Making money from hobbies
A HOBBY can be more than just a pleasant past-time activity. With some effort and perhaps a little bit of luck, it can make you money. One famous example is Famous Amos, the popular US-based cookie company.
While not many will strike gold with their hobbies like the founder of Famous Amos, here are some examples of individuals who have managed to turn their favourite past-times into decent money churners.
Adelyn Koh currently owns and runs the Junk Book Store, which, according to the Malaysia Book of Records, is the biggest second-hand bookstore in the country.
But the idea of selling second-hand books actually started from a hobby, or rather passion for old books, says Koh.
“Yes, it started from a hobby of my husband’s. He used to collect a lot of books and then one day we felt, why not try selling them?”
The rest, as they say, is history. Koh now operates from a three-storey shoplot in Jalan Tun H.S. Lee, which is just five minutes away from Central Market a long way from humble beginnings of selling books from a 600 sq ft room in Jalan Ampang.
Junk Book Store, established in 1990, today has an inventory of more than one million rare and used books, with the oldest book dating back to the 19th century.
Many individuals are known for “being good with their hands,” and don’t realise its significance until someone else starts appreciating it.
For Ratnam, 58, who resides in Johor, tinkering with his 1967 Volkswagen Beetle when he was in his 20s was nothing more than just a weekend hobby.
“I started small, first just changing the engine oil and perhaps adjusting the brakes. Than I moved on to bigger jobs, like engine overhaul and transmission replacements. It was always a hobby and I had no intention of doing it for profit,” he says.
Then one fine day, a friend, who also owned a Volkswagen Beetle, couldn’t get it started and went to Ratnam for help.
“I managed to diagnose the problem quickly and got it started,” he says, adding that he did not charge his friend in return for the help.
“My friend kept coming back for minor jobs and would occasionally introduce me to some of his associates (who also owned Volkswagen Beetles) and they started bringing their cars to me for repairs.
“I never asked for payment but many of them felt obliged to pay me. Now, more than 20 years on, I still get people coming to me to repair their (Volkswagen) cars for them and it provides me with some pocket money,” says Ratnam.
A retired postal worker, Ratnam says he’s practically a full-fledged mechanic today.
“It started out as a hobby. Little did I know it would help me make extra money now that I’m retired.”
Khatijah, 64, from Kuala Lumpur, used to bake cookies for her son, a banker, and his colleagues. Soon, word spread and she was preparing food for the entire office.
“I first started baking them on weekends for the family. My son would take the remaining biscuits to work the next day. Initially, I started making extra because his colleagues also wanted to taste the cookies.
“Soon, I started getting requests from the bank manager himself. Some of them wanted the cookies for their family and friends and the orders started getting bigger,” Khatijah says, adding that she makes a “nice small income” from her cookies and biscuits.
Many individuals who are active in sports or just do it as a hobby have managed to reap more than just its “health benefits.”
Kepong Baru-based Universe Gym manager-cum-trainer John Anthony was just a regular member at the gym when it began operations in the late-80s. Then, it was owned and run by a close friend of his.
“I would go to the gym in the evenings to exercise, just like anyone else. I would help to take over whenever my friend had to leave the gym to attend to personal matters.”
Due to unforeseen circumstances, John’s friend passed away and the gym was closed for about a month.
Fearing that the business would be sold off, John took it upon himself to reopen the gym and manage it on a temporary basis until a suitable partner could take over its operations.
“No one else wanted to take over and the gym was just idling away. I felt that it would have been a waste if it was shut down,” he says.
That was in 1996. Fast forward to today and John is still running the gym. What’s more, business has grown and its members have more than tripled.
“We’ve also shifted to a bigger location and (we’re) now the most hard-core gym in Kepong,” he says in jest, adding that he now mans the gym on a daily basis and earns a reasonable side income from it.
John says most of the money is used to maintain and upgrade the gym.
Khalid, 32, from Terengganu, aspired to become a professional football player when he was younger but opted to do something else when he realised that teaching was his true calling.
He still has a passion for the sport and on weekends organises football classes for kids.
“It was a hobby of mine (playing football) and it still is. As a teacher, my weekends are free and I thought, why not try to earn some extra income from it?”
Khalid says he started giving free football lessons to his siblings’ children at a nearby field and soon “the group” got bigger.
“Today, I’m coaching kids from my entire neighbourhood,” he says, adding that he does make much from the lessons he gives.
“It’s not much, but I don’t really do it for the money. The money is just a bonus,” Khalid says.