How I Turned My Hobby Into a Successful Business Venture

hockey players

By Eric Fanelli

I come from a family of hockey enthusiasts. It’s a sport that I grew up playing and I’m happy that I’ve passed the love of hockey on to my daughters, whom I now coach in my spare time. Several years ago, I walked down to my basement to discover that my cat had decided to use my hockey gear as her litter box. I had to buy all new gear pronto since I needed it for an upcoming alumni game.

I decided to go online to look at my options, and came across a used pair of hockey pants from the University of Connecticut that were selling for half their original value. That’s when the lightbulb went off and I decided that buying and selling used sporting gear could be a fun gig.

I didn’t have enough gear of my own to really make much of a side hustle out of this, so I began by selling locally sourced equipment I bought off of surrounding college and club teams. I remember my first purchase being so exciting—I drove two hours to Boston University, where I bought $750 worth of gloves, pads, and jerseys from the women’s hockey team. I initially started listing these items on my Facebook page, where I flipped them for a $350 profit. I was lucky to have a friend in college hockey who helped me make the all-important connections. I started buying gear in bulk, repairing any damages, and selling it for a reasonable price online.

This hobby quickly began to escalate, and I found myself partnering not only with colleges, but with professional hockey teams as well. I would say the biggest turning point was when I partnered with the Detroit Red Wings minor league.

Finding the right platform

Eric Fanelli, founder of Fanellihockey

Since I was growing so rapidly and had a lot of items to sell, I quickly realized that Facebook was not the right platform to use. When I was looking at different places I could pursue this venture, I stumbled across SidelineSwap, an online marketplace where I could sell my gear to other athletes. I instantly thought it was a great platform because of how specific it was to athletes and how easy the buying/selling process was. In early 2015, I started a page on SidelineSwap called Fanellihockey, which is where I continue to sell all my gear. I started by selling a couple thousand dollars’ worth of gear a year to selling over $250,000 worth in 2017.

I had been working out of my basement for years, but I began to outgrow it once I started getting gear from minor league teams. My inventory was so large that at the beginning of 2017, I had to start renting out a 1,600 sq. ft. warehouse to store and repair all of the gear. I’m currently still storing my inventory there, but we are even starting to outgrow this place and may have to look at renting an even bigger warehouse in the near future.

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Side hustle becomes full-time job

For several years I was working both my 9-to-5 sales job as well as managing my side hustle, but balancing both jobs was becoming more and more challenging. I worked on Fanellihockey both before and after my day job, meaning I put in about 80 hours of work each week. To me it was worth it because nothing is better than hearing my daughters talk about how cool it is that we own a hockey business. I had been increasing my sales each month for a while now, and this year I was fortunate enough to be able to make Fanellihockey my full-time job.

Since I am not interested in starting a traditional brick-and-mortar store due to the high expenses and risk involved, using SidelineSwap as my platform has really given me everything I’ve ever wanted out of Fanellihockey. I get to spend time with my wife and daughters fixing up hockey equipment in our warehouse without having the pressure of owning an entire storefront—it’s really the best job I can imagine.

Fanellihockey warehouse

Fanelli’s crowded 1,600 sq. ft. warehouse, where he stores and repairs all of his gear.

To have something start as a hobby and progress all the way to a full-time job has been a dream come true. My advice to others out there who are looking to start a side hustle is to go all in. It can be demanding, both in terms of time and money, but if you commit yourself 110%, success will follow. You have to have initiative in this field—build relationships, know your market, and be persistent. Those are the keys to a successful side hustle.

RELATED: What You Need to Know When Starting a Side Hustle

About the Author

Post by: Eric Fanelli

I’m an entrepreneur and family man. I live in Hartford, Conn., with my wife and our three daughters. Starting with my passion for hockey, I found a way to make some extra cash by doing what I love—working with hockey gear. This turned into a booming business that I now balance with family time and fatherly duties, such as coaching my daughters.

Company: Fanellihockey
Website: Fanellihockey
Connect with me on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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