BEAR BRANDEGEE

ENTREPRENEUR'S NOTEBOOK

Today, lifestyle is everything.

Both women and men are searching for the professional and personal strategies that will yield a quality life with less stress and more enjoyment.

One way to create an exceptional lifestyle is by identifying your personal passion and turning it into a profitable business. The process for turning passion into profit is one that every entrepreneur can pursue.

To begin, you must visualize your passion and potential business from start to finish. Begin by investing in a flip chart and colorful markers and inviting your best friend or soul mate to help you out. They do the writing, while you do the talking. A friendly facilitator will help you establish a framework.

You are now ready to identify the activity for which you have a passion. Clues to determining passion potential are: if you love doing it; if people comment on your talent; and if a skill comes easily to you. Examples might be writing, teaching, selling, cooking, gardening or accounting.

Now describe your passion in detail. What activity does it involve? Why do you love it? What about it are you especially good at? What about it do you find particularly enjoyable and rewarding? Get all your thoughts down on the flip chart.

Next, you're ready to brainstorm potential business opportunities that you can create based on your passion. Go crazy. At this stage there are no bad ideas.

Say your passion is cooking. Write down all the ways you can bundle, market and sell your cooking skill. Perhaps you might consider starting a catering business geared toward working couples and their families or designed to meet the needs of elderly individuals living alone. Be as thorough as possible.

Consider equestrienne Joanne Senall, who was determined to create a lifestyle that would allow her to ride daily and still earn a good living. Combining her skills as a natural hostess, a self-taught chef and accomplished rider, she entered the "entertainment" vacation business. Joanne and her business partner, husband Allen, created the concept of a "sporting resort" where guests could enjoy riding and great food in a panoramic setting while Joanne and Allen enjoyed the things in life they do best.

Now the next step in crafting your own profitable business is to create a list of your potential customers and what value they might place on your product or service. Don't think for a moment that just because you love to paint or garden that these are not potentially serious and profitable businesses.

Think of the value you are creating in terms of whether your product or service is exclusive and one-of-a-kind, delivered rapidly, priced below the competition, superior in quality, or a blend of these characteristics.

Once you have established a value and price for your own product or service, you need to estimate the expenses you will incur to start and maintain your business. You'll want to include staffing, production and inventory, sales and marketing, administrative and overhead costs.

Next, identify the distinct stages of your business. For example, Joanne and Allen identified the stages in their vacation business as: sales and marketing, customer relations, riding and hunting skills, education and entertainment, food and beverage service, and hotel operations.

Now, study your business production cycle. Make a note of the stages best suited to your passion and skill. Then note which stages will require expertise or assistance from others.

Complementing your talent with those of others is important. In fact, the more you can focus on your passion, the more you will excel, provide value and enjoy your new venture.

After you've mulled over your flip chart business concept, and if you are still excited by the prospect of moving forward, you are ready to begin the journey of researching and writing a formal business plan. Whether you use the plan to generate financing, or simply as a guidepost for the startup phase of operations, a formal plan provides an invaluable road map.

As you write your plan, make certain to create a supportive learning environment for yourself. Find a friendly co-pilot who can be a sounding board and help you reason through challenges. Like Joanne and Allen, we all can realize our dream of turning passion into profit.

Life is too short and work hours are too long for any of us to place our passion for life on hold. We owe it to ourselves to put our fantasy to paper and begin the step-by-step process of turning our passion into profit and an exceptional lifestyle. After all, it's our life to live.

Bear Brandegee is a principal of The Exceptional Living Co., a Los Angeles-based consultancy specializing in product strategy and development, corporate image building and strategic marketing.

Entrepreneur's Notebook is a regular column contributed by EC2, The Annenberg Incubator Project, a center for multimedia and electronic communications at the University of Southern California. Contact Dan Rabinovitch at (213) 743-2344 with feedback and topic suggestions. Past issues of Entrepreneurs Notebook are available online at http://www.ec2./edu/EC2/sba.

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