Work & Career
How These 7 People Turned Their Hobby Into a Successful Career—and How You Can, Too
Thinking about quitting your day job and taking on your hobby full-time? Before jumping in the deep-end head first, here’s some advice from people that took a leap of faith and succeeded.
Get out of your comfort zoneCourtesy Jason Meyers
Most people hear the name Shawn Booth and immediately think of The Bachelorette, but long before Shawn Booth won Kaitlyn Bristowe’s heart on season 11 of The Bachelorette and way before he was a successful fitness entrepreneur, Booth was working as a consultant for an insurance company and doing real estate part-time on the side. While Booth always had a passion for fitness and began playing organized sports at the age of 5, it wasn’t until college when he started taking fitness seriously. (Here are some tips to kickstart your fitness journey.) But even though Booth dabbled in personal training and took part in bodybuilding competitions, he never pursued fitness full-time. Like most of us, having a steady income was one reason Booth stayed at his insurance job for so long. “I was fortunate to have great jobs and a great career outside of fitness, but I didn’t love what I was doing,” he says. “The only reason I stayed at these jobs was for the security.” It wasn’t until August 2016 that Booth partnered with celebrity personal trainer, Erin Oprea. Together, the two of them started CITYSTRONG, which is a workout class that moves from city to city all around the country, and even Canada. Not only is CITYSTRONG a killer group workout, but Booth and Oprea both lead the classes, too. “I am the type of person that wants to live a life without any regrets and do things that make me happy every single day, so that’s why I decided to dive into fitness full-time and give it my all,” he says. Although Booth had previous training and fitness experience, before launching CITYSTRONG, he spoke with numerous personal trainers to really get a feel for the fitness industry and what people want and need in a workout, which ultimately helped him take the leap. “I talked with a bunch of personal trainers, where every single one of them said it was best decision they have ever made when they switched into the profession from their previous careers,” he says. “Being able to do what you love, but more importantly, helping others achieve their dreams and goals at the same time, is extremely rewarding.” It’s been a little less than two years since the company started and Booth has already visited 11 different cities spanning all across the United States and Canada, and has worked out over 1,000 people. Classes range from about $40 to $75 , with a portion of the proceeds going to CreatiVets, an organization that uses various forms of art, like music and creative writing to help veterans with service-related trauma better cope and adjust to life back at home. But Booth, who has been training vigorously for the past eight months for his very first IRONMAN triathlon, isn’t stopping at just workouts. CITYSTRONG is currently expanding and soon you’ll be able to purchase customized meal plans created by a registered dietitian and personalized training programs directly from their site. Booth’s advice for those who are interested in taking on their hobby full time? “Just go for it! Don’t hold back and don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone,” he says. You’ll regret it one day if you don’t!” Even Booth was scared to make the leap, but was pleasantly surprised to learn “that people weren’t actually lying when they would say ‘if you do something you love you’ll never feel like you’re actually working’. I always thought that was a bunch of bull, but I was wrong.” Here’s how you can find a new job, while you still have your current one.
Trust in the universeCourtesy Gardner Lane
Elizabeth Lane has been reading her entire life—it has been book after book since she was an eight years old. Thanks to Madeleine L’Engle’s, A Wrinkle In Time, and E.L. Konigsburg’s, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Elizabeth’s love for books grew as she got older. “My parents let me choose whichever books I wanted to read and so I found a series I loved and dove right in,” she says. “I craved the sense of other world and escape, that feeling that in my own small bedroom I could travel to different worlds and inhabit different characters.” At the age of 25, Lane loved books so much—the smell, the quietness—that she began to collect them. “This was a hobby that was solely my own,” she says. “I rarely spoke of my love of books and reading, opting instead to keep it for myself.” For much of her career, Lane worked in the visual arts industry at galleries and museums. After having her daughters and moving from Chicago to a small town on the coast of New England, Lane took a break from the art world for a bit, and found herself engulfed even more in books. “I would help a friend edit her novel, or help an author with her website and, eventually, I found the work of books filling more and more hours,” she says. “By happenstance, or a willingness to simply say yes to opportunities, I became the book buyer at our local bookstore in town.” While working as a book buyer in 2016, Lane started quarterlane, a company that delivers book subscription boxes throughout the year. “Neither business would work without the other and so I continue to work at the bookstore alongside quarterlane and I feel each breathes equal life into the other,” she says. Depending on how much you read, customers have the option of purchasing three different subscription levels that range from $190 to $380 annually. Each box contains anywhere from three to five fiction and non-fictions books, and you receive multiple boxes per year. Lane also created quarterlane kids, which is a subscription box just for children. If you had asked her at the age of 25, Lane never would have predicted that this would be her life, but she learned to roll with the punches. “When that glimmer of an idea knocks, trust it, delight in it, and then leap—because there is vast potential in the tiniest idea, it simply takes courage and faith to grow it,” she advises. And it’s perfectly OK to be scared or nervous about leaving your job to pursue your hobby. Lane, herself, still gets anxious from time to time. “While I am always willing to leap, I am quite facile at second-guessing and so it is staying suspended mid-air rather than landing in safety that causes panic,” she says. “Without a doubt, this is what has surprised me most and from what I’ve learned the most—to feel calm in the midst of uncertainty and trust that the ups, downs and hairpin turns are just part of the road. Here are some tips to use for finding your dream job.
Dive in head firstCourtesy Sophia Spring
Ella Mills grew very sick after her second year of college. She spent about four months in and out of the hospital before she was diagnosed with a condition that affected her autonomic nervous system, which meant that she had a hard time controlling her heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, and lots more. When Ella should have been completing her junior year of college, she instead spent in bed, taking loads of medications, and struggling both mentally and physically with her new diagnosis. “At a certain point I hit my rock bottom and realized that I needed to do more to help myself, which led to an interest in diet and lifestyle,” she says. “I couldn’t cook, however, and had no idea what healthy food was—I was much more of a pizza and ice-cream girl, and so I set about learning about nutrition, healthy eating, and the concept of wellness.”
In 2012, at the age of 21, Mills began her journey to a healthier lifestyle that ultimately led her to create a kitchen blog, Deliciously Ella, where she wrote about her new kitchen experiences. She never would have thought that her personal blog would turn into her career, but a few years later, it did. “I fell in love with cooking and sharing this passion with the world,” she says. “It did also help manage most of the symptoms of the illness over time, and I’m now medication free and doing what I love every day, which is something I’m incredibly grateful for.” After graduating college, while her friends were working in finance, law, and consulting, Mills was not well enough for a full-time job, so instead devoted all of her time to her blog, which grew and grew each day. “Readers started asking for cooking classes, workshops, supper clubs and other events, like yoga brunches, so I started putting them on,” she says. The money Mills made from her cooking classes and workshops went to investing in her app “in response to the idea of making the recipes a little easier to access (rather than having to scroll through page after page on the blog) and after that became an overnight #1 best-seller I never looked back,” she says.
Mills admits that she faced a huge learning curve and sometimes wishes she would have had the opportunity to pursue a career with a few years of experience before starting Deliciously Ella, but what Mills lacks in experience, she certainly makes up for with passion. In fact, within the last 18 months, her team of four went to nearly 70, and by this coming September, she will have 11 different products in over 5,000 outlets, and three cafes throughout London. Not to mention, she’s also the author of the upcoming book, Natural Feasts: 100+ Healthy, Plant-Based Recipes to Share and Enjoy with Friends and Family. “I had no idea how intense it was going to be, truth be told if I had known I might have be scared to do it, I think a little naivety can be a great thing when it comes to taking on a challenge and I couldn’t be happier that I did jump head first into this and I can’t wait to see what happens next,” she says.
Follow your passionCourtesy Energy Muse
Heather Askinosie and Timmi Jandro have been friends for years and are now business partners. Askinosie was 27 years old and selling luxury homes in Southern California when she accidentally stumbled upon Feng Shui. A client asked me to find him a home with good Feng Shui,” she says. “I had no clue what Feng Shui was or the world of energy, and that’s what truly opened the door for me.” From there, Askinosie visited a crystal store and was hooked. “The moment I walked through the door, I felt as if I had entered another world—one filled with enchantment, color, wisdom, and most especially secrets,” she says. “The shelves were stocked with soaps, oils, and rocks—lots and lots of rocks.” That day Askinosie felt the energy of the crystals, so much so, that she began to live a “double life” selling real estate during the day and spending her nights in the store with the crystals.
Jandro has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. Jandro’s parents were both business owners, and as a teen worked in her mother’s clothing boutique, so at an early age learned the ins and outs of running a business. Jandro’s love of fashion stayed with her over the years and she ended up in the fashion industry for nearly 15 years selling to high end retailers. “Working in the garment industry gave me a well-rounded skill set because I was required to work in all departments of the business before I specialized in sales,” she says. Askinosie continued selling homes and telling everyone she knew how amazing these crystals were and their healing powers, which is how Jandro learned of them. Askinosie quit her job as a real estate agent and traveled the world deepening her knowledge of crystals. “I used the money I’d saved from selling homes and traveled the world to study with indigenous healers, shamans, and medicine people who all bestowed their wisdom to me by word of mouth,” she says. “When I returned, I wanted to test the knowledge and wisdom I’d gained to see how I could share this with more people—I’ve always been a skeptic by nature, so I had to see the results for myself.”
The women decided to combine their work experiences and create Energy Muse, an energy crystal jewelry line. Together, they began making crystal jewelry and selling it out of the back of their cars. “We were known around town as the ‘flip-flop girls’ who sold energy beads because, early on, we did business in our flip-flops and yoga clothes,” says Jandro. “I wish I could say that we had a business plan or even a master plan. We didn’t.” Energy Muse was launched nearly 20 years ago, yet customers are just as excited today as they were back then. Energy Muse jewelry is worn by men and women all around the world, and notable celebrities like Lena Dunham and Jamie Foxx. The women also are the co-authors of the upcoming book, Crystal Muse: Everyday Rituals to Tune In to the Real You. The women attribute a large portion of their success to each other and their passion. “When Heather and I started Energy Muse, something just clicked,” says Jandro. “We had a trust factor established already, due to our many years of friendship.” Looking to start your own business? Here’s how you can quit your day job and pursue your dream.
Set parametersCourtesy Pravassa
Linden Schaffer has pretty much traveled the entire world. While she can’t remember the exact age that she became interested in traveling, she does remember being obsessed with a globe. “I would try to imagine what it would be like to live in the U.S.S.R. or East Germany,” she says. “In my teens I learned that my parents had backpacked across Europe in the 70s and after that, thoughts of getting out of my Midwest town were always at the forefront of my mind.” Although Schaffer loved to travel, she lived in New York City and worked in the fashion industry for nearly 15 years doing everything from working in retail, to producing runway shows, to selling wholesale luxury goods around the world. Schaffer knew she wanted to leave her career in retail and do something in travel, but like many, was hesitant at first. “I originally had a less risky approach: keep my full time job and pursue my passion in my down time,” she says. “I quickly realized that wasn’t going to work, but needed the push from friends and family to really go for it.” With the support of her friends and family, Schaffer left her career in retail and launched Pravassa, the first wellness travel company in 2009. “Since I was always the person asking for unpaid time off to travel, it seemed like the right time to launch my wellness travel business,” she says. Pravassa offers prearranged wellness programs all around the world, in places like Bali and Costa Rica, where participants spend time taking stress reduction classes and partaking in numerous consultations with wellness experts. When Schaffer isn’t leading wellness programs worldwide, she can be found speaking at international wellness conferences and travel shows. She’s also written a book, Living Well on The Road. Schaffer recommends creating a timeline for those interested in starting their own business. “Set parameters for yourself, anything that will make you feel comfortable, be it a timeline or a financial line,” she says. “Then go for it. You never know what could happen if you don’t try.” Sounds like something you might be interested in? Learn how one travel blogger turned her passion into a six-figure salary.
Find a MentorCourtesy Marie Holmes, Brandi Griffin
Maruxa Murphy was five years old when her love affair with coffee began. “My father is the coffee connoisseur in my life and when I was five years old, he’d invite me to the ‘coffee table’, while he and his architectural clients in the Philippines would talk about the most premium coffees they’d had,” she says. “I remember as a little girl watching and waiting for the day I was able to get into coffee myself.” And at eight years old, Murphy realized that she also really enjoyed building businesses. “My best friend and I would create bake sales, build out talent shows for the neighborhood, and when we were old enough, we started The Pink Panthers Babysitters Club… Entrepreneurship was a part of who we were,” she says. Back in 2015, Murphy was running a virtual event management company, and while the company was thriving and successful from a business standpoint, she just wasn’t” happy or feeling alive” in the work she was doing. Although Murphy enjoyed coffee, she never imagined having a career that would allow her to blend her love of coffee and entrepreneurial spirit. “Having tried various entrepreneurial ventures (some failed and some successful), I found myself two years ago in a field that was created out of many other full-time jobs/business ventures that I didn’t necessarily feel like “fully fit” my style and personality before this time,” she says. In January 2017, Murphy combined her two favorite childhood hobbies: coffee and building business, to create Perky Perky, a coffee company that empowers other women to create a space of integration. “I am able to work full-time in two worlds that compliment one another and strengthen the love I have for coffee each and every day,” she says. Murphy, herself, wouldn’t have been able to launch Perky Perky if it weren’t for her amazing mentors that she met while working in other industries and her previous jobs that taught her things like “when you are doing what you’re happiest doing, doors open and life flows effortlessly” and “being an entrepreneur and working in a company that celebrates entrepreneurship doesn’t need to be mutually exclusive of one another”. Murphy understands that it can be extremely daunting to take a leap of faith and turn your hobby into a full-blown career, but she took each and every step as a learning experience, and you can too. When you give yourself the space and time to see how your past and current situation gives you the training wheels and necessary skill sets for what’s next, all is OK,” she advises. “One step in front of the other leads to a journey way better than you or I can even imagine.” If you love coffee just as much, then you’ll definitely relate to these problems all coffee-lovers understand.
Take it one step at a timeCourtesy Alice's Table
Alice Rossiter knows all too well the importance of a good flower bouquet. “My interest in flowers really started when I was a child and would go to photo shoots with my mother,” she says. “She [her mother] is an interior designer, so we would constantly be making spaces look photo ready and flowers were just the touch that made a shot look incredible.” Rossiter worked at a flower shop all throughout high school which only strengthened her love of flowers, but after college found herself working for a few different art-related tech startups. Even though, Rossiter wasn’t doing exactly what she wanted, she learned a lot about building a business. “In both roles I spent a lot of my time as a product manager which helped me understand how to build technology and how to manage people,” she says. In September 2015, with the knowledge she gained in her previous jobs, Rossiter found the courage to turn her flower hobby into a full-time career and launched Alice’s Table, a company that teaches women the basics and how-to’s of floral design. “Once I finally cracked the code of creating a business model that I knew could be large enough, that is when I took the leap,” she says. “It is sort of like dating, when you find the one you just know it!” Alice’s Table puts on events held all across the country that allow women to learn about the latest on floral design and create gorgeous flower arrangements while also giving a space to connect. Think wine-and-paint nights, but with flowers instead. People even have the option of hosting an event in their own home. And in 2016, after finding success hosting her own flower arranging classes in Boston, Rossiter started the Event Exec program. “I designed our Exec program to make flexible and creative entrepreneurship accessible,” she says. “By providing the backbone to a business and eliminating the back office tasks which prevent many from starting an entrepreneurial venture, women can now confidently launch their own businesses and find success.” The Exec program has grown to reach 20 states nationwide and has successful helped women create their own flower arranging businesses. Rossiter sees the importance of having a supportive team when launching your own business, as she wouldn’t have been able to start Alice’s Table without encouragement from her mom. “She has shown me that starting a business is really hard and that you have to roll with the punches,” she says. “Starting your own business is a roller coaster and you have to learn how to ride the ups and downs successfully.” It wasn’t always easy for Rossiter, but she did a ton of research before launching Alice’s Table. She advises others interested in starting their own business to check the demand of their product and/or service beforehand. Having a steady customer base is also crucial. And of course, being passionate about what you do is a must. “I am always pinching myself that I get to call this work! I am doing what I love, working with fantastic people and look forward to getting to the office every day,” she says. “That is not to say there aren’t difficult days or weeks, there certainly are moments where you feel like things are falling apart, but when the dust settles I always realize that I am so fortunate to be passionate about my work.”