This past Wednesday the University of Connecticut Center for Career Development held an event called “Making Your Side Hustle Your Main Hustle,” which touches upon the ways people can grow a hobby or passion into their means of livelihood. The CCD welcomed Michelle Ouimette, a business advisor for the Connecticut Small Business Development Center, who focuses on turning one’s side hustle into their main hustle.
The COVID-19 pandemic spurred entrepreneurship. According to the Census Bureau, in 2021 an estimated 5.4 million new business applications were filed. This is 1.9 million more applications filed than in 2019. While becoming a business owner is a dream of many, there are logistical and rational steps that must be taken into account.
Ouimette began by stressing the importance of distinguishing between a business and a hobby. While many of us have hobbies, they don’t always translate directly into building a business.
“A BUSINESS IS SOME TYPE OF OCCUPATION, TRADE, PROFESSION THAT CAN BE OFFERED IN A BUSINESS CAPACITY. YOU’RE REALLY LOOKING TO MAKE A LIVING FROM IT.”Michelle Ouimette
“Know that a hobby is something that is done outside of regular work,” she says. “A lot of times it is done for relaxation or personal enjoyment; hobbies are affordable, with sometimes little to no cost.”
Ultimately, the difference between a hobby and a business is that the former is not meant for profit, while the latter is.
“A business is some type of occupation, trade, profession that can be offered in a business capacity,” Ouimette says. “You’re really looking to make a living from it.”
When creating a business, one wants to make sure that it is properly credited as a business. This means that there is a digital footprint, a bank account for the business, contact information and more. Before beginning a business, Ouimette encourages assessing your personal readiness.
“One of the first questions I always ask my clients is ‘why do you want to start this business?’” she says. “I like to hear the background story.”
“KNOW THAT A HOBBY IS SOMETHING THAT IS DONE OUTSIDE OF REGULAR WORK. A LOT OF TIMES IT IS DONE FOR RELAXATION OR PERSONAL ENJOYMENT; HOBBIES ARE AFFORDABLE, WITH SOMETIMES LITTLE TO NO COST.”Michelle Ouimette
Many of these personal readiness questions can be categorized into 3 sections: general, business idea and personal considerations. For business, one can ask themselves, “What problem is this business solving for others?” or “Why do you believe this type of business is sustainable?” For personal considerations, questions range from “What is the goal you hope to accomplish with this business?” to “What is the financial goal you are seeking to achieve?”
“We want to make sure that when we are looking at the numbers of the business that the profit will meet the financial goal that you have for the business, in order to sustain your lifestyle,” Ouimette said.
The next step is defining your target market. To emphasize the importance of target markets, Ouimette used a quote from Saskia Gregory that states, “Defining your target market or niche is the single most important business decision you can make as an entrepreneur.”
When one defines their target market, they are identifying and selecting the customers who are going to benefit from your product and services, and those who are most likely to buy those products and services.
“WE WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT WHEN WE ARE LOOKING AT THE NUMBERS OF THE BUSINESS THAT THE PROFIT WILL MEET THE FINANCIAL GOAL YOU HAVE FOR THE BUSINESS, IN ORDER TO SUSTAIN YOUR LIFESTYLE.”Michelle Ouimette
“This will help you segment the market so you can really focus your efforts,” Ouimette said. “It will help you connect that market to your value proposition and it’s also going to help you hone in your marketing mix and message so you know how you’re going to best communicate with your customers.”
To help define a market, one can look at geographics (country, city, density, language), demographics (age, gender, income, education, social status), psychographics (lifestyle, concerns, personality, values) and behavior (benefits sought, purchase, usage, intent, buyer stage, life cycle stage).
After defining the market, it is important for entrepreneurs to be familiar with their competitors and numbers overall. Knowing competitors’ business strategies, how they position themselves and their strengths and weaknesses can help you build your own business. Knowing your finances is essential for staying organized and ensuring the business is profitable.