When Mark Zuckerberg started a social media website for the students at Harvard University in 2004, it was initially a hobby. This side project, Facebook, has now grown into a multibillion-dollar global giant.
Similarly, William Boeing’s fascination with aircraft inspired him to start taking flying lessons. Soon after becoming a pilot, Boeing’s airplane got damaged, and for months he was unable to find the parts to fix it. So he decided to start building airplanes himself. The Boeing Company now generates billions in revenue.
From home businesses to global successes, here are three entrepreneurs who turned their hobbies and passions into businesses.
Satoshi Tajiri, Pokémon
Satoshi Tajiri, the man behind one of the highest-grossing media franchises in the world, was always fascinated with bugs. As a child, he spent a lot of his time wandering, collecting and learning everything about insects — he was even nicknamed “Dr. Bug” because of his love of collecting bugs. Later in life, he developed an interest in video games and would often skip school to play in gaming arcades.
Tajiri was diagnosed with autism, but that didn’t stop him from following his passion. In fact, he combined his bug-collecting hobby with his passion for video game design to come up with the idea for Pokémon. Tajiri, along with his friend and artist Ken Sugimori, pitched the idea to Nintendo, who saw huge potential in the concept.
Tajiri went through a lot of struggles — even filing for bankruptcy — before Nintendo introduced Pokémon to the world in 1996. And the rest, as we know, is history.
Mike Kittredge, The Yankee Candle
Billion-dollar company The Yankee Candle started when 16-year-old Michael Kittredge set out to create a candle for his mother as a Christmas gift in 1969. He melted some old, red crayons he found in his house on the kitchen stove, poured the hot liquid into a milk carton, added a wick and some broken bits of wax from a used candle and created his first-ever candle.
A neighbor was so impressed by his creation that she convinced Kittredge to sell it to her. Kittredge then used the money to make two more candles — one for his mother and another one to sell. He went on to sell his candles to friends and extended family, eventually expanding to local gift shops. Since then, The Yankee Candle has grown exponentially, employing more than 6,000 skilled workers around the world.
Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow
Helen Dewdney, a consumer rights champion, successfully turned her hobby of complaining into a rewarding career. When she was 12 years old, she started a school magazine. One day in physical education class, the boys and girls were put together in a group and were regularly made to play games focused on boys. This annoyed her to such an extent that she took up the issue with the entire school through the magazine. As a result, while Dewdney was stopped from producing the magazine, she got to play her game of choice, netball.
In 2012, after 30 years of helping family and friends seek redress for their complaints, Dewdney started her blog, The Complaining Cow, to share her stories. By 2014, the blog became so popular that she went on to self-publish her book, How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results, wherein she shares tips on how to avoid spending a lot of money after getting faulty goods or poor service.
Dewdney now works as a full-time consumer rights expert and appears regularly on radio and TV shows.