Turning Your Hobby into a Business

Hand-decorated theme cookies from Moon Glitz Delicioso
I’m excited to welcome a very talented guest blogger today, my mother-in-law, Brenda Faus. She’s the owner of Moon Glitz Delicioso, a small business that specializes in hand-decorated theme cookies. Brenda donates most of her proceeds to the non-profit organization, World Vision, and she’s got a few thoughts on her journey from hobbyist to small business owner!

“These are so good. You should sell them.”  That is such a nice compliment, and you may have even heard it about something you make, but could it be a reality?  I began to ask myself that question a couple of years ago.  My family loves eating my cookies, I enjoy making them, but would they sell?  Could I make a profit?  What are the legal boundaries?
The most complicated aspects of creating a small business from a food product are the health regulations.  When the state where I live began legislation for a Cottage Food Bill I saw my opportunity.  I began to investigate the guidelines and how they applied to the custom designed cookies that I enjoy creating.  This could work.  The next step—a visit to the county courthouse. I paid for my license and I was on my way.
The licensing process was actually fairly simple, but then the real work began.  After the Limited Liability Corporation fee was paid, I realized I had to get serious about earning a profit.  I had now made an investment and needed to see some return.  That first year was consumed by a lot of free cookie gifts and photos of cookies posted on every social network I could find.  There were times I wondered if I was becoming somewhat obnoxious to my friends and family.  Little by little I began to get orders, so my efforts must have been heading in the right direction.  I kept my prices low and sometimes felt discouraged by the money I made for the hours of work I put in.
Those long and discouraging nights have now grown into productive and profitable weeks.  I have gradually increased my prices and have amazingly seen my orders increase as well.  My goal was to attain a price for my product that is in line with current market value for a boutique type cookie.  I am now fairly close to that goal.  Word of the quality and uniqueness of my product has spread through customer referrals, social media, and simple advertising efforts.
My next goal is to expand my product line.  I recently added a cookie gift box that comes in two sizes and is packed in a quality, clear-lid box.  I would like to add more similar items, possibly some cookie bouquets, and expand my selection of cookie favors.  I have found it helpful to be a secret shopper on other cookie websites and see what large corporations offer.  After my research, I create a sample to use for a product photo on my website.  I often use this sample product for a contest prize or some kind of give-away to create interest in my business.  Who wouldn’t want to win a beautiful and delicioso cookie?
Heavy social media advertisement, competition investigation, and contests for product giveaways have all been keys to my success. If I were to share a final word of advice for creating a business from a hobby it would be to consider product selection and pricing carefully.  Just because you love doing something or you can create a beautiful product doesn’t mean you can make an easy profit when selling it.  For example, I have learned that a cookie made to look like an antique car with chrome bumpers, a windshield, and a gum paste hood ornament may look amazing.  It also takes much longer to create than my average cookie. If I post a photo of it on Facebook, everyone tells me how amazing it is.  However, nobody would pay the $10 or more I would need to charge for it in order to make up for labor and other overhead while still making a profit.  Because of my inability to make a profit on this specific cookie in any reasonable sense, I would have to view it as merely a marketing tool or discontinue it as a product.  And these are the kinds of decisions that make the difference between a business and a hobby.
Thanks for sharing, Brenda! If you’re interested in ordering some of her delicioso cookies, please check out her website. She ships anywhere in the world, and the cookies arrive fresh, beautiful, and unbroken (I can personally vouch for this!)

The Housing Market

Remember Dusty Baker, the realtor featured in last week’s “My Corporate Life” post? He’s back again with some great insight into the housing market. If you have any questions about real estate, feel free to reach out to Dusty here!


The Current Market – Skipping Along the Bottom

Since people often ask me what is going on in the housing market and how it affects the economy, I can only assume that the majority of people reading this are wondering the same thing.  The housing market affects the world economy drastically for a few reasons.  One reason is simply that homes are very expensive compared to anything else we buy.  The Tic-Tac market will never affect the economy because people would have to buy billions of those little mints to have any dollar significance.  Homes, on the other hand, are arguably the most expensive asset in the world.  Another reason is the number of people involved in the housing market.  Not everyone buys and sells $500,000 worth of T-bills, but the majority of people will, at one point in their lifetime, spend $500,000 (or more) on a home.  The third reason is government.  Most publicly starting with Bill Clinton, the government likes to help people buy homes.  Between the Federal Reserve pumping money to banks at laughably low interest rates and government policies which still, to this day, help with sub-prime loans, money is easy to come across to purchase a home.

Where did this take us?

Well, the fairy tale of “wouldn’t it be great if everyone owned a home” led to just that – everyone owning a home.  Except the majority of people were only home-owners for about 6 years, and are now giving their homes back to the bank.  The market is flooded with REO (foreclosed) and short-sale listings; and after a recent $26 billion agreement between Bank of America and the U.S. government, the number of bank owned properties on the market is forecasted to increase 4 fold in the next year.

When Will We Bounce Back?

Right now, at least in southern California, we seem to be bouncing along the bottom.  I personally think we’ve hit rock bottom and are now skimming across, with little 2% jumps up and down.  Other areas of the country, parts of Arizona for example, may certainly continue to drop.  The difference is that in Santa Barbara there is no new construction – nowhere to expand.   We are nestled between a mountain range and the Pacific Ocean.  Our area can only get so cheap, because at a certain point you have to call a spade a spade; and perfect weather and ocean views are one heck of a spade in real estate.  Parts of Arizona, though, were being built out and out, further away from the center of town because 1) real estate was selling like hot cakes so why not build and 2) they were in the middle of nowhere and the sky was the limit to expansion.  How that affects the real estate is simple economics: demand.  If there is no demand to live 45 minutes outside of a city in a half-built community, the property is essentially worthless.  That is why there are many “ghost” towns in Nevada and Arizona (where the housing market took the greatest hit).  In these places, banks are actually allowing people to live in their homes without paying their mortgage, because an occupied home is better than a vacant one (in terms of upkeep of the bank’s asset).


Should I Buy?

It’s hard even writing this knowing how biased I am on the matter (being an agent), but I absolutely think now is a great time to buy.  If it gives me any credibility at all, I am currently representing good friends in purchasing a home – and I would never put a commission check over good friends.  It is a buyer’s market: the market is flooded with listings, listings almost always sell for less than asking price, and banks are essentially giving money away at the current rates.  If I had the money, I would buy everything my greedy little hands could get their palms on.

Can I Make Quick Money?

Clients always ask me, “If I buy now, what will this be worth in 3 years?”  Answering that question is essentially asking for a lawsuit in the future.  I have no idea what will happen in 3 years, and I have no intention of taking on that kind of liability.  Having said that, I tell them that I NEVER see real estate as a short term investment.  If you plan on “flipping” a house (quick note: despite the TV shows, more often than not people lose money flipping homes – you have to be very well connected and intelligent to succeed) or buying just for a few years and then selling, you better hope you are timing the market right.  I would personally never purchase a property that I didn’t expect to hold onto for at least 10-15, minimum.  With that kind of mindset you can almost never lose.  I would dare you to find any 15 year segment in the housing market where you would lose money after that long of a time period.

How to Use Blogging to Grow Your Career

I’m excited to welcome Angeline Evans back to the blog! She guest posted a while back, and she’s made a few changes since her last feature. Angeline Evans is a freelance writer, nonprofit communications consultant and career and style blogger at The New Professional. She believes that business casual doesn’t have to be boring and strives to help the everywoman find balance and success in the office lifestyle and in their careers. Prior to striking out on her own, Evans spent over five years in magazine publishing and public sector and nonprofit communications. Follow her on Twitter at @angelineevans.


There is a blog just about everything out there, from the mainstream to the mundane. Some are well-oiled machines; others obviously haven’t been touched in years. You probably follow a few for fun and a few professionally. But have you considered starting your own blog?

Blogging can be a fun personal hobby, yes, but it can also be a great professional move. This blog (Consciously Corporate) is a great example: Ashley shares great insight that demonstrates her marketing expertise and adds to the online chatter in her field, exposing her to a much greater audience than just those in her office.

There are many ways that a blog can benefit your career: it could open up new opportunities, expand your network, and establish you as an expert in your field. A blog also fills in the gap between resume and results for potential employers—you can demonstrate deeper understanding and showcase your best assets without being limited to one page.

Here are some ideas for how to use a blog to help grow your career.


Sound off on timely topics

As consumers of media, we each have our own reaction to new developments or hot button issues. You can sound off in a blog post’s comments, sure, but if you have more than a few sentences to say, why not elaborate in your own post and link to that instead? Try to provide some new information or draw a connection that hasn’t yet been made. It also contributes to the literature on the topic.


Share resources

Think about the most valuable people in your network: they’re probably the connectors. They know who to call for anything, where to find reliable information and where to get the best brunch. Online connectors are just as important as blood-and-flesh ones, and a blog that is on the pulse of an industry and connects its readers to valuable information and people is just as crucial as the former coworker who referred you for your job.


Build your network

Whether you’re already settled in your “forever” city or you’re looking to pick up your roots and relocate, a widespread network can be extremely valuable. Blogging and social media are a great way to expand beyond the typical workplace, geographic, or educational networks.


Engage experts on your way to becoming one

On the surface, an entry-level professional may not have much in common with their industry’s leading voices, but blogging can bridge the gap (though it may still be a slope, rather than a flat bridge). Social media has also made it easier to connect with others we may not run into otherwise. Try tweeting your favorite blog post to an industry expert and asking for their opinion, or contribute to an established industry news sites (use your blog as your resume when pitching).

Certainly there are some precautions to take before you take the plunge. If you’re currently employed and blogging about your work, use discretion in talking about the workplace or clients and be honest and upfront with your employer if the topic comes up (even better: tell them about it from the get go. They might even help come up with ideas). Even though it is relevant professionally, don’t blog on company time or let it interfere with your work.

So where do you start? Blogging consistently will help you most—you don’t have to commit to daily, but once a week is a good start—so think about general topics or “features” you want to include. Hop on Blogger or WordPress to get a feel for the technology (you can always purchase a URL and redirect it later), and jump in! When you’re ready to launch, send your link out to anyone you know in your industry (it won’t help you if no one reads it).