Maine is a place that seems to bring out creativity in people. It's brimming with artisans, inventors and culinary creators who dabble in ventures at all levels. For many, it's the genesis of a burgeoning small business; for others, it's destined to remain a hobby. How do you know when it's time to make the leap from an enjoyable pastime to a professional pursuit? Taking a close look at the key drivers for long-term success and asking yourself the difficult questions are the first steps in making a rational, objective decision.

1. Nail your idea

Does your hobby involve a brand or service that someone would pay for? Crafting a product or service that is enjoyable for you does not guarantee you will be paid for your efforts. In the business world, it's called the value proposition: defining the problem your business is solving. Engage family, friends and potential customers to provide critical feedback about your product. Ask what they like most about your product, how it helps them solve a problem and what they might pay for this product. Ask no fewer than 25 people and jot down their responses.

2. Articulate your product’s promise

From your research, compose a 60-second message (often called an elevator pitch) that clearly spells out your brand or service and three reasons why someone would pay you for it. Test that message on 25 more people and refine it based on feedback.

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