From passion project to full-time possibilities
Dan Wheeler’s been a small-town hobby photographer for more than 40 years, but he’s always wondered if he might be able to turn his passion for photography into something more than that.
“Would people want to pay me for this service?”
“Are there enough potential customers in my small town?”
“Could this become a real business?”
His hope? To serve his local community through digital media production with his business, At Peace Media.
Though VALIDATE seemed like a right fit for him, Dan wasn’t sure he had enough time to devote to the program with his full-time shift work.
“The frustrations I was having was basically myself getting in the way. It was very difficult to sit down and go, ‘You need to build a business plan. You need to set up the technical side of things to get it running.’ VALIDATE focused me on, ‘Yes, I have this idea, but is it worth pursuing? Can you follow it? Can you make money off of it?’”
Despite his hesitations, he joined because he knew that the time issue wouldn’t change if he didn’t change something. Validating his business idea is something he’s been trying to do for years, and participating in the 8-week accelerator class was a way for him to get out of his head once and for all and overcome the idea that starting his business would be too difficult. It gave him the accountability and support he needed to finish the necessary market research work and confirmed that his business idea was valuable in the marketplace.
“VALIDATE was very specific in the questions they were asking. Hard questions sometimes. It was something I really needed to focus me on getting the business up and running.”
He didn’t let his reserved personality keep him from putting in the work of going out and talking to his target market about his services. He said being shy or quiet doesn’t matter because, if you put in the effort and stay positive, you can evolve. This process even became enjoyable for him, and getting to know others in the community while doing the market research was a positive experience of growth.
After VALIDATE, Dan launched his business idea by participating in a local trade show with 3,500 in attendance. He talked with about 200 participants, gave away a ton of business cards, and had about 50 interested in what he was doing. In doing so, he signed his first official business client and got some large companies interested in working with him as well.
When talking with Dan about the program being geared toward those with digital product ideas, he said the process still worked for him, and he’d recommend it. According to Dan, it’s one of the best ways to determine if you should move forward with your idea, change it, or scrap it – whether it’s a digital course, physical product, or service-based offering.
One of Dan’s biggest payoffs through VALIDATE is knowing without a shadow of a doubt that what he wants to do in his community is needed AND wanted, and there is a massive market for him to work with.