Heidi Hyatt spent 25 years as an engineer designing machines. But in 1988, she gave up that career to work full time restoring Victorian homes.
She'd gotten hooked on restoration in the early 1980s, while working on her own two-bedroom ranch house in Mt. Prospect, Illinois. Then, when she sold that property in 1984 to move to the country, she bought a house that looked more like a shack than a country home. The place was in such bad shape that the second floor had been condemned and plaster was falling off the walls. But she tackled the remodeling project with vigor, even though she was still working as an engineer. In fact, when she finished her extensive renovation of the house's interior and exterior, it was so picture-perfect that Sears, Roebuck used its photo on a brochure.
News of her gift for restoration spread like wildfire through the countryside, which is filled with rundown Victorian-era architecture badly in need of Hyatt's imagination and loving attention to detail.
One by one, she has done her part to turn dilapidated farmhouses into magnificent Victorian treasures. In the process, she's created a livelihood from a passion that was once her hobby.
If you think hobbies are too "small potatoes" to make lucrative career choices, think again. Real devotees may be willing to pay tons of money on expensive equipment and services to indulge their passions.
Joe Mansue too had a love of investing and an unusual-al-most cultish-fascination with mutual funds. His belief in them became the foundation for a Chicago publishing firm that covers mutual funds the way newspapers cover sports.
Entrepreneurs are, by nature, builders and creators-not just of products and services-but also of communities. They're mavericks determined to mold the world to suit their needs and dreams.
In many ways, Mansueto is the classic entrepreneur.
Yes, he had some of those innate childhood leanings. When he was nine years old, he decided to sell crickets to the neighbors as garden accessories. He ordered 1,000 to get started.
It turned out to be his first entrepreneurial failure: The crickets died.
Almost from the beginning, he had a great eye for a value. As a sixth grader, he was a ham radio buff. This hobby netted him his first real taste of financial success when he bought a vintage radio for $100 and sold it two weeks later for $300. But he admits that the community mattered more to him than the money. The camaraderie he shared with other ham-radio fanatics has stayed with him as a happy memory.
As an adult, when it came time to get a "real job," he sought one that would suit his casual lifestyle, intellectual curiosity and sense of community. He founded Morningstar to create it.
As the company grows, he finds that his role is constantly changing. Businesses, like people, have different developmental stages and need different types of leaders at different times in their history. For him, that is part of the challenge.