For some, starting a passion business has been the best decision of their lives. Here are the stories of three women who did just that.
At some point in our lives, most of us have dreamed about shaking off the shackles of the 9-5 grind to pursue our passion.
While we may feel the only thing standing between us and our dreams is an annoying little thing called our day job, be warned – starting your own business is not for the faint-hearted.
It involves a lot of hard work, stress, and quite a few restless nights wondering if you made the right decision.
But for some, starting a passion business has been the best decision of their lives.
These are the stories of three courageous women who decided to ditch their day jobs so they could pursue their passion.
Lou Sheldon: Artist
The worlds of corporate HR and art couldn’t be much further apart. But for artist Lou Sheldon, bridging that gap was a leap of faith she was willing to make.
Lou’s love for art began as a child, when she and her artist father Robin Arthur Sheldon bonded over colouring in competitions.
Painting remained a constant through her life – something she did for fun in her spare time.
But 2018 proved to be a watershed year for Lou.
Free from the financial fetters of her mortgage, and buoyed by her artwork featuring on hit television show The Block, she decided to take the plunge and quit her day job.
“I’d gotten a couple of pieces on The Block and I decided to take time off work and dedicate those last few months of the year to painting to capitalise on that exposure,” Sheldon said.
“And the momentum just continued.”
The business grew organically from that point, she said.
“I started posting my paintings on Facebook and people started asking if they were for sale. So, I tested it in the ‘real world’ with a friend and set up a stall at Camberwell (Sunday) Market.”
Sheldon sold a few pieces and got a lot of enquiries about where to find her art online.
“I decided there was enough interest to do it properly, and it just grew from there.”
However, running her own small business hasn’t all been smooth-sailing.
“To be honest, I struggle with taking time off without feeling guilty,” Sheldon said.
“And not having that regular, guaranteed income stream means you never know how long it’s going to last.”
Trusting in her own ability has been another challenge.
“Being able to objectively look at your skills and know that, yes, you can make a living out of this has been difficult at times,” Sheldon said.
Three years into her journey, Sheldon is selling her work internationally and enjoys a healthy flow of enquiries and commissions through her website Lou Sheldon Art.
She’s in a great place and said she can’t imagine doing anything else.
“I love the flexibility of it and that I really am the master of my own destiny,” she said.
What’s her advice to others dreaming about ditching their day job?
“You have to do it because you love it. Build it slowly and see how it goes. Be realistic and sensible,” she said.
Naomi Drummond: Business strategy consultant, Tradies Bureau
As a project manager for a major financial institution, long hours and demanding clients were all in a days’ work for Naomi Drummond.
“It was very challenging, but it was fun,” she said.
“I got to travel, which was great. But I did feel like I was married to the job.”
Drummond longed to do something practical – and to build something real.
“I didn’t really feel like I was creating anything tangible,” she said.
“I’d bought and renovated a house quite young and loved it. That was what I wanted to be doing. But I just never thought it could be something I could do full-time.”
Then, five years ago, she got her chance.
“The bank I was working for offered me a redundancy. It was the opportunity I had been waiting for. I grabbed it,” she said.
Naomi combined her corporate project management skills with her hands-on building experience to launch a consultancy business known as Tradies Bureau.
“I mainly work with tradies who struggle with paperwork and communication,” she said.
“But also, property owners who don’t have the time to renovate their house, or think they don’t have the skills to do it. We go in and project manage their renovation for them.”
She said starting her own business had been a big learning curve.
“Cash flow can be a challenge,” she said.
“Also, not having all the right tools for the trade – I spent a lot of time assessing what software would work, what wouldn’t.”
Being a woman in a male-dominated industry has created some challenges as well.
“The thing I come up against all day, every day, is mansplaining. I brush it aside,” she said.
“But really, being a woman in a traditionally male industry is also an opportunity – half of all clients are women!”
One thing Naomi has no problem with is keeping the passion alive.
“I love looking for environmentally sustainable housing opportunities,” she said.
“We are a bit slow catching up in Australia. Europeans have been doing it for hundreds of years.
“Ultimately I would love to work with builders and tradies doing amazing stuff in this space. That keeps me inspired.”
Being her own boss is also a major plus.
“I love the freedom to choose the direction I want to take, to say no to the jobs or clients that aren’t a good match. I don’t have to take on everything, I can do what I’m passionate about,” she said.
Drummond said building something of her own has made the work and struggles worth it.
“If you want to do it, do it. You won’t look back,” she said.
“Talk to a lot of people first, but ultimately, take the risk.”
Jess Doxey: Yoga teacher and owner of HartRoks
Opening people’s minds to a different world makes all the struggles of being a small business owner worth it for Jess Doxey.
The yoga and meditation teacher, who launched online crystal gifting and retail business HartRoks seven years ago, said taking the risk to start her own business was the best thing she ever did.
“I used to always read about women who had made the leap and I was envious of them. It seemed like a fairy tale,” she said.
“There have been plenty of ups and downs. But at the end of the day, it was the best path for me.”
The former marketing and events coordinator said life in the corporate fast lane had been disastrous for her mental health.
“When I got back from travelling, I took a role that was well paid, but I had zero interest in. My mental health began to diminish. I was just so unhappy,” she said.
“At the same time, I was practising yoga, learning things and I felt this huge difference between my day job and the spark I felt for something I was passionate about.”
The idea for HartRoks came to Jess after she received a crystal as a gift.
“I started creating these little packs to gift to friends, and from that we created a business,” she said.
“Instead of buying someone flowers, we have pre-made gifts for situations when you want to give someone something to let them know you’re thinking about them.”
Together with partner-in-crime Beckie Peel, they ‘bootstrapped’ their way through the start-up phase, and the business grew from a room in Jess’ house.
“We never invested a large amount of money in the business. I was still teaching yoga, and Beckie was still working. Anything we made we reinvested until we were in a position to invest in more stock,” she said.
Seven years later, and the women have just marked a major milestone in the HartRoks journey.
“Opening the office recently has been a massive achievement for us,” she said.
“It all began so organically and naturally – we didn’t have a big five-year plan. Moving out of the spare room is a big deal for us.”
Next on the agenda is another re-focus for the pair.
“Within the next five years we are hoping to turn our e-commerce into more of a platform to offer online education about health and wellbeing,” she said.
“That would involve online meditation, classes, bringing to the surface some of the amazing spiritual healers we have here in Australia.”
Doxey said the feedback from customers is what keeps her inspired.
“People say to us ‘receiving one of your crystals really opened my mind’. That’s what’s most satisfying,” she said.
TELL US: Did you quit your day job to start a business? If so, share your story or tips below in the comments section.