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Starting a Side Business is Like Baking a Cake: Your Passions Are the Ingredients, But, You Still Need a Recipe

By Margaret Manning October 24, 2018 Managing Money

One of the great things about starting a side business in your 50s or older is that you already have a pretty good idea of your skills, experiences and passions. If you haven’t taken the time to document these aspects of your life, don’t worry! I’ll give you some brainstorming tips in a second.

But, even if you know what you like to do and what you are good at, as many entrepreneurs have discovered, “just do what you love” is horrible business advice.

You Wouldn’t Bake a Cake Without a Recipe…

Starting a business based solely on “what you love to do” is like making a cake without following a recipe. Instead of taking the time to understand how the process should work, you just throw everything together and hope for the best.

Then, when your cake implodes or turns to mush, you swear never to bake again. This sounds ridiculous when it comes to baking, but, it’s exactly what most people do when they start a business based on their passions alone.

When you follow a cake recipe, you know exactly how to put your ingredients together. You know what temperature to heat your oven too. You even know what the end result should look like.

Likewise, when you take the time to understand the needs of the market, you discover where your passions can be best applied to improve the lives of others – and, at the end of the day, that’s what building a profitable business is all about.

What Ingredients Have You Acquired Over the Course of Your Life?

Most of the entrepreneurs that I work with are in their 40s, 50s and 60s. As a result, I usually give advice to men and women who have decades of life experience to draw on.

At the same time, I am amazes by how many of us older adults have not taken the time to inventory our passions, skills and experiences. Since doing this is essential to starting a business at any age, I wanted to offer a few questions that you can ask yourself to identify your own passions and skills. I suggest that you take 30 minutes now to write a list for each of the following questions.

  • What activities do you love to do?
  • What business or technical skills have you acquired over the years?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • What activities or topics could you talk about for hours?
  • What tasks do your colleagues ask for your help with?
  • What do you love to teach?
  • What do your friends think you are good at?

At the end of the day, your passions, hobbies, skills and experiences are the ingredients that you have to work with when starting a business. If you are in your 50s or better, you likely have a cupboard full of ingredients. Now you need to figure out how to put them all together.

Finding a Recipe: Want to Make More Money, Help More People

The biggest mistake that people make when starting a passion-base business is failing to take action. The second biggest mistake is thinking that simply sharing their passions will others will be enough to build a profitable business.

In reality, your passions and skills are only useful to the world if they are packaged in such a way that they improve the lives of others.

As you develop your own business recipe, your goal should be to understand the pains that other people are currently experiencing. Then, you should look for ways to address these pains through your passions, skills and experiences.

I’ll be honest here… understanding your target market takes time. It’s not the kind of thing that you do in a weekend. But, it is also something that every single one of us has the power to do. Here are a few questions that can guide your search.

What complaints do you always hear from people when they talk about your passions?

What do people search for in Google related to your passions? Use the Google Keyword Planner.

  • What are the most popular articles and YouTube videos related to your hobbies and passions?
  • What do you wish someone had taught you when you started your hobby?
  • What products or services are people always wishing someone would develop?
  • What products or service already exist related to your passions that could be improved?

There is plenty of money to be made where your passions meet other people’s pains.

Recipes, Like Businesses, Require Experimentation

Of course, these questions won’t write the recipe for you. The product you develop, marketing you employ and communication tools that you use will need to be developed over time. After all, businesses, like recipes require experimentation. It’s about science and art coming together to produce something wonderful.

The main point is that a successful business idea is found at the intersection point between your passions and the market’s needs. Once you have found one or more ideas for improving the lives of others, you can start to work on the details.

In future articles, I will cover the specifics of how to turn your passions into profitable business ideas. For now, I just wanted to push back against the “just do what you love and the money will follow” school of entrepreneurship. After all, no-one cares about your passions unless they help them to relieve their own pains.

What are you passionate about? If you could start any business, what would you launch and why? Please join the conversation.

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The Author

Margaret Manning is the founder of Sixty and Me. She is an entrepreneur, author and speaker. Margaret is passionate about building dynamic and engaged communities that improve lives and change perceptions. Margaret can be contacted at

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