Turning a Hobby into a Business
Brian Goulet, The Goulet Pen Company
The Goulet Pen Company began as a hobby in 2007 when Brian Goulet’s lifelong interest in woodworking led him to purchase a small lathe and give fountain pen making a try. Brian’s pens quickly became a hit with his friends and family.
Although Brian and his wife, Rachel, were living in an apartment, and Brian’s “workshop” was on their covered balcony, he picked up his first corporate order quickly, turning a hobby into a business in a matter of weeks. Brian made his pens on nights and weekends until late 2008. It was then he decided to devote his career to making custom writing instruments.
It’s important to notice the way Brian successfully ignored “Yeah But Disease” as he started his business. He could have easily said,
Yeah, but I don’t have experience making custom writing instruments.
Yeah, but I don’t have a workshop.
Yeah, but I don’t have time.
Yeah, but I don’t know anything about the fountain pen industry.
Any of those “Yeah But Disease” thoughts could have easily killed his dreams, but Brian didn’t let them. He kept pushing, and he chose to ignore those thoughts.
Brian was eager to expand his business, but wasn’t sure which direction to go in next. He turned to online fountain pen forums to see what people were saying. By observing conversations and asking a lot of questions, he was able to identify voids in the market quickly.
Once the voids were identified, the Goulet Pen Company began building a loyal following by offering products to fill those voids, having competitive prices, utilizing an educational and inspirational marketing approach through their blog Ink Nouveau, and providing a weekly live broadcast called Write Time at 9.
There are many lessons we can learn (and borrow) from Brian and Rachel’s success with the Goulet Pen Company—and we will. For now, though, let’s start with one of the most important questions you must answer for yourself.
How Can I Serve the Market?
Brian was serious about turning his hobby into a business, and he wanted to thoroughly understand his potential customers. He wanted to know their needs, their wants, where they shopped, how they shopped, when they shopped, and what they bought.
This is the same place you should start. Whether you’re evaluating your website or your entire business, you have to understand clearly the audience you are serving. You have to know how you can both meet and exceed their expectations.
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