How These Successful Women Moved From Corporate to Entrepreneurs

Lauren Powell
by Lauren Powell

Saying farewell to our 9-to-5 desk jobs to begin a successful small business is a dream many of us desire, but letting go of the security of a full-time job can certainly be a difficult decision—despite the endless inspiring and potential business ideas we’re constantly fantasising about. But it is possible! As these three successful entrepreneurs are proving. Scroll down to be inspired by these ambitious women who once held the helm in the corporate world.

Alyce Tran, The Daily Edited

MYDOMAINE: What was your previous corporate job and profession before starting The Daily Edited?

ALYCE TRAN: I was a lawyer up until late June this year. I practiced in the private equity space doing transactional work and I did a lot of work with Starbucks. All of my clients were investors into the tech space and that was my specialty prior to working on The Daily Edited.

MD: So you left that corporate role in June this year to start The Daily Edited?

AT: The Daily Edited had actually been bumbling along for three years, prior to me quitting my job. It wasn’t like I decided to leave my job and then start the company, it was something that had been going on for a while in various forms, and then when Tania [my business partner] and I felt financially okay, we both quit our jobs as lawyers. That’s when we decided to do it.

I think there’s this huge culture at the moment of quitting your job and starting a business and I think realistically people shouldn’t do that. Everyone has bills and you never know if things are going to work. We had one business that failed, we had a clothing line on The Daily Edited that was good, we got a lot of press and sold stock but it was a really hard business to run.  And we thought no, we probably don’t want to do this. Then, with the version of The Daily Edited that you see, it’s not like we made a rash decision to suddenly bring out this range of leather goods and magically they’re everywhere. It evolved into what it is today, and we felt we were selling enough stock; we have a good customer base now and so we’ll put more energy behind it and see where we get.

MD: What finally gave you the courage to leave the security of your full-time job?

AT: Part of it was a timing thing—with the growth of The Daily Edited, there was no way that I could be a lawyer from 9am until 7pm, it was taking up too much of my time. It got to the point where I had to make that call, so it was more, if anything, a business decision like anything else. Some people thought we could run this and just get people to do everything for us, but it got to the point where even the decision making on a day-to-day basis was a full-time job.

That’s when that moment happened, so again, it was a very comfortable decision for us to make, because at this point, The Daily Edited was already bringing in huge sales, so it wasn’t like some huge risk-taking decision. We both have mortgages and we’re real people, so it wasn’t possible to quit our jobs until it was financially feasible. In the end, it’s been a very practical decision.   

MD: How long was the process, from coming up with the idea to then making it happen?

AT: If we talk about the current leather goods that you see now, running a cash-flow positive business for one year made us feel like we could quit our jobs.

MD: What’s your advice for other aspiring business owners who may be thinking about leaving their jobs?

AT: I definitely think you need to feel comfortable with your idea, or if you are lucky enough, be in a position where someone can take some risks for you. But I think I always come from that real, practical perspective and I never want to put out this fake facade that a business is amazing to run and it’s so easy. I definitely think it’s possible for anyone. I worked as a lawyer and ran this business at the same time. I would suggest to do both and then assess from there, because you’re not losing anything. All you are is just very busy for a period of time! So I would say you don’t need to quit your job and then do it, why not do it and see how it goes. And if it doesn’t work out, like our clothing line, then you haven’t lost anything and you’ve probably learnt a lot. I definitely think just go for it—I hear people talk about it all the time and I think just do it. It’s not going to cost much, there is such a low barrier to entry so just give it a shot.

MD: Is there anything that you would’ve done differently or anything that you regretted during the process?

AT: I always undersold how well I thought we were going to do, so I will aim for something then do it three-fold. I think it is having that confidence because as a result, to be honest, I’m struggling a little bit because I haven’t planned for this success. For example, we’ve just completed a campaign with Lara Worthington, and obviously that was going to increase our sales, but I didn’t think that it would more than double our sales. But that’s one of my issues, because I’m not a risk-taking person; I didn’t quit my job and then start The Daily Edited. I’m in this position where I didn’t think that this would happen, but then it did. But then the negative side is that sometimes I’m not ready for these things.

Louise Bell, Table Tonic

PHOTO:

Luc Remond

MYDOMAINE: What was your previous corporate job and profession before starting your own business? 

LOUISE BELL: I was the creative director of Cosmopolitan, CLEO and Dolly magazines.

MD: When did you leave your corporate role to start your own business?

LB: It was around 6 years ago.

MD: What gave you the courage to leave the security of your full-time role to start Table Tonic

LB: For me, being made redundant was the biggest blessing in disguise (yes, I am one of those people!). It meant I had some financial security and meant it was possible to take the plunge and start something completely new (and otherwise, unpaid!).

MD: How long was the process, from coming up with the business idea to then making it happen?

LB: I'm not an overly ambitious, bit-picture person, so it was definitely somewhat of an organic process—I just "played it by ear". Prior to starting an online store, and later opening a bricks and mortar retail shop, I started an interiors blog with the aim of gathering an audience and customer base (this was pre-Instagram, remember!) for whatever it was that came next. All up, it was only a few months, but I suppose like most people who start a business, the idea(s) had been brewing for some time.

MD: What advice would you have for other aspiring business owners thinking about leaving their current jobs? 

LB: It sounds obvious, but the number one is definitely make sure you have financial security. It could be years before you start drawing a salary from the business.

MD: Is there anything you would have done differently? Or anything you regret? 

LB: Not at all. Certainly no regrets! I can't imagine doing it any other way. The only other thing I could have considered would have been taking out a small loan in the early stages. But in all honestly, I got by without one and can only imagine it would have added unnecessary financial pressure at the time. Sometime slow and steady wins the race!

MD: What was the hardest part of leaving your full-time job? 

LB: The absence of that fortnightly deposit into my back account was (and is still) the hardest part! But it's a trade-off—the upsides are countless.

Jane Schofield, Think Flowers Company

MYDOMAINE: What was your previous corporate job and profession before starting your own business? 

JANE SCHOFIELD: My last job in the corporate world was at Bauer Media as a group sales manager. I'd spent over a decade working in advertising sales for a number of beautiful magazine brands, like Vogue, GQ, Harper's BAZAAR and Cosmopolitan.  

MD: When did you leave your corporate role to start your own business?

JS: The transition has been a recent one, I left Bauer Media in June 2015. 

MD: What gave you the courage to leave the security of your full-time role to start Think Flowers Company

JS: It wasn't until having my daughter and going on maternity leave in 2014 that I experienced an adult world without defining my day in an office. It was in this year that I let go of the fear factor of being supported in a corporate role, because really, having a baby and learning to stand on your own as a mother is pretty bloody scary. I returned to work after ten months, but it never felt quite right. It was a constant battle of which side of my life had the most priority. Without thinking, I focussed on work over everything else and this made me a difficult person to be around. Our family life had changed, but my work efforts had not eased since pre-baby. 

MD: How long was the process, from coming up with the business idea to then making it happen?

JS: I resigned from my job on a Monday without any other job prospects. On Thursday I had the idea to work in flowers and that evening the idea evolved into an online flower market. On Friday morning the business name, Think Flowers Company was registered. I spent three months setting up the business before launch in early September. 

MD: What advice would you have for other aspiring business owners thinking about leaving their current jobs? 

JS: Planning and research is key. Talk to your potential customers to find out how they would use your products and services. Whilst my idea came quickly, I spent many hours scoping out the set-up and running costs required, creating a detailed business plan, defining our target market and brand positioning.

Make sure you have some rock-solid plans regarding funding before you take the next big step. One thing I didn't know was that aside from a $50K overdraft, banks don't loan to businesses until two years of trading and a record of profitability. It's great to have ideas, but make sure you have enough cash flow to operate and are working towards profitability at every stage. 

MD: Is there anything you would have done differently? Or anything you regret? 

JS: I have no regrets throughout this journey. Our online market experienced incredible growth in our first two months, but this also meant we were able to test the business model. My husband and I made a very unemotional call to cease trading the online flower market due to lack of profitability to preserve personal funds. When we made this announcement, I was overwhelmed with all the messages of support and in a short time had built a strong brand with some real emotional connections with customers. We have decided to keep the Think Flowers Company brand going, focussing on events and special projects. I know now, that our new direction for the business would not have been possible without some key learnings and the experience of creating an online flower market. 

MD: What was the hardest part of leaving your full-time job? 

JS: I miss the daily interaction of talented, creative people. 

Are you thinking of starting your own business?

Have you previously left a corporate role to start your own business? If so, we’d love to hear your advice!

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