Turning Your Passion Into Reality!

BlogHer Original Post

Reinvention has many faces –- you may decide to launch your own business, change careers or launch a new creative venture that allows you to express other dimensions while retaining your current job. How do you manage that? Where do you find the education and resources that you need Elisa Varian is a busy editorial professional at Kaplan University and the author of the blog A Karmatastic Life, which is dedicated to spreading the word about good deeds that everyday people do on a regular basis . Read how Elisa found solutions to explore her creative talents.

My inspiration and my project

My goal is to create a website that maximizes social media, with viral marketing supporting the sale of my hand-made products. To boot, the site has a higher—altruistic—purpose. I believe collective good deeds have the power to shape the future. Also I was in need of stretching my creative muscles. I come from a long line of entrepreneurs, and previously ran a home-based business—once by design and once as a result of the dot-com bust.

My challenges and solutions

While my intention in creating A Karmatastic Life was largely about spreading kindness and supporting my own creativity, the most challenging aspect of this project has been getting the skills and information I need to develop a successful website and an online business.

I also knew that I had limited resources of time (I work a demanding daytime job and can’t commit to other than weekend courses) and money (my venture may prove to be a labor of love and so the costs need to remain low). With all this taken into account, here are the solutions I’ve come up with...

Challenge 1: Needing to understand any business or legal ramifications of running my own site.

My solution: I took a 5-week course -- held on Saturdays -- at my local community college , where I learned about forms of business ownership and their respective advantages and disadvantages, as well as about the many resources available to business startups. For example, SCORE offers free mentoring and tools to help small businesses get off the ground. Your local chamber of commerce may also be an excellent resource. Keep in mind that the Internal Revenue Service will expect that you have done your homework with respect to your taxation status. You can find tons of information on both the IRS site as well as your state-specific site (e.g., Florida Department of State Division of Corporations).

Challenge 2: Understanding trademarking considerations, especially as they pertain to merchandising.

My solution: I tapped into my network to ask an intellectual property attorney to advise on the trademark considerations I would inevitably come across. Never hesitate to ask a colleague or friend for advice -- if you know it will be sound. Also, don’t forget that you may be able to barter your professional services in exchange for the services of others.

Challenge 3: Learning the ins and outs of merchandise manufacturing (packaging for boxed note cards, for example).

My solution... is a work in progress. I printed my first set of note cards last December with the help of a local printer I’ve known for many years. I needed assistance with the packaging, though. Expecting to purchase from a local provider of stationery products, instead I was kindly directed to their supplier. I now have more packaging options and assistance than had I merely purchased from the local provider. Next up: learning about shirts and caps. Again, I'll rely on a friend who has the expertise.

p>Challenge 4: Moving from amateur digital camera user to semipro (I plan to use my own photos to keep overhead low).

My solution: I’ve signed up for a series of short weekend courses offered by a local camera chain to learn more about the features of my digital camera and how to get the most out of it, including composition and exposure modes, as well as image storage. I’ve also downloaded a free photo manipulation tool called Gimp.

I’m on my way and I’ve learned so much through so many avenues: my local community college, friends and colleagues, local merchants. Whatever the outcome, I’m on to something.

Elisa Varian is an editorial professional and author of the blog A Karmatastic Life.

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Kaplan University provides a practical, student-centered education that prepares individuals for careers in some of the fastest-growing industries. The University, which has its main campus in Davenport, Iowa, and its headquarters in Chicago, is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (www.ncahlc.org). It serves more than 53,000 online and campus-based students. The University has 11 campuses in Iowa, Nebraska, Maryland and Maine, and Kaplan University Learning Centers in Maryland, Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri and Florida.

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