Starting Over Again

"so that's it", 27 years in the city finally came to an end - not forgetting some of the stuff that happened along the way - 2 children, 20 odd house moves, countless men (1 husband), way too many work colleagues,  slippery nipples in their droves, brilliant bosses, shit bosses, objectives, appraisals, and too many sentences that begin with 'blue sky thinking'.......it was all over and my new 'creative' life had begun.  The exact point at which I made the preposterous decision to enter into retail is a little vague. Looking back, there was possibly an early clue that it would all lead up to this point.  As a child, I was handed a red plastic cash register, at which point I took a felt tip pen to the whole collection of my brother's books, for pricing-up purposes, only to make him buy them all back 10 minutes later.  

For 27 years I worked in the City, predominantly for Investment Banks, within HR.  There was a stint lasting only a few months, which we don't really talk about, where I spent time working in PR and then at a University in East London.  I couldn't handle the cultural change, from champagne drinking at 2pm in PR, to the University Payroll staff watching Loose Women at their desks, waiting patiently for their retirement or death, (whichever came first) to occur. 

On announcing my plans to leave, my colleagues at the Investment Bank were supportive to my new move into entrepreneurship (or it could have been for other reasons).   I received lots of gifts with thoughtful messages in cards - call me paranoid, but I did feel at times the sentences weren't entirely complete;
• 'Not many people would do what you're doing' (and most people don't and there is good reason for that....)'
• 'Good Luck' (you're going to need it, along with some serious cash)
• Come back and visit us (and let us know when you need your old job back)

I've made a career out of resigning.  I enjoyed it way too much, nearly always being done on the spot in a fit of anger with nothing else to go to.   On one occasion, not even returning after lunch.  I am impulsive - what can I say.    It wouldn't have been me to have started this creative journey from my garden shed slowly and sensibly - working out which creative path to pursue. I envy those that can create a parallel path alongside their sensible job to test the waters.   I am all or nothing. 

But what makes us start over?

Clearly, knowing if you are in a financial position to leave a secure job plays a huge part as to whether you make that leap or not.  But it is surprising how many people I have now met through this path that are in a better financial position since making the leap to work for themselves.  I have managed many redundancies throughout my HR career, and although people go through a range of emotions during the transition, more often than not, change is always a good thing.  It allows you to think about the things that do interest you and find out what’s important.   If you were to start again with a blank sheet of paper and there were no restrictions, what would you choose to do? By thinking in this way, you can start to create a life which will be more fulfilling.  I got in to HR because I am incredibly nosy and I loved the interaction with people.  Back in the day you actually got to deal with people and their problems (and look up the salaries of prospective partners (joke)), but in the end it wasn’t about that anymore.  

I had come to the end of the road, I lacked the motivation to create opportunities for myself in an environment where you need to be noticed in order to do well. 

I think a lot of us bumble along in our jobs not knowing where our strengths lie.  We are required to manage many different tasks, without ever really digging deep as to which tasks suit us better.

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Although there would have been a much easier route than retail, to build a creative business that fits around the children.  It is because I have had to immerse myself in all these different roles, I have been able to see where my strengths lie, plus I am starting to be more honest about which bits I enjoy.   But being a control freak, I am still hanging on to the stuff I don’t enjoy! 

And if you don’t enjoy something or you are thoroughly pants at it, there will always be someone who is a quick press of a button away who can do it for you.    

Due to not always having the confidence in some areas of the business I have reached out to others.  We are lucky in lots of way, that there is an abundance of people prepared to tell us how to.....sell, market, apply a filter, build a website, develop your brand, talk to a video and of course most importantly create a social media following😩.

We are being influenced to, all the time and it can feel a little exhausting at times (let's face it, I am one of those people).  I have had my fingers burnt when believing the hype.  But, there are many amazing, knowledgeable creatives/experts out there who are brilliant at what they do and by reaching out, you get to make genuine friendships and build your knowledge.  

As well as knowing your why, it is key to know what success looks like for you.  In the early days of the business I was slowly killing myself trying to make this 'thing' a success, without knowing what my success looked like.  It is important that our business pays for itself and that the brand develops in a way we want it to, but one of the priorities should still be, that I get to be around for the family and do something I love.  

I always hoped that this bricks & mortar space would tell a story and give our customers a calming and inspired shopping experience, something no online store will ever do.  But, in these times, it has to be so much more than this, which I probably hadn’t quite appreciated at the outset.  

The Why, along with the skillset, is evolving all the time as we develop the brand and if I hadn’t started in this gung-ho way, we wouldn’t have ended up in the place.  

I have read it a few times recently about ‘running your own race’, which I think is so important in any start-up.   It is easy to fall down these online rabbit holes, but it is important to stop watching others live their lives, but to live your own.

Would I do it all again, absolutely...

Gemma Lewis