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These Brands Are Determined To Prove Fun Can Have A Payoff

You know what they say about work and play: They don’t mix. But work and play aren’t like oil and water; they’re more like peanut butter and pickles. Although some people say “yuck,” others can’t get enough of the combination. And like many peanut-and-pickle evangelists, entrepreneurs are rarely content to serve their passion behind the scenes. Still skeptical? The following brands are proof that work and play can be a delicious — and profitable — pairing:

  1. ONEHOPEFor most of us, sitting down with friends and a bottle of wine sounds like a fun way to spend a Friday night. But for ONEHOPE’s co-founders, who worked for a major winery after graduating college, it’s a winning business model. Roughly 70 percent of the brand’s sales are from direct-to-consumer wine tastings that dual as fundraisers.

“Only a small group of people are afforded the opportunity to visit wine country for a Napa-Style wine-tasting experience,” co-founder and CEO Jake Kloberdanz explains. “So we decided to bring that experience to people across the nation instead.” Plus, Kloberdanz points out, ONEHOPE customers can support their own passion while enjoying wine. To date, ONEHOPE has raised more than $4 million in donations. Who knew making a positive impact on other people’s lives could taste as good as it feels?

  1. PatagoniaAs a teenager, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard was so fond of climbing the San Fernando Valley’s sandstone cliffs that he hopped freight trains to spend winter weekends there. When he moved on to Yosemite, Chouinard fashioned pitons out of a rusty harvester blade. Soon after building a shop in his parents’ backyard, he realized he had to scale up. He partnered with fellow climber Tom Frost, and Chouinard Equipment — later Patagonia — was born. Even as the company grew and subsequently contracted in the early ‘90s, Chouinard’s Patagonia kept its work-and-play ethic strong. For its employees, the company continued to sponsor climbing and skiing excursions. Those who wanted more banded together for informal trips into the Sierra Nevada on Friday nights, returning home exhausted but eager for work on Monday.

  2. Startups.coIs it possible to talk shop with fellow founders for a living? That was the question Wil Schroter asked himself after spending two decades scaling startups. After burning out from building five companies at once, Schroter realized his only source of professional excitement was watching metrics. So he struck out on his own once again, this time to build a media platform where entrepreneurs could trade ideas. “It wasn’t a business idea — it was a passion,” Schroter explains. “As it happens, being really passionate about startups and founders has really obvious business implications.” Although Schroter acknowledges that not every passion pays well, he recommends founders make passion their North Star and then figure out how to practice it profitably.

  3. Discovery Channel

Before Netflix turned binge-watching into a national pastime, Discovery Channel founder John Hendricks catalogued documentaries for professors at the University of Alabama. By 1982, however, he got sick of waiting for others to create a documentary film channel and decided to do it himself. Discovery Channel is now the centerpiece of a media empire that serves 1.5 billion people in 39 languages through more than 100 channels. Hendricks’ advice? In his book “A Curious Discovery: An Entrepreneur’s Story,” he suggests readers pay attention to their daydreams, particularly the persistent ones. “The first step is to be certain of your passions that originate with some deep curiosity that you have, if you want to create something new,” he said.

  1. Blue Bottle CoffeeWhat’s a self-styled “disaffected freelance musician and coffee lunatic” to do when bar gigs just won’t pay the bills? Why not brew small batches of joe and sell them out of the back of a station wagon? James Freeman, founder of Blue Bottle Coffee, knew he could craft better coffee than other roasteries in the Bay Area, so he started driving around, learning customers’ preferences and dropping coffee on doorsteps. Despite the fact that Freeman sold a majority stake in his company to Nestlé in 2017 for $500 million, he insists his day-to-day role at Blue Bottle hasn’t changed. “I’m chief product officer; I cup coffee and I’m in charge of menus and designing cafés with the team and working on communications, so it’s pretty much the same,” he said in an interview. Nobody would accuse Freeman, who once cut up milk jugs instead of paying $29 per coffee scoop, of doing it for the money.

Whether it’s wine, coffee, or film, markets always have room for passionate people. Your personal source of fun just might be the seed of the next billion-dollar business.