Some of the best business ideas start from a hobby and it’s easy to see why – you already like doing it, know a lot about it and are passionate about it, all of which are great ingredients for business success.
But not all hobbies have a ready market, nor do they have the scalability to be viable as a stand-alone business.
STYLE STORY started as a chance discovery for me while on uni exchange in South Korea. I started sharing my Korean skincare and makeup finds with friends and family back home. It wasn’t until I realised how hard it was to actually source these products outside of Korea, that the idea for STYLE STORY was born;
I started thinking things like, what if I created a website in English, where you didn’t need Google Translate or to pay in a foreign currency and then wait 6 – 8 weeks for shipping to Australia? So, I set up a “side hustle” while working full-time to see if my idea would take off.
When I accidentally discovered that my hobby – Korean skincare – had both a market, a natural ability to sell itself and scalability – I took the plunge and set up Australia’s first Korean Beauty store STYLE STORY.
Within the space of a couple of years it grew from a small stall at weekend markets to Australia’s largest online “K-Beauty” store, in the process, tripling sales every year.
If you’re thinking about turning your hobby into a business, these are my top tips for doing it:
1. Work out whether you’ve got a viable business
If you’ve got a great hobby but aren’t sure whether it will work as a business, first consider whether there’s a market for what you’re selling. Don’t worry if your idea is obscure (believe me, Korean Beauty sounded very far-fetched four years ago!).
Ask yourself whether your hobby fills a genuine market need and whether there’s a way to actually sell it to people. To do this, you’ll need market research. For me, the best form of market research was actually giving people the products to try. Based on their feedback, the fact that they all wanted more and that they only had me to go through to get more products, I realised I was onto something.
2. Work out how to go about building it
The next step is to work out how you can take your idea to the market. Weekend markets in your local area can be a cheap way of testing the waters but they aren’t for every business.
Some products are better suited to be sold in your own store, in someone else’s (much bigger) store or online.
For STYLE STORY, we found online worked best. A key factor for us was educating people about Korean Beauty products. Having our own website enabled us to tailor it to include all the necessary information about the products, explain how to use them with photos and post product reviews on our blog.
3. Start your business on the side
Although many people dream about quitting their day job and starting their own business, this is not always a viable option or even the best one. Keeping your main gig gives you the money to invest in building your business while also paying your bills. It also helps you to scale much quicker and take on additional staff.
STYLE STORY started as a weekend gig, selling at markets and house parties. When the website went live, I was filling orders in the mornings and at nights after I got home from my corporate gig.
If you have a high paying job, I suggest thinking twice before throwing in the towel as this money can help employ others who have the skills to grow your business, as well as build your business quicker than if you are relying on profits from the new business alone. Working part-time is another great option, if your job allows it.
One of the biggest pitfalls in many hobbies will be the idea is simply too hard to scale. If your business relies on you making the products yourself, this might work while the business is small but may fall apart if you need to source factories to help you produce it in greater quantities, as it gets too expensive.
STYLE STORY didn’t have this problem because there were more savings to be made buying and shipping in bulk so it made sense to scale as quickly as possible.
Turning your hobby into a full-time business is certainly possible and can be a great way to do something you love while working as your own boss. The key is to make sure there’s a market for your goods, that you have a scalable business and that you don’t jump ship from your day job too early. That money can become your capital and help you grow the business quicker without getting into debt or taking on outside funding, meaning you stay in control.
Lauren Lee is the founder and CEO of STYLE STORY, an Australian online Korean Beauty store that stocks the hottest and most innovative K-Beauty products. Korean beauty products are world famous for their advanced formulations, high quality, use of natural ingredients, innovation, design, and best of all, affordability. STYLE STORY is the authorised distributor of the best names in Korean beauty, including Benton, Elizavecca, Missha, April Skin, Lindsay and Tosowoong as well as up-and-coming brands like Beauty of Joseon, Thank You Farmer, PACKage, Soroci, iUNIK, Polatam and many more.