Marlena De Blasi was settling nicely into her new home and  business in St. Louis. Besides being a food writer and wine consultant, Marlena was the chef in her own restaurant.

That all changed on a trip to Venice where she attracted the attention of a banker named Fernando who was certain she was the woman of his dreams. Although he spoke almost no English, he made his intentions known and within months Marlena had uprooted herself to join him.

She recounts this improbable love story in her delightful book, A Thousand Days in Venice. The subtitle could be Love is Bigger Than Culture Shock.

Once they have survived Italian bureaucracy and a reluctant priest who isn’t sure he wants to marry them, the couple begins their new life together.

One day Fernando announces that he’s tired of working at the bank where he’s been employed for 26 years and wants to work with Marlena. Apparently, our resourceful and adventurous heroine didn’t just awaken love, but also Fernando’s sleeping entrepreneurial spirit.

The account of their new venture is recorded in her second book, A Thousand Days in Tuscany.

In many ways, Marlena De Blasi is a classic entrepreneur with a willingness to try new things and create new income sources. In fact, one of her mantras is “always a beginner.”

As a result, her businesses are kept fresh and vital by the introduction of new profit centers.

Multiple profit centers, as I’ve been saying for years, are the key to growing a business. Every time you add a new product or service, you’re creating another profit center.

Although the idea of multiple profit centers is highly appealing to those who think that business is just about making money, the concept is equally interesting to Renaissance souls who have numerous ideas and interests.

As James Dickey pointed out, “There are so many selves in everybody and to explore and exploit just one is wrong, dead wrong, for the creative process.”

Whatever the motivation, mastering Multiple Profit Center creation is essential to running an inspired business.

If you run your business on the assumption that it is a vehicle for innovation and fresh thinking, profit centers  seem to bubble up naturally from your creativity. When these different profit centers involve a variety of activities, synergy is generated.

For instance, running a restaurant, being the chef and writing about food all come out of a passion for gastronomy, but each has its own requirements and activities.

As you build your collection of profit centers, you’ll find that some are going to be bigger than others, some the mainstays of your business, and some will be periodic. Since entrepreneurs adore new ideas, this keeps their imagination in high gear.

Charles Handy is another advocate of developing multiple profit centers. “Think of it this way,” he advises. “You will have a portfolio of work like an architect has or your stock portfolio. No prudent investor puts all his savings into one stock and no sensible business goes after only one customer.”

Multiple profit centers are the antidote to putting all your eggs in one basket.

No matter whether you call them passions, projects or profit centers, they’re not just the building blocks of your business: they’re the life blood.

Creating a business that engages you physically, intellectually and spiritually is a richly satisfying—and highly individual—undertaking.

And when one idea has served its time, there’s a new one ready to take its place.


7 Responses to “Multiple Passions, Multiple Profits”

  1. Mimi Plevin-Foust

    Thanks, Barbara – I love this story and this concept which could help end most unemployment if more people embraced it.

  2. Tom Coleman

    What makes it even tougher for these entrepreneurs is that we don’t have a system for them to get health insurance – it’s a subtle problem, but for those who have corporate jobs and a great idea for a business, it’s a problem that keeps them from quitting their jobs and staring their own business. If these workers have diagnosed depression and are taking mild antidepressants, or any other form of pre-existing illness, they will be turned down for health insurance if they apply on their own! Yes, the new law Obama passed will help take care of this problem, but the new law has not taken effect yet, at least not this part of it. The problem is especially bad in LA County – see – because there, like Michigan, we’re seeing double-digit unemployment rates. That means that not only are currently corporate-employed entrepreneurs not starting their own businesses, it means that the unemployed who are potentially entrepreneurs aren’t able to start their own businesses either, for fear not only of losing their unemployment benefits, but of losing their health insurance benefits, as well. Sigh…

  3. Larry

    Barbara, thanks for the beautiful, well-thought-out and optimistic post. I appreciate, as well, these ideas on multiple profit centres (I think passions or projects sounds great too!). They amplify all the great ideas you gave us in Making a Living Without a Job.
    Thanks, once again, for taking the time to craft this timely nugget for us.
    All the best!

  4. Barbara Winter

    While I know health insurance is a big issue, part of the entrepreneur’s journey is to decide what benefits they intend to procure for themselves—and then figure out how to make that happen. I’ve addressed options for the self-employed many times. People are often surprised–once they actually investigate for themselves–that it’s not as difficult as they thought. In fact, many folks realize that they have spent years trading their health for health insurance. People who are working at something they love and believe in, tend to see a positive impact in their well-being.

  5. Carla Lomax


    I think the issue is not that most people can’t get insurance but that they can’t get affordable insurance. We have health insurance through my husband’s employer but still pay over $300 a month in (pretax) premiums and have a family deductible of $6,000! If we bought insurance ourselves, our deductible would be $10,000 but our premiums would be tax deductible if we had self-employment income. So, monetarily, it’s almost a wash–the coverage is only major medical no matter how you look at it. A friend of mine has chronic leukemia and she has health insurance. It costs a fortune, but she does have coverage, so it is possible to have coverage after an illness. Until we Americans agree on a way to lower healthcare costs and provide better coverage for everyone, we’re all going to be in this sinking ship together.

    My point is that since decent, comprehensive coverage is out of reach for most people, what else can we do to stay healthy so we don’t need to go to the doctor? If we don’t have to go to the doctor (unless we’ve got cancer or a broken leg) then we don’t have to worry so much about health insurance and can spend our energies on finding other ways to make money. (Or maybe we can find other options for health services, e.g., low-cost clinics, alternative therapies, etc. For example, in our state, the university’s dental school has a low-cost clinic because the students provide the services. The same thing goes for the local chiropractic school. And the state health department provides free mammograms for women over 50 who don’t have insurance. Of course, none of those options is the same as going to your own physician, but if necessary, they’re better than nothing.)

    You can always start a business on the side while keeping your day job. Or maybe you can find a partner and pool resources. Besides, nothing’s perfect. There’s a down side to everything. You just have to figure out what you’re willing to put up with for the greater good.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Passion & Profit : Side Hustle Series - Front Row Mama

    […] bring additional income into their household. Winter’s book introduced me to this concept of Multiple Profit Centers or MPCs. So instead of having one side hustle, why not several? Your job should not be your only […]