Aunia Kahn on The Art of Monetizing What You Love
Aunia Kahn, CEO of Rise Visible
Can you begin by telling our audience a little about yourself, your business, and what led you to pursue your particular passion as a profession?
Owning a website design and digital marketing agency was never part of my initial career aspirations. My dream had always been to become a therapist. However, during my college years, numerous unforeseen obstacles emerged, altering the course of my life.
One of the most significant challenges I faced was the onset of health issues that profoundly impacted my daily life, yet I struggled to find medical support. Repeatedly, I was told that my ailments were purely psychological.
The events of 9/11 compounded my difficulties, resulting in a job loss. At the time, I was working as a dental assistant to support my education. The aftermath of 9/11 made it exceedingly challenging to secure employment in that field.
In my quest to find alternative income sources that could accommodate my health struggles, I turned to website and graphic design. These had been long-standing hobbies of mine since 1998, but it had never occurred to me that they could become a viable career path until that moment.
My entire life took a different direction, and as you can see, I am still passionately pursuing this path today. It has granted me the freedom and flexibility I require.
In 2018, I finally received my initial diagnosis, and the most crucial one arrived in 2021. These diagnoses allowed me to elevate my agency over the past few years and take it to the next level.
I'm curious to know, what was the defining moment that made you realize that this passion could actually become a business? How did you identify the unique value it could bring to others?
Having a passion for website development, marketing, and design was ingrained in me from an early age as a means to enhance my art and music endeavors. I found myself building my own websites, crafting album covers, and handling much of my own marketing as a creative.
This journey was never part of my original plan, nor was it within the scope of my initial aspirations. However, when circumstances took an unexpected turn after 9/11, resulting in the loss of my job and a series of health crises, I had to devise a concrete plan to sustain myself. Relying on my technological and creative skills became imperative.
The concept of transforming something I loved into a career wasn't a deliberate choice but more of an accidental necessity.
Every entrepreneur faces obstacles, especially when turning a passion into a business. Can you share some of the initial challenges you encountered and how you overcame them?
The challenges I've encountered so far have been relatively minimal. Primarily, my predominantly housebound lifestyle made it difficult for me to establish connections and engage in networking. However, since the onset of Covid-19 and the subsequent improvement in my health, there has been a significant shift in how we connect, communicate, and network. Prior to this, connecting with real people in the physical world for the purpose of building business connections and acquiring clients was an arduous task.
Monetizing a passion requires a solid business model. Can you walk us through how you developed yours, and the key factors that make it successful?
My business model was never intentionally constructed; instead, it was born out of necessity and a genuine desire to survive. It lacked any formal structure or business plan, and there were no defined goals or clear aspirations for the majority of my career. My primary focus was simply to stay afloat and meet my financial obligations. It was only after receiving my diagnosis and no longer having to worry constantly about survival that we began to reassess our business model and formulate strategic plans.
Many people worry that monetizing their passion may take the joy out of it. How have you managed to balance the business aspects with staying true to what you love?
If you aspire to turn your passion into a profitable venture, it's crucial to be prepared for the hard work it demands daily. It's important to recognize that even the most enjoyable and fulfilling pursuits, when intertwined with financial success and goals, can become exhausting and risk taking away the joy they once brought.
For instance, one of my passions is creating art. I've been internationally exhibited and even received awards for my artistic endeavors. However, I consciously choose not to rely on my art for income. Why? Because the stress and pressure of turning my art into a sole source of income could potentially dampen my passion for it.
Instead, I've embraced a digital career in website development, SEO expertise, and marketing which is also a passion. This path allows me to channel my creativity, earn a comfortable income, and maintain a clear separation from my artistic pursuits. By not putting the financial burden on my art, I can continue to enjoy creating and exhibiting it without the pressure of making money from it.
As your business grew, what strategies did you employ to scale it while maintaining the core values and essence of what made it special in the first place?
Our business scaling strategy revolved around establishing and nurturing genuine connections with our existing clients, which in turn formed the foundation of our referral network. Our growth and expansion were deeply rooted in authentic business relationships.
While we also harnessed marketing tools, SEO techniques, and engaged in networking efforts to facilitate growth, it's important to acknowledge that the most substantial progress and momentum were achieved through the steady cultivation of client relationships and the resulting referrals accumulated over the years.
Your journey is truly inspiring. What key insights or pieces of advice would you offer to someone looking to turn their passion into profit?
It's crucial to consider whether you truly want to intertwine your passion with the pressures of profitability. Take the time to reflect deeply on this decision before proceeding.
Nevertheless, it's perfectly acceptable to give it a try and then change your mind if it doesn't align with your expectations. We always have the freedom to reassess our choices. Taking risks and exploring new opportunities can lead us to unexpected and potentially fulfilling experiences that we might never have known were right for us.
Reflecting on your journey so far, what are you most proud of? What future developments or projects are you excited about in your business?
I am most proud of obtaining a diagnosis that has empowered me to flourish as a business owner and expanding has been a pivotal moment in my journey, especially considering the health challenges I've faced. My well-being plays a central role in both my personal and professional goals. With the recent diagnosis and subsequent treatment, life has taken a turn for the better. I'm incredibly proud of my resilience over the past 25 years, as it has allowed me to not only survive but to thrive and grow in my business endeavors.