Have you been long dreaming of starting your own business doing what you love? You're not alone. The only difference between you and those who've done it successfully is that they have taken the entrepreneurial plunge. Many started without the knowledge, cash or support to make their bet a sure thing. What these successful entrepreneurs all have in common, though, is the courage to turn their passion into their livelihood.
BusinessNewsDaily talked to four successful business owners who tell us how they turned their passion into the business of their dreams.
Choice Hospitality Group
Alan Nathan has been passionate about the hospitality business for longer than he can remember. Now, he's the president and CEO of Choice Hospitality Group, a local tastemaker and one of Los Angeles’ leading restaurant experts. It's a course he's been on since he was in college.
"I launched the marketing and promotions side of my business while I was an undergraduate at USC [University of South California] in 1993," he told BusinessNewsDaiy. "I was interning at Bear Stearns and needed a job with completely different hours to help me pay for school. I thought that the idea of getting paid to go out at night was an incredible opportunity."
Nathan has since designed and launched many hot L.A. restaurants, including Tengu, a high-end sushi lounge with Asian fusion cuisine in 1999. His company's current restaurants include The Lexington Social House in Hollywood and NINETHIRTY and The Backyard at the W Hotel in Westwood, Calif.
Though he was always in the hospitality business, Nathan didn't become an entrepreneur until he was sure he had what it took to run his own business.
"I made the leap to becoming my own boss as soon as I felt I had learned all I could at the venues I was working at as an employee," he said. "I learned the business, and learned from my mistakes, on their dime."
Even with his training under his belt, Nathan still had to learn a few lessons the hard way.
"Raising money for my first venture provided me with a pivotal lesson in opening future projects," he said. "I convinced the landlord to not only give us a lease but also to fund a $206,000 loan to help with the build out of the restaurant." In retrospect, he said, he should have asked the landlord to give him "tenant improvement" money that he did not have to pay back.
His second lesson, he said, is that anyone starting a business should always have a contingency fund and raise 30 percent more than they think they will need.
"It is easier to write a check from funds you have already raised than having to go back to the investor well for more money," he said.
The biggest difference between being an employee and a business owner is the pressure, Nathan said.
"[There's] a lot less sleep because the pressure is all on you and not on the person that you work for," he said. "But once you have created a successful machine of a business, dreams become a lot sweeter."
Grace Designs Photography
Christina Adam worked as a social worker and a nanny before starting her business in 2008.
"I spent years and years photographing family and friends just for fun with my 35mm film cameras, then my digital point-and-shoots. In the spring of 2007, I bought a professional DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera and began photographing people for a very low price. I wanted to get a lot of practice with real clients and considering how new I was at using the professional camera, I kept my prices low during the 'practice' phase," said Adam, whose initial business startup costs were $1,800. "I did photography as a side job for one year and then was able to quit my 'real job' and go full-time with photography in May 2008. Talk about a leap of faith!"
Adam says budgeting around an unstable paycheck is the hardest part of owning her own business.
"My husband had been self-employed for six months at the time I became self-employed. It was a big change for us to go from two normal incomes with biweekly paychecks to both of us being self-employed and not always knowing where our next source of income is going to come from," she said. "It's always feast or famine, and we learned quickly to save up in the busy times so we could ration out our money in the slow times. I should also add that we pray a lot!"
Turning her passion into a business hasn't soured Adam on her hobby.
"I absolutely love what I do...even more so than I did when I went full-time in 2008," she said. "I know I made the right decision by taking the risk and turning my passion into my business because it invigorates me and makes me feel thankful and blessed every day."
Kelly Dachtler had a long history in the outdoor industry on the brand manufacturing side, before starting his business, The Clymb, a members-only flash sale site that offers limited time sales on outdoor adventure products and experiences.
"Like many who find careers in the outdoor industry, I came to it through a passion for outdoor sports, in my case snowboarding and cycling," Dachtler said. "Applying my talents or skills to an industry I felt passionate about was fairly intuitive. The leap from working for someone else to creating The Clymb was also intuitive, having seen a need in the industry for a better way to distribute products I cared about."
Dachtler said the company bootstrapped its startup costs , but put in a lot of sweat equity.
"We launched the entire company for less than our competitors spend on 12 hours of marketing," he said. "More than cash, our investment was in time and expertise, and while we have since raised venture capital, the values created at the onset are still with us."
Not only has the company been a financial success, but it represents a personal achievement for Dachtler as well.
"Building this company has been the most gratifying and educational experience I've ever had in my life. The future is still unwritten, but I wouldn't change the past for anything," he said.
"In my prior career, I sold fractional jet ownership for NetJets," said fashion designer Amy Matto, whose clothes are all manufactured in the United States. "But, I always knew what I would do if I had my own line."
Matto's leap into fashion was actually more of a push.
"My husband dared me to do it," she said. "He said, 'Quit talking about it and do it.'"
Matto knew little about how to start a clothing line, so she began by doing research.
"I began walking around blindly talking to anyone in the industry who would talk to me, trying to learn how the apparel business works. I didn’t learn to make patterns or sew, but I found the best pattern-maker and factory," she said.
Matto calls starting a business a crash course in Finance 101.
"A rapidly growing business requires massive investments in working capital," she said. "In our case raw fabric, finished inventory and accounts receivable. We made plenty of mistakes early on but we hope we are wiser now for it."
Matto says the hardest part of starting her business was overcoming everyone's skepticism.
"Everyone thought I was absolutely crazy for starting an apparel company right in the middle of the 'great recession,'" she said. "I started from the very beginning with no relationships or industry knowledge. I tried to do everything myself for too long, but have now assembled a great team."