Got a hobby? Start a business

On the Kenai Peninsula, many residents have turned their hobbies into a successful, growing businesses. While transitioning from a hobby to a business has some pitfalls, it’s not without advantages, according to some local experts.

Businesses that have grown out of a hobby can be found all across the peninsula. In Nikiski, 1 Crazy Cupcake opened after Sierra Lehl spent several years of playing and experimenting with baking. Today, her unique cupcakes are delivered across the Kenai Peninsula.

In Soldotna, Alaska Berries was created because of Bryan Olson’s love of berry farming. Now, his business has expanded and Olson has opened a wine tasting room where he sells a variety of berry wines.

Nathan Titus, general manager of Peninsula Powersports, said he grew up snowmachining. He said his love and passion for the outdoors is a crucial element to his business, and all of his employees love outdoor recreation.

“It comes through with customers,” Titus said. “If someone just started up and didn’t care — they just wanted to start a business and make money — it comes through,” Titus said.

Titus said that he has seen some similar businesses fail due to not having enough enthusiasm for their products or services.

“Other shops behind us come up and didn’t really have the passion,” Titus said. “They start out good and get a few people, but then it just kind of fades away.”

Bryan Zak, assistant state director for the Alaska Small Business Development Center, wrote in an email that turning a hobby into a business isn’t unusual.

“It is very common for a hobby to turn into a small business, and therefore, often there is a connection between a person’s interests or passion and their small business,” Zak wrote.

Zak wrote that combining business and hobbies could lead to success.

“(It’s) an extremely positive thing in most cases,” he wrote.

While having a passion for your product or service is important, Zak wrote that having a strong business plan also is vital.

“What can cause an issue is if the person starting the business lets their passion drive their business decisions as opposed to using their passion combined with sound business decision making tools,” Zak wrote.

Pat Reese, who has owned Robin Place Fabrics in Soldotna since 1982, said she opened her shop because she loves business.

She said that turning a hobby into a business could have some drawbacks because many new business owners don’t understand how much time goes into running a business.

She said that what often happens is that people don’t have time to do the hobby that they love, because running a business is so time consuming.

Reese said that when starting a business, success doesn’t happen overnight.

“When you start a business, you need to invest everything back in,” Reese said. “Give yourself (time), and learn your customers and your business — it takes a while.”

Ian Foley is a reporter  for the Peninsula Clarion.

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