We would all chase our dream job if we thought there was more money in it. Still, most of us assume that if you quit the rat race to do something that you love, the trade off is living poverty-stricken in a flea pit for an eternity.

That’s not so, says Valerie Young, owner of, a business she founded in 1995 to help people turn their passions, be it antique cars or astrophysics, into profitable businesses. Young, who makes six times her former income at a Fortune 200 insurance company, says no interest is too obscure to make you a good living.


Dyan deNapoli was senior penguin aquarist at the Boston Aquarium when she decided to set up her own business and attended one of Young’s workshops. “She was thinking, how on earth do I become a self-employed penguin expert?” says Young. DeNapoli did just that by giving educational talks about penguins to kids, college students and seniors but Young thought she should think bigger. “I said ‘you are THE penguin lady. You need to think international.’”

Since then, deNapoli has gone on cruises to Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands as the resident penguin expert, appeared on CNN and received a six-figure book deal to write about her rescue of 40,000 penguins in South Africa. “She turned a dream job into a dream business,” says Young, who argues that if penguins produce profits, any interest can.

– Kathryn Tully is a freelance journalist who has contributed to the Financial Times, Euromoney Magazine and The Guardian newspaper

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