Hobbies evolve into businesses that pay off

by Jessica Banasiak
Finding an enjoyable job is a struggle for all people at all ages,  and particularly for high school students, with limited workplace experienceand availability.
Several of the high school’s students have overcome this challenge by turning their own hobbies into a source of income and by starting their own businesses. With no controlling bosses or inconvenient shifts, they are pursuing their passions while making money.

A Passion for Paint: 
Senior Alex Loop is one of these individuals who learned to profit from her passions. Owner of Art and Sole, she custom paints shoes for $35 to $40 a pair. Prior to starting Art and Sole, Loop would draw and paint for friends; she designed her friends’ Relay for Life shirts and signs for her church’s annual fair. It was not until this past summer that she began painting shoes; “…at first for free for a couple of camp friends, then for kids at school and my siblings,” said Loop. “It doesn’t matter if I’m painting shoes for free or for cash – I always do the best job I can, since I enjoy doing shoe commissions despite the time it takes, and I love seeing how happy my friends and customers are when they get their shoes back.”
Loop did not always intend to sell her designs, but was inspired by the website on which she displays her art. “There’s this website called devianart.com. After I posted a couple of pictures of -shoes I’ve painted, I began getting comments on them requesting that I accept shoe commissions,” said Loop. “While I didn’t feel entirely comfortable painting shoes from complete strangers on the net, it certainly gave me confidence that I may be good enough to start taking commissions from kids at school.”
Baking into Business:
Mariel Mital, also a senior, has turned her passion for baking into a money- making endeavor. She runs Mariel’s Cake Pops, which offers customizable mini cupcakes on sticks in various flavors, colors and characters. “I am a baking blog fanatic, and often I find new creative baking ideas that I try at home,” said Mital. “I happened upon cake pops on one site, and decided one day in the summer to try it out for myself.  I showed them to my friends and they encouraged me to sell them in school and to people around the neighborhood.”
K-9 Career:
Two recent graduates also took their passions and transformed them into a business. Steven and Jason Parker created a pet- sitting business at the ages of 14 and 12 called K-9 guardians.  While Jason was still a senior, he developed the idea for K-9, a dog “daycare and luxu ry hotel” currently located in Fanwood with locations set to open in both Morris and Monmouth Counties later this year. The business has gained much recognition, including a number-one ranking in New Jersey Monthly Magazine. The Courier News’ call it the best pet service in Central Jersey.
Like the Parker brothers, Mital and Loop hope to continue profiting from their hobbies in the future. “I am really determined to  keep the business going in college, and I hope my cake pops will be just as popular among the college community,” said Mital. As for my customers at home, I hope I can keep the business running on breaks in between the semesters,”.
Loop aspires to use the skills she has learned in both art and business with Art and Sole in to a career as a storyboard illustrator for movies or television shows.
“Shoe commissions will probably remain open freshman year in college, only I probably won’t get them done so quickly,” said Loop.
Jason Parker  offered advice to current business owners at the high school. “You must be passionate about what you are doing. If you do something that you love, you will never work a day in your life.  After you find something that you are passionate about; hard work, determination and ambition are all it takes to make any dream come true. You must work harder and have more ambition than everyone else if you want to be more successful,” he said.
Mital also offered advice from a current students’ perspective. “For future students planning to start a business, patience and organization are key.  You really have to stay on top of your marketing, and even though business may be slow at first, the hard work will eventually pay off,” she said.