How to Turn Your Passion Into a Business
They say if you do what you love that you’ll never work a day in your life. But how does one transform a passionate project into a successful gig? We caught up with Ziba Style Bar founder Solange Ashoorim, who's profiled in Slice's new digital series Go Here Meet Her, to get her hot take on how to turn your passion into a business.
Find your nicheSolange Ashoori is the founder of Ziba Style Bar, Toronto's first inclusive beauty salon. The style bar's mission is to create a space for all women of all hair and skin types to feel confident and comfortable to walk into a salon without anxiety. Having worked in the beauty salon business for 12 years, Solange developed a deep passion for her work, but also noticed that the business was very marginalized. Dealing with the difficulty in finding experts for her own curly hair, Solange did her research and created a space where she could hire the right specialists to cater to anybody that walks in. Ziba Style Bar is truly one-of-a-kind, attracting women of all ethnicities, hair types, and diverse backgrounds who trust her team of knowledgeable experts.
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Do your researchSolange dreamed about opening up her own place for years, but she took her time to hone that vision before actually launching Ziba Style Bar. She chalks it up to her Capricorn personality, but the entrepreneur doesn’t do anything unless she’s 99-100 per cent sure that it will work. In this case, that included doing a whack of research to determine the best location, price points, and people to help her achieve her goals.
“I took a long time to calculate all of my risks, put all my ducks in a row, and figure out how to get it done,” she says. “That process took a long time and the finalization process of the business took about two years.”
Have a long timelineIf you’re thinking about launching your own gig, Solange recommends at least a year to get all your ducks in a row. “If you have a great idea in your head, figure out all of the steps first. There are so many steps that you don’t even factor in until you’re actually starting the process,” she says. “So take the time you have in your head and triple that. Give yourself a long enough timeline that you can put together a really good business plan and crunch the numbers to see if you’re able to dive in.”
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Stay focusedWith so many unexpected hiccups and unforeseen issues that can arise when starting a business, the main things is to stay focused, Solange says. Obviously that can be hard when you have about a million things being throw at you, so try and find your center.
“It’s an influx of overwhelming new things you have to learn as you go while trying to scale a business, so you need mental strength,” she says. “Find a balance between being relaxed and clearing your mind while also being hyper-focused at the same time.”
Become business savvyDeveloping your business skills before launching anything should be a priority, especially if you want to know whether your passion is actually profitable. Take some classes, attend free seminars at community centres and libraries, and if you still aren’t comfortable, work with an expert.
“Some people have great skills but they don’t know about the business side of it, in which case I would strongly recommend bringing other people in,” Solange says. “Some people will be better at doing things than you are in certain cases, and you can get their advice to see how your idea can scale for you, or if it will work, or what you need to do in order to bring it to fruition.”
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Hire experts when neededAlthough Solange had worked in her industry for a dozen years before launching Ziba, she knew she wasn’t going to be able to cater to all women’s unique needs. So she rounded out her team with experts in various fields to ensure that her complete vision was met.
“I have curly hair and it's hard for me to find a salon. I can't just walk into any salon. I have to really research,” she says. “The mission was to create a space and hire the right specialists that could really cater to anybody that walks in and make them comfortable to know that we know what we're doing.”
Surround yourself with like-minded peopleSolange admits the hiring process was one of the hardest parts about opening her business. While she looked for skilled workers first and foremost, she also had to consider the culture she was going for and how potential employees would fit into her overall vision.
“Establish what the culture of your business is going to be and how you want the vibe and the environment to be in your space and then pick the people that you think will be a good fit for that space,” she says. “You really have to dive into picking the right people. It's not always about skill; patience is definitely the biggest factor in hiring and building a team because things change on a daily basis. So you have to be prepared for all of that.”
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Ignore the naysayersSolange admits she has been lucky in terms of her support system, and that her friends and family have seen her vision for a long time and always believed in her. But she recognizes that not everyone’s path will be as full of good wishes as hers.
“Constructive criticism should be taken into account, but you should be able to navigate the difference between someone just criticizing what you’re doing versus someone trying to help you improve what you’re doing or to make your idea more successful,” she says. “In terms of the naysayers? I mean, who cares about them. They’re there. They’re going to be there all the time. And they don’t matter.”
Be in it for the long haulNo matter how great of an idea you have (or how passionate you are about it), it can take up to a year for a new business to become profitable. That’s where planning and patience come in handy.
“Find a really good accountant that's going to let you know exactly the amount of money you'll need to be able to sustain your business, assuming that you will not be profitable for about the first year,” she says. “That's not to say that it'll take a year to be profitable. Some businesses start thriving within six months. But you always have to take into consideration that you will not be profitable and that you won't take any money home for the first year.”
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Try everythingIf you dream about starting your own business but you still haven’t figured out your passion, that doesn’t mean you won’t find it. Solange believes the key is to keep an open mind and heart, and to be willing to try anything.
“You'll know you found it when you're in it,” she says. “It's all about how you feel and what drives you. My advice would be to try everything that you feel like trying and something will stick. And you'll know when it happens because you'll be excited to do it every day.”
Want to get an in-depth look at Solange Ashoori's business? Watch her episode of Go Here Meet Her where she tells the story of how she made Ziba Style Bar a success.