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Updated: March 27th, 2020
Many businesses are borne out of passion, whether it’s a passion for a particular cause, entrepreneurial lifestyle, or creative pursuit. Jan Hogrewe, the founder of Just Jan’s, worked in the film industry for 20 years before she started her business in 2012. It all began when she whipped up a fig jam to pair with her cheese one day. Now, Hogrewe makes and sells a wide variety of preservative-free artisanal fruit spreads and curds, embodying the success that can come from turning your passion into a business.
“It just was something I loved doing,” she said, “then I thought, ‘Wow, can I actually make this is a viable business?’”
Hogrewe’s passion and determination stamped out any fear or doubt she might have had about breaking into a notoriously competitive industry. “I didn’t let the fact that the food industry was so huge or that I was in a competitive field deter me from doing what I love,” she said.
That doesn’t mean passion alone can fuel a business, though. You also have to be resourceful, financially savvy, and tenacious in the face of obstacles and rejection. “I continued to play with my recipes until I got them just right. I didn’t compromise the ingredients, I didn’t compromise the taste, and I didn’t give up,” Hogrewe said.
To learn from her experience, we asked Hogrewe to share tips for how to turn your passion into profit. Here are the seven strategies that helped her turn a fun side project into a successful business — and how you can apply them to your own operation.
When you’re pursuing your passion, it’s easy to get so caught up in your vision that you neglect to prepare or do your research. To be successful in how to turn your passion into a business, though, it’s crucial to do your homework, Hogrewe said.
Before she launched her business, she canvassed stores to see who was selling what. “I knew if I was going to build a viable business, I would have to at least know what else is out there. What am I competing against? So, I bought a lot of product to taste and test.”
Learning is an essential part of being an entrepreneur. And one of the best ways to continue learning, Hogrewe said, is to ask questions. “People are usually very open and willing to help…I learn something new every day, all the time,” she said.
Trying to understand all the different aspects of your business when trying to turn your passion into profit gives you a more holistic view of your operation. You can learn how to cut costs, better appeal to customers, streamline the production process, and stand out from the competition.
When you build your business on passion, it’s smart to team up with people who support you and understand your vision. “Trust is a big factor,” said Hogrewe. “I had to find a co-packer who understood my palate and what it was I was trying to do.”
Equally as important as trust when considering how to turn your passion into profit, however, is talent; you need to work with people who can effectively execute your ideas. That’s why Hogrewe said she hires people for their expertise — “I don’t want to micromanage,” she explained.
Working with experienced, supportive distributors and manufacturers can help facilitate day-to-day operations and free you up to focus on the aspects of the business you’re best at.
If you run a product-based business, it’s vital to get your products in front of as many potential customers as possible. One way to reach your target markets more efficiently is to take advantage of different distribution channels, like direct and wholesale. Expanding your distribution can help attract new customers, increase sales, and build loyalty.
Hogrewe, for example, sells products directly on her website, places products in local gourmet and specialty stores, and makes private label products for brands like Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table. These companies hire her for her culinary expertise; in turn, she gets to leverage their customer base and brand authority to sell her products more widely. Williams Sonoma, for example, ships worldwide to Canada, Singapore, Dubai, and Australia.
Working with retailers and wholesalers doesn’t just help improve sales and facilitate product marketing, though — it also enhances your creativity. Hogrewe said she appreciates the opportunity to develop original recipes for her retailers. “I love the challenge,” she explained, “and I love being able to say, ‘Okay, I’ve not done this before.’”
Knowing when to narrow your focus is just as valuable as knowing when to expand your reach. For Hogrewe, that meant making a recent decision to redirect her efforts from working with other brands to working on the Just Jan’s brand. “We’re concentrating very hard on growing the brand here in California and gaining traction here,” she explained.
The key to growing a company, she added, is getting people to try — and love — what you’re selling. “If they don’t taste it,” Hogrewe said, “they’ll just buy what they know.” And unless you have a team that can support product launches and sales in different locations, it’s easier to push your products in just one area to start. That’s why Hogrewe wants to build trust and enthusiasm with customers in California, then expand outward.
When considering turning your passion into a business and gain momentum, consider the size and location of your customer base. If you have a smaller customer base scattered across multiple states, try homing in on one specific region to promote your products. Once you establish credibility and gain a substantial following in one area, you can leverage the power of loyal customers to grow.
When you’re turning your passion into a business and creating products you’re emotionally invested in, it’s tempting to splurge on every area to guarantee perfection. But learning how to prioritize spending is critical to running a successful business and staying afloat financially. “Wherever I can cut back and not compromise the quality of the product is key,” said Hogrewe.
To limit unnecessary spending and ensure you turn your passion into profit, start by evaluating your expenses. Review your financial records to figure out where most of your money is going. Is it going directly into the product, for example, or is it going to storage, packaging, or shipping costs? Does your current spending align with your priorities? If not, you may need to make a change.
Hogrewe decided she wanted her money to go toward improving the quality of her products. She was able to cut costs by sourcing fruit from a company that makes jam and jelly, rather than getting fruit directly from a farm and paying to send it to a co-packer. “Their buying scale is way bigger than mine,” she explained, “so they know where to get the fruit and can get it for less.” Her other cost-saving strategies include printing labels in large volumes and using jars her co-packer already uses, rather than sourcing and buying different ones.
When you’re turning your passion into a business, it’s crucial to be realistic about what works and what doesn’t. “You can’t have so much attachment to things that you limit yourself from doing something else that might be better,” Hogrewe said. If you’re too attached to specific products, especially if they’re not selling well, you may be stunting your sales and missing out on other opportunities to grow.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t advocate for a particular product if you think people will love it, but it’s important to look at the facts. Start regularly checking your sales history and reading customer reviews to see which items sell well and which don’t. “You’ve got to know when to cut the cord,” Hogrewe said.
In addition to being discerning as you consider how to turn your passion into a business, however, you also need to be willing to make changes. For example, Hogrewe made an apricot pepper jam that didn’t sell well at first, so she tweaked the recipe and re-released it to more success.
Even the most passionate, persistent business owners occasionally need financial assistance. Whether you’re just starting or have a few years of experience, extra working capital can help propel your business forward.
For Hogrewe, funding production while trying to expand and add flavors was a major challenge as she was trying to turn her passion into profit. But getting a loan from Funding Circle helped cover inventory and production costs. This funding freed her up to focus on expanding distribution and creating new products.
With enough drive and resources, it’s entirely possible to turn your passion into a successful business. Along with evaluating your expenses and exploring new opportunities, you should consider financing. If you think a Funding Circle term loan could help take your business to the next level, see how we compare to other lenders.
Paige Smith is a Content Marketing Writer and Senior Contributing Writer at Funding Circle. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and specializes in writing about the intersection of business, finance, and tech. Paige has written for a number of B2B industry leaders, including fintech companies, small business lenders, and business credit resource sites.