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How I Turned My Hobbies Into a Business
Februrary 20, 2020 | By Brandon Briscoe, Founder & CEO
As the business turns 5 years old this month, I wanted to take a look back on some of the fundamental moments that led to the start of this company. There is a theory out there that says good business happens when your unique skill set can be positioned to improve the lives of those around you. Let’s dive a little deeper into that.
This is a simple case study that builds on that notion as it explores how hobbies can actually be the driver behind a business worth building. Thus, here is a look into how a kid that loved to clean his room, solve intricate math problems and build useful spreadsheets turned those hobbies into a collective effort to build a financial services business called Clean Finances. Perhaps by the end, you’ll have learned a little more about what our culture looks like as clean freaks that love to utilize numbers in a way that breaks down complex problems into simple solutions. More importantly, my ambition is that you’ll have noticed how you could use your own hobbies to create a business around what you love.
Cleaning My Room
When I was a kid, my parents handed me a book titled “How to Clean Your Room When Your Mom or Dad Says ‘Clean Your Room’” – a bit of a passive aggressive approach, but, hey, I took to it. Here’s the crazy part too – I still have that book (two copies actually). I can’t say for sure whether the perfectionism came before or after I was gifted the book, but what I do know for sure is that I read those step by step instructions cover to cover probably 100 times in one summer. Seriously, imagine Marie Kondo as a 5th-grade boy and you’ll have pictured me.
What I think sparked the most joy in me about it was that it took what seemed to be a complicated task and approached it head-on with a cohesive solution that you could follow by a set of simple step by step instructions. This led me to my next hobby as I grew a little older.
Solving Intricate Math Problems
In high school, my math teacher called me over after class one day and asked me if I would be interested in competing in the school district’s calculator test. Now, before you think this was my shining moment of glory, I’ll let you in on a few key details here: (a) I went to a small private school with about 10 kids in my class (someone has to take the test) and (b) you literally use a calculator in a calculator test (so… there’s that). Nonetheless, I decided to take on the competition and set out with my TI-83 Plus.
What’s weird is that I started to love the tests. In a similar way to the childhood book, I found that I could approach an incredibly complicated problem with a set of rules that would help me achieve the end result I needed – a cleanroom or, in this case, the answer. It wasn’t that I had to have any crazy amounts of head knowledge – only that I knew the rules of where to place the parenthesis into my calculator to adequately separate the distinct equations and end up with a simple value that wouldn’t have been possible to find without those set of rules. In short, I was a budding dork.
Building Useful Spreadsheets
It started when an older man from our church (who later became a critical mentor of mine) stopped by our small group for a short talk on budgeting – a subject that our little group of millennials knew absolutely nothing about. My curiosity was piqued, however, when he pulled out his laptop and within a few minutes turned what had always been, for me, an abstract conversation into, all of sudden, a pragmatic solution that I could actually implement. See, I didn’t really spend a lot of time talking about money in my childhood, and I certainly did not know how to properly manage my expenses by the time I received my first paycheck in high school. I did, however, love to clean my room and solve intricate math problems.
With these very unique interests in my tool belt, I was ready to take on the wonders of Microsoft Excel to build useful spreadsheets that could turn complex calculations into simple metrics that I could then track and actually gain insights from. I quickly took to the new hobby and started to build out different versions of my personal budget in Excel for no other reason than to find some enjoyment. As I continued through college, I eventually started to work as the Finance Director for two non-profit organizations. I took my interests a step further here and started to utilize spreadsheets to map out how cash flow was expected to look around this time next month or even next year.
This was where I could start to see decisions be made from the numbers I produced, and I realized that my hobbies had started to turn into an actual skill set that could help other people.
A Business Worth Building
Then came the moment. I had turned 21 years old, graduated from college and married my high school sweetheart all in about 30 days, and I was ready for the rest of my life. Ironically, I hadn’t lined up a full-time job yet and was still working part-time with the two non-profit organizations. Thus, as I found myself wondering what to do next, an idea popped in my head. I realized that I indeed was a clean freak that loved to utilize numbers in a way that breaks down complex problems into simple solutions, and I realized that other people needed that in their businesses. I focused in further and took note that most business owners found finances to be a point of frustration and confusion – a complete mess really. I wanted to help solve that problem. So, with the full support of my new bride, I decided to start Clean Finances – where our mission is to solve the financial headache for business owners.
As I reflect on it all, I could not be more grateful for my random hobbies and those people that instilled them in me – from my parents that instilled in me the importance of a clean environment, to my math teacher that showed me how much fun it could be to make sense of chaos, to my mentor that proved to me how much I really did love numbers and could use that to improve other people’s lives. And here we are.
Happy 5 Years, Clean Finances. There’s no doubt you’ve become my greatest hobby.
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