Imagine yourself at age 70: What will you look back on with pride? What will you wish you had accomplished? Did you follow your dreams? Your passions?
Some say not to mix passion and entrepreneurship, but I respectfully disagree. Money can take you only so far, but integrating your passion with your business provides sustainable motivation and the grit to weather the inevitable ups and downs of entrepreneurial endeavors.
In fact, following your passion has been scientifically proven to make you happier. One study found that “harmonious” passion -- an internalization of an interest into a personal identity – leads to psychological well-being and prevents negative, internal conflict. All well and good. But simply enjoying something isn’t always going to pay the rent, and that problem may make the notion of turning passion into profit seem implausible.
Nevertheless, I have clients I work with every day who have successfully turned their passions into profitable startups. So, even if you think you lack the necessary tools, consider taking the following steps to do what they did.
1. Find a void and fill it.
Observe what other businesses are missing and use your business to fill a void in the marketplace. Discover how you can change your industry and why it is necessary. Ask: How can I do it better? How can I make it better?
For example, my clients Angel Anderson and Sarah Heering had backgrounds in UX design, digital media and marketing -- but they also loved designing. These L.A. natives were frustrated with the current state of nail art and the chemicals, heat, drying time and mess it involved, but they had little knowledge of how to create a new product. So, they did research and raised money through Kickstarter to create NailSnaps, which allows customers to upload personal photos to an app to design customized nail wraps.
Hopeful users praised the idea because NailSnaps solved their dilemma of paying for expensive, handcrafted nail designs or making poor self-attempts at replicating them. Quips Anderson today, “They say that some people wear their heart on their sleeve, but we know that it’s even more fun to wear your heart on your fingertips.”
2. Get comfortable with stepping outside of your comfort zone.
Doing something you’ve never done before can be scary and uncomfortable. The unknown often becomes an an excuse for not moving forward. But let your fear empower, not hinder you. The most interesting place to play at is your limits, right? So make a habit of staying at ease in uncomfortable situations.
3. Practice for 10,000 hours.
The only way to build your skills is gradually over time. Take Malcolm Gladwell’s advice: Practice your passion for 10,000 hours to become a master, and request feedback from mentors to ensure you’re doing it right.
4. Be creative with money.
A startup today has more options for financing than just big investors, bank loans or venture capital. First, develop a strategic marketing plan that details exactly how much you need to get started. Then, use social media to gather community support and market your brand before it comes to fruition. Use online crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, GoFundMe or AngelList.
5. Start today, not tomorrow.
As the old adage says, life is a journey, not a destination: Realize that success will not come instantly. Those 10,000 hours will take a while to accumulate, so you must start focusing on your passion project now. By defining what’s working (and what’s not), you'll turn your dream project into a business model you can expand on for profitable results.
Case in point: My client, Silvermine Capital Management, was founded by four financial industry gurus who grew tired of the corporate world -- and of playing by the rules. So, they quit their jobs to focus on what they do best: managing U.S.-levered credit portfolios. With only limited knowledge about building apps, but loads of expertise and insight, they located a technology partner to create software that eventually helped translate their big ideas into a business.
Within a decade, Silvermine Capital became a multibillion-dollar company that was acquired last year by Man Group, one of the world's largest independent alternative investment managers.
With patience and ingenuity, you too can find your passion project and turn it into a profit -- and you will be happier for it.