Turning a family hobby into a business

Taking the leap of faith and leaving your job to pursue a hobby as a career path can be a daunting experience for anyone, but it can be ten times worse when you decide to do it as a couple.

With outgoing costs, mortgages and parental opinions to consider, many would be forgiven for choosing to play it safe and stick to what they know. However, if you do take the risk, the rewards can be fantastic.

I faced this exact dilemma four years ago when I decided to leave my job and pursue my interest in creating a management company to help Airbnb hosts maximise their yields. While this might not seem like much of a risk now, it is important to remember this was in the early days of Airbnb, when people were still unsure about letting strangers stay in their home. However, I felt there was a gap in the market and spent many months researching late into the evening the feasibility of the idea. Keen to test my theory, I convinced my wife, Deepti, to let me use our house as a test lab for the structure, renting it out on Airbnb and providing all the maintenance services myself. It wasn’t long until we embarked on our venture together and partnered to form Hostmaker.

When starting a company or creating a service, remember to draw on your own experiences and problems for inspiration. The problems you face will nine times out of 10 be faced by normal people who will be willing to pay for a service which solves those problems, giving you a ready-made audience. Take Skyscanner for example – the idea was born out of the founder’s frustration at not being able to compare flight price for various commercial airlines and was created from an Excel spreadsheet! By focusing on your experiences and thinking about the problems faced from a customer’s perspective, you’re going to be able to get a much better picture of the business as a whole and how it will bring true value to those who use it.

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Once you have an idea, you need to take your time in developing your thought process. Start small, but think big. I initially worked on the concept for Hostmaker in the evenings while continuing with my full-time job. My advice would be to develop your hobby as a side-hustle and then, once you think it is financially viable, make the leap into turning it into your full-time occupation. It’s key that you take your time – so many start-ups fail because they haven’t laid sturdy foundations first.

Read: Family founders, family culture

Set up the model and get as many people as you know to test it for you. It could involve calling in some favours, but getting that feedback early on as to the feasibility of your product is essential if you want long term success. We used our friends’ homes to help develop the service and it was their feedback which ultimately led to the creation of the current platform.

Once you’ve decided to take the plunge, it’s important to work together to keep the passion alive and bounce ideas off one another. There might be more experienced people in the field you’re trying to break into, but passion trumps expertise at the very beginning of a business journey, and will help drive you forward. Don’t underestimate yourself or be disheartened by mistakes and glitches – just make sure to always bring it back to the problem you’re trying to solve and have confidence in your own experience.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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