How I Turned My Hobbies Into a Business
Business | February 20, 2020 | By Brandon Briscoe
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.
About the Author
Founder & CEO, Clean Finances
Brandon founded Clean Finances in 2015 after completing his B.S. in Economics from the University of Texas at Arlington while working as the Finance Director for two established nonprofit organizations. He lives in East Dallas with his wife, Becca, and their son, Daxton.
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