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How to turn your hobby into a career

Most of us only have a few hours a week that we can dedicate to our hobbies and passions. What if you could turn your career into a business and quit your day job in the process? Four entrepreneurs share their top tips for going from passionate hobbyist to successful business owner.
Related: How to make your passion your profession
1. Be ready to hustle.
They say if you love your job, you'll never work a day in your life. But that old adage is a bit too simplistic for Fossil Realm CEO Peter James Lovisek.
His hobby of collecting fossils started in high school. His parents worked at the Royal Ontario Museum and ran a nature camp, so he inherited an interest in natural history. Lovisek remembers saving up his allowance at age 13 to attend a mineral trade show in Detroit. There he bought a few pieces, including a trilobite from Morocco. Back in Canada, he managed to sell all of the pieces for a profit.
This initial success led to more travel south, and eventually Lovisek began selling his finds in line. The business remained a side business to finance it through the university. But after graduating, he opened his own e-commerce store and couldn't imagine doing anything else. Running Fossil Realm is rewarding, but he says that doesn't mean it's easy.
“Just because your business revolves around your passion doesn't mean it will take off easily, nor necessarily be enjoyable or fulfilling .
Fossil Realm has expanded to include Lovisek's father, a warehouse, and museum-quality finds, such as an Ichthyosaur skeleton valued at $195,000. But at the origin of his flourishing business is Lovisek, a man who never lost a childhood curiosity for fossils.
2. Treat your passion like a business and it will become one.
Jessica Childress is a lawyer turned children's book author. Writing has always been her passion and she wrote her first book while in law school. Although writing is an enjoyable hobby, Jessica hoped to do more; she wanted to bring about social change through her characters.
“Throughout my career as an African American lawyer, in every legal setting I have worked in, I have noticed the lack of diversity gender, especially in leadership positions,” says Childress.
Step into the literary character Juris Prudence, an 11-year-old African-American lawyer who encourages children to be leaders and to be interested in the law. Childress used her legal background to leverage her passion, which allowed for a smooth transition.
Rather than just “becoming a novelist” – a dream many people have but struggle to monetize – Childress used his business acumen to start a content company with the goal of taking his creative writing and launching a series of books and educational materials. His approach proves that creativity flourishes with a solid business foundation.
Now Childress continues to practice law with a little more freedom. “I have complete autonomy in how I structure my day, from when I wake up to when I go to sleep,” she says.
3. Find a need.
Jonathan Heine, owner of You Are Loved Foods in Los Angeles, was a Wall Street banker for 25 years before turning his passion for healthy foods into a new business. Suffering from diabetes and fibromyalgia, Heine's journey began with a simple search for ways to live a healthier life. He has created a selection of sugar-free, gluten-free/grain-free/starch-free and strictly certified paleo foods and snacks. They were a big hit with friends and family, which ultimately led to the creation of You Are Loved Foods.
Jonathan describes the difference between his former professional life and his hobby-turned-career in terms of human relations. On Wall Street, there has always been a barrier between the decisions he made that affected the lives of real people and the consequences. You Are Loved Foods changed that. "I know that every decision I make has a real impact on people's lives," he says.
4. Be authentic.
After chemical relaxers destroyed her hair and forced her to shave it, then-student Rochelle Graham-Campbell experimented with an online diary of styles for her natural hair while she tested homemade organic conditioners. She started posting her tutorials on YouTube, and the BlackOnyz77 channel grew to attract over 104,000 subscribers. Graham-Campbell went on to create Alikay Naturals hair care, which is now available in many stores across the country.
An initial investment of $100 from a part-time job served as marketing funds. Graham-Campbell turned her kitchen into a makeshift laboratory where she created and tested her products. She developed a niche, offering content for African American naturally textured hair – a niche where only five competitors existed at the time. By genuinely engaging with its audience, Graham-Campbell built a loyal following when it launched the product.
Related: 3 steps to go from idea to entrepreneur