How to turn your passion into your profession

How to turn your passion into your profession

We’ve all heard the saying, ‘Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’, but how do you move from private passion to profitable enterprise?

 Don’t dream it, do it, could become your motto if you create a business out of something you love doing – but the emphasis is very much on the doing.

Jenny Robb was already working in a tourism-related business when she attended some workshops run by Tourism Australia. During the presentations, two messages gelled in her mind: visitors want to see beautiful places outside the cities – such as her hometown of Eden, on the NSW far south coast – and they will pay to do things the locals love to do.

“I wasn’t happy in my job, I live beside the Kiah River and I love to paddle so it was a bit of a no-brainer. I thought: ‘I really should just run kayak tours,” Robb says.

From that lightbulb moment came Kiah Wilderness Tours, the first of two businesses that Robb and her husband Arthur have been running for nearly four years. What sets her apart from other dreamers is that she was prepared to act.

Ask for advice

“You can’t whip up a business from nothing. You have to do your research,” she says (a good place to start is the federal government’s business portal). “You also need lots of advice from people who are in the same game. You will be surprised how many people are happy to answer your questions.”

Robb says writing a business plan is critical. Forget detail. Jot down some starting points, ask for opinions and be prepared to accept constructive criticism. Once you know what you want to do, investigate what you need to actually do it.

“It was a minefield to find out what was legally required as compared to what the industry expects,” Robb says. “We could start a kayak tour business without any qualifications, which is scary. Obviously we chose not to do it that way.”

Despite years of paddling experience, the Robbs gained formal qualifications as paddle guides as well as training in first aid and water safety. They then looked at every aspect of their proposed business and drew up a risk strategy to manage and/or eradicate every potential problem. They check it regularly.

Initially Robb set up her own insurances; now she works with an insurance broker. She says it’s vital to plan your business needs with a broker and review on a regular basis as the business grows.

“I was surprised our public liability premiums weren’t higher, but I think it was because we had prepared so carefully. We had qualifications and experience, and I sent the risk management strategy to the insurer. I think that probably helped.”

Sell yourself

Similar attention to detail is needed for marketing. Knowing the value of visiting friends and relatives in growing a tourism business, Robb advertised in local papers, with brochures and digital media spreading the word further. She also understands the power of networking.

“I join everything, I go to everything and I make sure someone sees my brand when I go. You have to sell yourself. Chamber of Commerce, local tourism board, networking events, training – it’s all about the opportunity to build the business.”

“Quality, detail and consistency of excellence are also really important – for every aspect of the business.”

Robb says quality, detail and consistency of excellence are also really important – for every aspect of the business.

“If your product is good, people will sometimes share that story, but if it’s bad, they share more often, so everything has to be right every tour – the coffee, the muffins, the warm lemongrass-infused towels.

“It’s TNT – tiny, noticeable things. It’s our point of difference and we probably get more positive comments about that than the tours!”

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