6 Examples of Hobbies That Became Legitimate Businesses

6 Examples of Hobbies That Became Legitimate Businesses
Photo by Nicolas Picard on Unsplash

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

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7 Ways Your Ecommerce Start Up Can Combat Cart Abandonment

Image credit: Pexels

Your online shopping cart is an indicator of purchase intent. It shows what visitors to your ecommerce site are interested in. But it’s also a place to learn what stops them from making a purchase. When someone selects an item from your store and places it in the cart, it’s a great feeling. It’s exciting for them because the prospect of having a beautiful item delivered to their door is tantalizing. It’s exciting for you, because it means you’re doing the right thing, you have built something people like! Your business can be profitable and now you have the proof.

So why are there still unfulfilled sales in your customer’s shopping carts? There are a multitude of objections your customers may present before finalizing their purchase. You can check out Salecycle’s latest statistics on shopping cart abandonment here – the global cart abandonment rate is currently a staggering 76.8%. Here are 7 ways your ecommerce start up can combat cart abandonment.

Invest in your marketing and your customer journey

You may start your business as the sole point of contact, but as your business grows, you’ll undoubtedly build a team of sales, finance, marketing and distribution professionals. Make sure you know what you stand for, what you want to achieve and what your ethos is. Even web visitors are impacted by the tone of a brand; the way they are spoken to, how long it takes you to get back to a question, and the look and feel of the online store. Market your business from beginning to end, remember the entire customer journey, and each touch point they encounter along the way.

Neglect people, neglect passion and your business will eventually flop. Build a site that’s beautiful, that’s shows off your best assets and your people. Now you’re on the road to success.

Price it right

Your store is set up, your products are online, you’re ready to sell. But if you haven’t done to groundwork to price appropriately, you’ll put people off for good. Research competitors, talk about the quality of finish, or the designers you use to prove authenticity and credibility. If you believe your products are fantastic – which I hope you do – talk about how great they are. Don’t undersell – believe it or not, underpricing items, or de-valuing your store, can be just as detrimental to a sale as overpricing.

It doesn’t have to take all your time to get this right. Just as is the case with most areas of ecommerce, someone has already thought of a nifty way to automate it for you. Browse these tools collected by Capterra to find the best solution for your business. Begin split testing your pricing to figure out your ideal price point for profitability.

People are powerful – customer service is king

People are the core of your business. Your employees and your customers will be affected by the culture you propagate. Your staff are your biggest asset, so choose wisely, and be professional.

It’s largely up to the visitor of your ecommerce store to have a look around around, check out the merchandise and make decisions. But there is so much you can do along the way to add to their experience and this will help determine if they hit the pay button.

If your visitor has questions about a product, get back to them as soon as possible. If you don’t have time, set up an automated email system to let them know their query has been received. A happy customer is a buying customer. Make sure you have eyes on everyone, just as you would if they walked into a physical retail space. Make them feel important, make them feel known. There are many popular customer service management tools available, such as ZenDesk, that can make engaging your customers in meaningful, memorable ways, a breeze.

For some great ‘people to people’ advice for your start up – listen to ‘Start up Canada’s’ podcast with Chris Kowalewski and Rob Hyrkiel.

Image credit: StockSnap.io

Size and availability of stock

Try not to show items in stock that you don’t have available. It’s very disappointing for a customer to get to check-out and not be able to complete their purchase. Even if an order for the item is on its way, be transparent about that with your visitors and avoid losing them. Set expectations at the beginning of the journey, highlight sales items and give the impression of added value with discount codes for last season’s stock. If your customer feels they are getting a good deal, they’re less likely to object at the final post.

Reviews and product information

Encourage product reviews from happy customers, or provide in depth product descriptions so visitors doing research have a good point of reference and a credible reason to make their choices. Social media is a simple but effective way to achieve this. Make sure your Facebook profile is linked to your site, and likes are available and accessible to see.

Once a visitor makes their purchase, you can send an email thanking them, and once the item has been received, invite them to leave a review on your site and gather positive ‘word of mouth’ – digital style.

EKM is an ecommerce blog that offers lots of tips – including this one – on how to accumulate positive reviews. One of their suggestions is to put the added effort into your packaging. I often order from bespoke, small online retailers because I like to support them. What leaves a lasting impression is when the package arrives with a personal note, or artistic packaging. Go the extra mile, and you’ll reap the benefits.


If you’re delivering items via your ecommerce store, make sure you have delivery prices and delivery options available at checkout. There’s nothing more frustrating for customers than issues with delivery or returns. Make it as simple as possible and offer the options you would expect. You can’t always please everyone, but you can do your best to fulfill the needs of your customers, and still ensure you’re not losing revenue by providing convenient choices.

  • Make sure the pricing of your shipping is reasonable and encourages the final click
  • Consider in-the-bag options and deals such as free shipping on orders over a certain amount
  • Customers loathe being duped at the final hurdle. Don’t be a duper – your visitors’ trust is far too important an asset.

If you’re a small business starting out it’s so important to factor these seemingly small considerations into your business plan.

Payment Options

If you’re in ecommerce, you need to offer the ecommerce payment solutions that are now industry standard. Make sure you have a Paypal account set up and always offer this as a first option. Not only does Paypal offer efficiency for a lot of online shoppers, but it’s one of the safest ways to transact online. And security is paramount to the success of any online business. Without trust, there is rarely a transaction. Ensure you also offer credit card and debit card payments from the usual providers.

Using an ecommerce platform to build and manage your online store is the best tip I can give for ensuring your customers complete their purchase journey. Using a platform like Shopify that uses over 70 payment gateways, means you can tailor your store to your customer’s preferred payment type. While it’s best practice to pick only a very small selection of these, it’s a great way to cater to global customers – this will open your brand up to potential business from across the world. A leading study has revealed that many American consumers possessed a single debit or credit card, so you should increase your payment options to ensure that they can make a purchase from you.

There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing a customer’s items remain static in their cart. There are lots of tools you can use to remind them of items they’ve left behind or you can integrate a ‘save for later’ option like ASOS do. Your site should be optimized for the customer journey, but as a business you need to know who you are, who your audience is, and how to encourage that final click. Learn from the mistakes of other ecommerce start ups – there are plenty to choose from – and the plethora of forums that enable you to converse with other business owners. The best thing you can do, is know your customer, and give them what they want. If you’re a small business starting out, you’re in the right place to learn important lessons.

I hope this helps your shopping cart conversions – good luck!

Patrick Foster, ecommerce entrepreneur, coach & writer.

I’m currently writing on EcommerceTips.org where I share engaging ecommerce content for entrepreneurs – especially those in startup phase. I love delivering simple but relevant tips for new businesses.

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