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5 ways to turn your niche hobby into a business

From a guy who's been there and done just that

5 ways to turn your niche hobby into a business

Ever wondered if there’s something in that niche hobby you do? The one that nobody you’ve ever met does? Well, you could be onto something.

These days, you don’t need a TV show ripping your business idea to shreds to get your idea off the ground.

James Kennedy took something as he did in his spare time alone (making bikes) and turned it into a business - Kennedy City Bicycles

Here’s what he says you need to know to do the same with your hobby…

1. Be inappropriately optimistic 

James wears the GANT Alta Down Jacket and Fair Isle Crew Sweater

“The most important tool is inappropriate levels of self-confidence and optimism. 

When we look back on the things we’ve done in our lives that turned out to be rewarding, perhaps we wouldn’t have done them if we’d had full possession of the facts going into it.

I think that’s OK. 

As a small business owner, you do look back and think, ‘Wow, I’m not sure I would’ve been up for this had I known all of the facts in advance.’ You just have to have the mentality that you don’t know what’s going to happen and there’s going to be difficulties you’re unprepared for. But that’s fine. Just have a go and see what happens. 

If you don’t get it right the first time, you will learn. You just have to assume you’ll get through all that stuff - you don’t really have any other choice! Remember: if other people can do it, you probably can, too.”

2. Learn from your parents

“I grew up in Somerset and it was very rural and hilly, so cycling was something that you did in full lycra. It was more of a sport thing because it’s not a practical means of getting around as it is here.

My dad’s into bikes and he always impressed on me that if you have a bike you should know how to fix it. 

It’s one of those few, cool things in life that you can realistically fix yourself that you use every day. He taught me a fair bit and then I went from there and started trying to make bikes myself in my spare time with my mates.

When I moved to London I was riding every day. I had no money so it was the cheapest way of getting about and I fell in love with it more broadly.”

3. Do some number crunching 

“Make yourself the world’s simplest business plan. That involves how much it costs to do the things you want to do - and how the numbers stack up if a projected number of people bought what you’re selling.

It’ll give you an idea of how your business might work, how much you can sell to keep yourself afloat, and whether that allows for you to eat, drink and pay your rent. 

If those numbers look right, it’s certainly worth more thought. If it doesn’t work out, then you’ve had an amazing experience at the very least.”

4. Don’t believe the myths

James wears the GANT Fair Isle Crew Sweater and Alta Down Jacket

“Most people think a small business is tech-related; something that involves investment and an amazing idea or piece of intellectual property that no-one else does.

Actually, for 9/10 people it’s nothing to do with that. It’s more about hard graft and trying to do things a bit differently rather than something that’s never been seen before.

There’s an unreasonable emphasis on tech when it comes to starting your  business. I do my own website because you can do that now and make it look good. Technology isn’t the basis of a job for most people, but it is something you need an appreciation of.”

5. Be sure you’re sure 

“Ask yourself whether the thing you love is what you want to spend all day doing - or whether you’d like it to stay a hobby. 

In my case, I like making bikes. But as you set that business up and you’re lucky enough to see it grow, you may find yourself in a position where the next logical step is to pay other people to do the thing you really like doing. 

Give that a lot of thought besides working out, ‘Am I actually going to make any money?’ It’s always worth thinking about the next step, too. If it does work, what does your life look like then and is it what you really want?”


James wears the GANT Fair Isle Crew Sweater and Alta Down Jacket. Shop the GANT collection now.