Dasha Libin has been into martial arts since she was 16. At 21, she started her own stenography business-but she felt stuck in a job she didn’t really like. So she decided to leave her business and pursue a degree in sports science. Now, she is co-owner of Anderson’s Martial Arts studio, where she trains martial artists and runs a fitness academy. "My biggest dream in life was to do fitness, marital arts and write," she says. "Somehow I’ve managed to combine all three."
Fifteen years ago Kim Holstein became obsessed with soft pretzels and everything you could stuff them with. She had been working in advertising, but she decided to quit her job and open up her own shop. Kim & Scott’s Gourmet Pretzels opened its doors in 1995 and she has never looked back. "We transformed the perception of the pretzel," she says.
Today, Holstein’s passion for pretzels has paid off and her gourmet stuffed soft pretzels are sold in the frozen aisles of stores like Whole Foods, Super Target, Costco and Walmart nationwide.
Jeannel King, Graphic Recorder and Visual Facilitator
It wasn’t until 2008 that Jeannel King realized she could turn her visual inspirations into a business that helped others. As a visual facilitator and graphic recorder, King uses visual thinking practices to draw out ideas for thought leaders and innovative teams at conferences and meetings. "In basic terms I take a huge sheet of paper and draw out key information," she says. "By the end of the meeting or event, the page is a colorful and graphic reflection of what the group just experienced."
In college, Michele Rothstein had no idea that her part-time balloon twisting job would eventually become her livelihood. After graduating with a degree in psychology, Rothstein followed her heart and brought her balloon twist talents to Las Vegas. Sixteen years later, Balloons with a Twist employs more than 50 talented balloon twisters, face painters, clowns and more.
Want to harness your passion into something more but aren’t sure where to start? Rothstein and others give their advice for how to make it work.
First, surround yourself with people who believe in your idea. "There is no room to have any negativity," Holstein says. "Find people who can help guide your ideas and be a support system when you hit tough roadblocks along the way."
Throughout the entire process it’s important to keep a fresh perspective and be innovative. "Be critical of yourself in a good way," Libin says. "I think sometimes in business we wind up being really stale because we’re used to a certain type of routine. Anything dies in stale water. It’s important to keep a consistent evolution." Constant evaluation of yourself and the progress you’re making will help you keep focus and stay on track.
Without a clear purpose, it can be easy to get lost and bogged down, eventually losing sight of why you were passionate about your idea in the first place. "Our motto is pretzels with a purpose," Holstein says. "That purpose drives us. It helps us believe that we can make a difference and impact the world while we build our business at the same time."
The fear of venturing into the unknown and not knowing exactly what will come out of it can be paralyzing. King recommends taking a leap of faith. "Let your inner critic die a terrible death," she says. "Everything you do is going to be gloriously imperfect and exactly the way it needs to be. Just do it because otherwise the fear will keep you at a standstill."
It’s easy to second guess yourself when people question why you’d take a big risk. To keep motivated, go online and read blogs related to your topic of interest. "The martial arts industry is full of men. At a certain point, I was surrounded by nothing but men and it made me nervous," Libin says. "I read a couple biographies of women doing things outside their realm and it inspired me. It still inspires me continuously."
Trying to be absolutely perfect isn’t going to get you any closer to your end goal. Noting your daily, weekly and even monthly milestones will boost your spirits and provide tangible results. "Trying to be "perfect" alone in my home office at my computer wasn’t going to get me there," says Andrea Pappas, founder of BrunchCritic.com
"If you believe it’s something you want to do you should have it on your goals list," Libin says. She recommends writing goals each week, as well as having broader goals for the next few months. Lastly, set long-term goals. "If you have them listed out there is no reason why you wouldn’t reach that one ultimate goal."
When starting a passion-based business, you aren’t going to know everything. Guess what? That’s okay. Find people who do. "We are not experts in everything so we’ve surrounded ourselves with other people who are," Holstein says. "You do have to reach out to people that can help. It’s been huge for us to find people who are experts in certain areas and then having them work with or mentor us." Also reach out to organizations in your area that help growing businesses.
It’s unrealistic to think you’ll be successful overnight. "I had to knock on a lot of doors," Rothstein says. "There were a lot of doors slammed in my face. You just have to keep going and stay positive." If you’ve followed the previous steps it’s going to be a lot easier to keep optimistic in the face of defeat. "Never let go of your goal," she says. "If you continue to reach toward your goals and see past the obstacles you can be successful."
Ready to get started? Read this slideshow on 10 Resources You Haven’t Thought of to Finance Your New Business