success down to trial and error. Certain forms of advertising seemed to work wonders (door hangers, for example) and the whole venture snowballed from there. Topiarius now generates millions of dollars in revenue every year.

Blogging and writing: Jeff Goins

Back in his old job, Jeff dreamed of writing all day long. Now, that’s exactly what he does. Jeff started writing regularly on his blog and gradually accumulated an audience of fans in the hundreds of thousands – all of this possible because he promoted himself effectively on social media. For some while, Jeff remained at his day job while writing for his blog on the side, but it soon became clear which was the more profitable. On releasing his first e-book, Jeff earned $1500 in just one week.

Since then, Jeff has written five best-selling books, including The Art of Work and Real Artists Don’t Starve, and continues to write often on his blog about life, writing, and working in the creative industry.

Tennis: Christine Watanabe

Christine Watanabe was (and still is) a big tennis enthusiast. Out on the court almost every day, she became frustrated at the lack of good scorekeeping solutions, until one day she decided to invent her own. She designed the concept herself, with the help of an engineer for the more technical aspects. Over the course of three years, the result was Score at Hand, a professional tennis racket scorekeeper that keeps her in business – whether she’s on or off the court.

Flipping websites: Chris Guthrie

Chris Guthrie is an investor – of websites. Website flipping, much like property flipping, can be a very lucrative game if you know what you’re doing. It seems safe to say that Chris does. For more than 10 years, Chris has been buying and developing websites, keeping those that turn a good profit, and selling those that would only generate a few hundred dollars a month.

Chris understands that to make money from flipping websites, you’ve got to know which websites are worth buying and how you’re going to make them profitable. One website – netbookreviews.com – he sold for six figures. It’s not uncommon for him to make at least five figures in profit just from flipping one website, but he’s still hoping to hit that seven figure milestone. With website flipping marketplaces like Exchange, it’s easy to buy and sell an online business – but something else to perfect the art, as Chris has.

Cell phone accessories: Nadia Shuaib

Nadia’s Canadian husband had made a hobby of out selling cell phone accessories from home, something Nadia liked to help him with. When they first started listing these products on eBay, they found that they sold incredibly well – mostly to local retailers at first. But it wasn’t long until the market for phone accessories grew, and with it, their competition.

Nadia and her husband decided to diversify their channels and start selling via their own website, as well as through online marketplaces. They also decided to start building a relationship with their suppliers over in China, giving them a full view of the purchase and shipping process. The company has now moved its operations to Toronto and serves both online and walk-in customers – always maintaining its ties with Shenzhen, China, to catch the next big mobile accessory craze.

After a long day in the office, what is it you like to do? Do you have any hobbies or skills that you could turn into more than just a pleasant pastime? You may not become the next Bill Gates (few have, except Bill Gates), but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a respectable living doing something you really love. Sometimes, opportunities arise in the most unexpected ways.

Patrick Foster, ecommerce growth consultant

Ecommerce consultant with 10+ years experience in the industry. I’m currently writing as a side hustle – I love to create content for entrepreneurs and business owners that helps them scale and succeed. The aim? Turn that hobby into a legitimate business.

Read my previous article: 7 Ways Your Ecommerce Start Up Can Combat Cart Abandonment

Topics: Entrepreneurial Inspiration, Small Business Tips and Advice | No Comments »

How to engage your customers in person

By Samantha Garner | July 29, 2017

customer-engagementThese days, many small business owners talk to their customers online through their websites and social media. It’s important to be in touch with your customers in many different ways, but face-to-face customer engagement is still important. After all, according to Eric von Hippel, economist and professor at MIT, 77% of new product innovations come from the very people who used them.

Here are some tips for making great connections with your customers:

  1. Craft a compelling story before you meet customers. Make sure you have a great elevator pitch that explains why your business is so special in 60 seconds or less.
  2. Look for opportunities to tell your story and share your expertise. Instead of paying for a tradeshow booth, why not give a keynote address?
  3. Make the first move. The purpose of meeting customers is meeting customers – don’t be shy. Be friendly, approachable and above all, be authentic.
  4. Always be passionate. Shaking 1,000 hands can be exhausting, but if you’re not passionate about your business, no one else will be!
  5. Create a cause or invest in one. It’s not always about selling. An investment in social entrepreneurship tells your customer you want to make the world a better place too.
  6. Deliver on the promises you make to people you meet. Get business cards from your customers and enter the info into a customer relationship management (CRM) database. Continue the process of engagement by delivering value in the form of newsletters, blogs, social media, and relevant and timely emails.

Topics: Small Business Tips and Advice | No Comments »

Small business blog posts we liked this week

By Samantha Garner | July 22, 2017

small business blog postsWe wanted to share with you four articles and blog posts we came across recently that we hope will offer some small business inspiration or useful advice. Let us know in the comments if there’s something you read this week that you want to share!

Topics: Entrepreneurial Inspiration, Entrepreneurship News, Small Business Tips and Advice | No Comments »

Entrepreneurs Get Strong By Recognizing Their Weaknesses

By GoForth Guest Blogger | July 15, 2017

entrepreneurs get strong by recognizing their weaknesses

It takes a lot of confidence and ego to start a business. Although these attributes are major components of success, ego and confidence can lead to failure if they blind entrepreneurs to their own weaknesses.

A common trap for entrepreneurs is trying to do everything; delegation requires trust (a legitimate concern), a willingness to involve others in strategic and tactical decision-making, and recognition that someone else has greater expertise in a particular area of operations. These latter two requirements can be high hurdles for the entrepreneur to get over.

If entrepreneurs take a cold, hard look at their abilities and interests, they will soon realize outside help is needed somewhere, somehow — and probably, right away. Here are several typical situations; perhaps you see a bit of yourself in one of them:

  • Entrepreneurs with a passion for sales are often weak in detail management. Selling requires high-powered multitasking, risk taking and terrific communication skills. Detail management requires focus, patience, and methodical and repetitious work activity. These two mindsets are seldom found in the same person. A sales-minded entrepreneur needs a reliable and skilled operations manager to steer the ship and make sense out of the chaos this type of entrepreneur is bound to create.
  • Entrepreneurs who are technical wonks — creative geniuses in the design and application of a particular product, such as software — sometimes have little understanding of basic business finance. All small businesses need to button down financial operations, but in particular, startups launching a new product must be very careful in how they project and manage operating costs, as well as in raising capital and structuring debt. Brilliant, innovative product ideas that could produce millions of dollars in revenue sometimes go unrealized because the startup couldn’t get out of the gate financially.
  • Not all entrepreneurs are high-powered, extroverted sales and marketing stars. Some (and potentially successful) small business owners are rather reserved and more comfortable behind the scenes. This is fine if such an entrepreneur finds someone to be the organization’s “front person” in terms of sales and marketing. Many, many entrepreneurs dislike sales and are quite uncomfortable networking, pushing their products or trying to create a personal brand on social media. Get help! It’s not a fatal weakness.
  • When a business grows quickly, entrepreneurs who handled all facets of the business in the early days now find themselves in over their heads — and refuse to accept it. This situation, becoming a victim of one’s own success, is perhaps one of the most widespread killers of potentially successful small businesses. The key here is to develop a middle management function; a group of trusted managers who can both oversee critical areas of operation and work harmoniously under the owner’s direction. Accomplishing this very hard mission requires several components, including:
  • Being an owner who is ready, willing and able to learn how to delegate — and then actually delegates.
  • Selecting managers who are trustworthy and competent. A great way to find managers is to look for people who have been where your company wants to go in terms of scale of operation.

To help in the effort to assess weaknesses, a small business owner is wise to establish an outside board of directors — friends, business associates, referrals with solid track records in marketing, sales, finance, etc. An outside board (with no voting rights) that holds quarterly meetings imposes a bit of discipline on the entrepreneur, but more importantly, provides a mechanism to expertly review and evaluate the business’s progress, strengths and weaknesses. Whether annual revenues are $10,000 or $10 million, such a process is the best insurance against self-inflicted business wounds.

Brad ShorrAuthor Bio:

Brad Shorr is Director of Content Strategy at Straight North, an Internet marketing firm that offers SEO, PPC and web design services. With more than 25 years of sales and marketing experience, Brad has been featured in leading online publications including Entrepreneur, Moz and Forbes.

Topics: Entrepreneurial Inspiration, Small Business Tips and Advice | No Comments »

13 questions to ask before you start a small business

By Samantha Garner | July 8, 2017


Deciding that you’re going to become an entrepreneur is exciting. Finally, you’ve had the great business idea you’ve been waiting for!

But, wait. Not so fast. How do you know your business idea will work as an actual business? How do you know if you’re actually ready for the hard work and personal stress that comes with entrepreneurship? Ask yourself these 13 questions before you start a small business, to make sure that you’ve got the right foundation for success.

  1. How well do I handle risk?
  2. How do I cope with stress?
  3. Do I have the support of my family and friends?
  4. Am I willing to work longer than usual to start my small business?
  5. Are my finances strong enough to support me if my small business doesn’t see income immediately?
  6. Do I have management or technical experience in a business similar to the business I want to start?
  7. How well do I lead or manage others?
  8. Do I have any accounting or bookkeeping knowledge?
  9. What is most important to me in running a small business – making money or doing what I love?
  10. How adaptable am I?
  11. How do I make difficult decisions?
  12. Do I have a long-term plan for my small business?
  13. Do I have a business model?

If you’ve answered “no” to any of these questions, don’t lose heart! Knowing what you don’t know is important, and can help you determine the gaps in your knowledge. Training in entrepreneurship skills will also increase your odds of success. After all, nearly one half of all small businesses close within two years of start-up in Canada, so knowing as many business skills as you can will help reduce your risk.

For more, find out when a great business idea becomes a great business opportunity.

Topics: GoForth Institute Small Business Training, Small Business Tips and Advice | 1 Comment »

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