From Hobbyist to Entrepreneur

By Lynda C. Corpuz

When Jonathan Jay “Jay” Aldeguer, 36, president and founder of Islands Souvenirs, finished his AB Interdisciplinary Studies degree from the Ateneo De Manila University, his parents rewarded him with a European vacation. On this trip, Jay found himself stuffed with books and figurines, which were too inconvenient for him to carry around. So he shifted to t-shirts as souvenirs, which also served as a good change of clothes, he funnily recalls.

That experience, and as a typical Filipino who loves collecting souvenirs and buying pasalubong or take home items, made Jay translate his hobby into a business venture in the then underdeveloped Philippine souvenir industry.

By putting up Islands Souvenirs in March 1992 and packaging souvenirs that deviate from the usual, ethnic-inspired motifs to usable mementos that reflect the country’s sunny and tropical character, Jay not only made money, earned recognitions and awards (the latest is the 2005 Ernst and Young Small Business Entrepreneur honor), above all, he proves that passion and interest are essentials for an entrepreneur to get into a business. “Turning a hobby or an interest into a business venture would be a perfect foundation for any enterprise,” Jay says.

If you are now thinking turning whatever hobby or interest you have into a moneymaking endeavor like what Jay did, check out the following tips collated from various sources:

Contemplate first. No need actually to go to a secluded place to meditate and ask for any divine intervention (though it helps), but simply ask yourself if you are really decided on turning your hobby or interest into a business.

When Jay established Islands Souvenirs, it was clear with him that as a souvenir collector himself, he wanted value for money. And getting value from his money means offering both local and foreign tourists items that best capture the true spirit of the locality they are visiting. With this vision, Islands Souvenirs churned out 300% sales in just a year of operations.

Be ready for the competition. If you truly feel that your passion has the potential as a business, check out for any competition so you can fully identity and serve your target audiences.

When Jay rolled out his first kiosk in a Cebu mall, he immediately found himself up against two competitors who were hawking a similar concept as of Islands Souvenirs. But luck was on his side that the department store granted him additional space to expand, and by this time, the competition had vanished.

Act like a business. Failing to make a complete transition from amateur to professional is considered one of the biggest pitfalls of taking the hobbyist route to business ownership.
To avoid this, start by taking care of the following such as opening a separate checking account for the business; getting a credit card; maintaining complete and accurate records; documenting your equipment purchases, among related matters.

Being unique matters. From kiosk to mall outlet; expanding from Cebu to key Philippine business districts, to selling overseas, Jay proves that creativity, innovation, and quality spell out the difference, evident with the fact that Islands Souvenirs sends out its team abroad to scout for designs, in an effort to always offer something new for the customers.

Keep up with the technology. Selling to friends and relatives or putting a shop or joining a bazaar are immediate possibilities for anyone starting out a business, but Jay notes that the Internet should also be harnessed as the new marketplace. “Using the Internet would immediately expand your market from a handful of friends to a worldwide market by the millions.  The auction site eBay, for instance, is a great marketplace to start a hobby. Start up cost is negligible and overhead is minimal. I’ve used it and made some decent profit,” Jay shares.

Have “the customer is always right” as your new mantra.
With a hobby, you do things when you feel like it – and if you don’t feel like working, there are no repercussions. Now, customers now depend on you so you better deliver, and deliver well.

Above all, have fun. Hobbies evolve from passions, but a business requires work and responsibility. So before turning your hobby or interest into business, be certain you have planned it out so the fun does not get lost.

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