14 People Who Transformed Hobbies Into Million Dollar Careers
As the saying goes, "Do what you love, and you'll never work another day in your life."
These entrepreneurs did just that, and they've made millions!
From Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss — fashion-savvy business school classmates who launched the highly successful apparel rental service Rent the Runway — to Mark Zuckerberg, who started the platform that became Facebook as a side project, here are 14 people who turned their hobbies into million- and billion-dollar careers.
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, Making Sense of Cents
Schroeder-Gardner makes more than $100,000 a month through her personal finance blog.
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner paid off $38,000 worth of student loans in just seven months after she graduated from business school. Her secret — and the reason she now earns more than $100,000 a month through her blog — is to focus on earning.
"The biggest reason for why I was able to pay off my student loans is because I earned as much money as I could outside of my day job," she explains on her personal finance and lifestyle blog, Making Sense of Cents. "I mystery shopped and got paid to take surveys, but the biggest thing I did was I made an income through my blog."
Schroeder-Gardner started Making Sense of Cents while pursuing an MBA in finance. Although she first envisioned it as more of a diary, the site now generates revenue through online classes she teaches on the site, affiliate marketing, and advertising (both company-sponsored ads and display ads).
She and her husband both quit their jobs in 2013 and now travel across the US in an RV.
Nadia Shuaib, Budget Electronics
Nadia Shuaib turned a part-time project into a multimillion-dollar e-commerce business.
After immigrating to Canada from Scotland, Nadia Shuaib turned her husband's part-time project into a multimillion-dollar e-commerce project— while studying for the Canadian bar!
Shuaib listed a few of her husband's cell phone accessories on eBay. When the inventory quickly sold out, she decided to make her part-time project into a career. Now, her online store, Budget Electronics, which is based out of two Toronto warehouses, is a multimillion-dollar business.
Craig Newmark, Craigslist
Newmark started the project that became Craiglist as an event resource for fellow computer programmers in the Bay Area.
Craig Newmark moved to San Francisco for a job in computer programming at Charles Schwab. When he was laid off, he made the most of the situation by using his severance package to start a small message board that aggregated events that fellow programmers might be interested in.
With terrific timing, Newmark's project coincided with the release of the early internet browser Netscape. With the addition of a job-listing section, the site, which eventually became Craigslist, boomed in popularity.
Today, Newmark's net worth is estimated to be $1.31 billion, according to Forbes.
Alicia Shaffer, Three Bird Nest
Shaffer was one of Etsy's biggest sellers before she left the handmade marketplace in 2015.
Although she left Etsy in 2015, at one point Alicia Shaffer — founder of the boho-inspired accessories shop Three Bird Nest — was the handmade marketplace's biggest seller, earning an average of $60,000 a month.
"I would have been thrilled to make $100 to $200 a month to pay for my daughter's dance lessons," Shaffer told Business Insider. "I was really just trying to make a couple sales a week because I had lost confidence in my ability to start a business."
She ended up exceeding that goal by a long shot.
Michael J. Kittredge, Yankee Candle
Kittredge's first candle was a homemade Christmas gift for his mother.
When he was 16 years old, Michael J. Kittredge crafted a candle made of melted red crayons for his mother as a Christmas gift. After a friend offered to buy the wax creation, Kittredge started making candles in his parents' garage and selling them at his school and to local businesses in his Massachusetts hometown.
By 1972, Kittredge was paying $80 a month to rent a former paper mill as a workshop. Over time, the primarily wholesale business garnered $1 billion in annual sales. A decade later, he took out a loan to open a retail outlet and factory complex. By the mid-1990s, Yankee Candle had become a household name.
Highly successful to this day, Yankee Candle sold for $1.75 billion to consumer products company Jarden in 2013.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook
Facebook was once Mark Zuckerberg's hobby.
When Mark Zuckerberg started a small social media website for students at Harvard University, it was just a hobby.
But his side project — which ultimately became Facebook — blossomed into a multibillion-dollar global company. Today, his net worth is estimated to be just under $70 billion.
"I probably learned more coding from random side projects that I did than the courses I took in college," Zuckerberg said during a town-hall event organized by North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.
Al "Bubba" Baker, Bubba's-Q Boneless Ribs
Baker was a football legend and now owns a lucrative barbecue rib business.
Although he was already an NFL legend, retired football player Al "Bubba" Baker's second career has been equally successful.
After pitching his barbecue rib concept, Bubba's-Q, on NBC's "Shark Tank," the business — which began as a catering company— went from earning $154,000 to bringing in more than $16 million over the course of four years.
"When you have a project that is 30-some years in the making and you finally see it come to fruition — the emotions, it was overwhelming," Baker told CNBC.
In addition to an online shop, there's a brick-and-mortar Bubba's-Q restaurant in Avon, Ohio.
Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss, Rent the Runway
Hyman and Fleiss shared a passion for fashion — and have earned millions from their startup.
Both passionate about fashion, Harvard Business School classmates Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss founded Rent the Runway, an apparel and accessories rental service, in 2009.
"We started by purchasing dresses at retail in our own sizes — we figured if the concept didn't work, at least we'd have a great wardrobe! We just went to different undergraduate campus and started renting dresses to women," Fleiss said in an interview with The Muse.
Forbes included the co-founders on its 2016 roundup of the Richest Self-Made Women to Watch.
Arthur Davidson and William Harley, Harley-Davidson
Harley-Davidson began as a hobby for two friends who wanted to revolutionize the bicycle.
Motorcycles are usually synonymous with one of the most famous brands in the business: Harley-Davidson.
The ubiquitous motor vehicles began as the hobby of two friends, Arthur Davidson and William Harley, who saw the advent of the gasoline engine as a way to innovate bicycle design. Today, it is one of the biggest public companies in America.
Debbi Fields, Mrs. Fields
Debbi Fields transformed her passion for baking cookies into a highly successful cookie empire.
Success was just the way the cookie crumbled for Debbi Fields, founder of Mrs. Fields.
"We made every dollar stretch," she told LearnVest, referring to her working-class upbringing. "My father believed that true wealth was found in family, friends and doing what you love."
For Fields, baking — and cookies in particular — brought her joy. Even when her family couldn't afford real ingredients, she crafted cookies from margarine and imitation chocolate.
Her famous chocolate chip cookie recipe launched a dessert empire that is now worth $450 million.
Kevin Plank, Under Armour
Kevin Plank came up with the idea for Under Armour while playing college football.
The best inventions are solutions to everyday problems — something that Kevin Plank knows all too well.
Despite the Under Armour founder's unremarkable football career at the University of Maryland, the hours he spent training and working out inspired his multimillion-dollar idea: moisture-wicking athletic clothing.
Today, Forbes reports that Plank's estimated net worth is $2.1 billion.
Megan Duckett, Sew What? and Rent What?
Duckett translated her sewing prowess into a theatrical draping company.
Megan Duckett, who moved to Los Angeles from Australia in the 1990s, worked in the entertainment and event planning industries before launching Sew What?, a theatrical draping company. She also operates Rent What?, a drapery rental company.
Her handiwork has been seen everywhere from KISS concerts to a New Year's Eve party at Las Vegas' Mirage hotel.
"With a little creativity and the incentive to go digging around to find the clients, I knew that there was an opportunity there," she told CNN, which reported in 2015 that she earned $7 million in annual revenue.
Bill Gates, Microsoft
Bill Gates dropped out of school to create Microsoft.
When Bill Gates was studying at Harvard University, he fully intended on becoming a lawyer, and spent his free time in the computer lab. After two years at the school, however, Gates dropped out to pursue his passion— his company Microsoft.
With an estimated net worth of $90 billion, Gates is now one of the world's wealthiest people and has stepped down from the company to focus on philanthropy.
Walt Disney, The Walt Disney Company
Disney's childhood passion for drawing translated into a multimedia empire
Walt Disney's early interest in drawing ultimately culminated in a multimedia empire that encompasses beloved characters, animated movies, and rides.
At just seven years old, he sold his earliest sketches to neighbors. Wherever he went — including a stint as an ambulance driver in Europe during World War I — he would draw cartoons. Returning to the US after the war, he got a job as an advertising cartoonist.
It didn't take long for Disney to make it to Hollywood, where he created his most famous character, Mickey Mouse, in 1928.