It starts with curiosity. You find some spare time, now that you’re not trying so hard. You realize what you’re coveting on social media. There might be some false starts in there; you’ll dive right into education or buy a bunch of hobby supplies that either aren’t quite what you’re looking for, or you find the market already saturated. Hopefully this won’t be too far along your own road. If you can find a place you know you want to go, you can do some networking (remember early in your career and they told you to do that and you rolled your eyes and never wanted to branch out beyond your own pay grade or company?) and keep yourself apprised of movements in your field. Or just real estate. Or tourism data and politics. Or whatever.
You might tell all your friends right away what you’re doing. You might mention it casually to casual acquaintances, and then the next time you come through town, there is one of whatever you were going to do. You might spend a lot of time wondering about this. It might be a coincidence. It probably is.
Do. Your. Research. What you want to do - is it being done? Is it legal? Do you need a license? A degree? What’s that life like? 365 days of work a year? No more weekends? How do you afford the start-up? Will you have employees? What will they be like? Partners? I had no idea how much was involved in creating a business plan and what that would be like more than fifteen years after the last time I did a research paper!
Be ready to be terrified, and not have any leverage, and not know the answer to a lot of questions. Negotiating a lease? Setting up vendor accounts? Studying direct competition? Cold-calling for marketing? Projecting gains and losses? Asking investors for money? All these things, and a lot more, I’ve given myself a crash course in in the last 6 months.
But - know that there are resources, and a lot of them are free! And face it, the system is built to benefit business owners. If there’s any way to swing it, someone will help you figure out how. Local business owners, non-profits, government facilities.
You can play with the ideas as long as it takes - take classes. Even if you don’t finish that year-long program in whatever it is, the opportunity is worth it. Try things you might be interested in, even if they’re far-fetched. Window shop your new life.
Save your money. I know everyone hears this all the time, and it’s a privilege to be able to do that, but chances are there are going to be some lean times. For me, it was after several several years of paying off debts I accumulated in my 20s, so I was used to not buying for myself. That doesn’t mean I had loads of disposable income, or even much savings. For me, it was just a great credit score and the capacity to take on *new* debt.
Lastly, I’d say make sure you’re on stable footing, but I’m sure there are a lot of small businesses out there born out of necessity or desperation. But if you can, spend a lot of time with yourself and what you want. And if you have a partner, make sure they’re willing to support you in that - not just lip service, but really willing to share savings, or help cut back, or just be there for stressful days. Being able to be confident that your partner (or friends, or family) understands they’ll need to bear some kind of weight for a while is, well, I couldn’t do this without it.