You have a great idea for a start-up, but when is the time right to make the leap? In these uncertain times, many are choosing to run a business ‘on the side’ of their existing career. We caught up with three business owners who have chosen this route to explore the ups and downs of their double life.
Kate Owen, 39, works in Wealth Management. However, since 2013, she has also been the proprietor of Sargasso & Grey shoes – designing and retailing stylish, comfortable shoes, with a wider-fit. “I’m not a born entrepreneur,” she confesses, “but in my job, I come into contact with so many dynamic people; it’s inspiring!”
The idea for the company was born after Kate’s feet became slightly wider during pregnancy. “I had to throw half of my shoes away. It was depressing. And I couldn’t find any stylish shoes to fit.”
After careful research, and attending a shoe-making course, Kate set herself up as a limited company. “People ask why I didn’t set up as a sole trader. But I always had bigger ambitions; and whilst I don’t employ anyone directly yet, I intend to in the future.”
As Kate started her company on her return from maternity leave, she made sure that she discussed the move with her employer. “I think it’s important to be upfront. And I always make sure that when I’m at work, I’m 100% committed to what I’m doing.”
And Kate has found advantage in starting her business ‘on the side’ of her existing employment. “It’s crazy to take a leap of faith, especially with a mortgage! I’ve gone part time at work, so I have made financial sacrifices, but having a regular income means I don’t have as much pressure on profit straight away.”
Whistle while you work
Rosie Parkes, 28, runs jewellery brand Whistle and Bango as well as working as a Marketing Manager in the food industry. Starting the company enabled Rosie and business partner Ania – who also has a regular job – to engage their creativity. “I did art at school, and love jewellery. I wanted to produce something unique,” says Rosie.
“For the time-being, we’re keeping things small – we do as much as we can for ourselves, including marketing, modelling and photography. We built our own website, using online platform Weebly.”
Whistle and Bango are currently known for their ‘postcode’ bangles – accessories imprinted with popular postcodes.
Running a business alongside a full-time career is difficult at times, “we’re sometimes short on time,” explains Rosie, “we’d love to spend more time meeting clients and stockists, for example,” says Rosie.
However, she has also found that building a business ‘on the side’ has its advantages. “You have a reliable income for a start,” she says. “We can take more risks without worrying that the company will flop, which makes it much more exciting.”
The next level
Having run his ethical clothing label ‘The Level Collective‘ on the side of his employment as a web designer Mark Musgrave, 28, has now handed in his notice to focus on his brand. “I started in January 2014 during lunch-hours and evenings,” he says. “Then in the July, I began working one day a week on the business.”
Now, having handed in his notice at work, Mark is aiming to spend three days per week on The Level Collective as well as picking up some freelance design work.
Whilst his business is still in its infancy, Mark has great plans for the future. “Initially I registered as self-employed. I was able to complete my tax returns and make sure I set money aside. As the business grew, I registered as a limited company in April 2016.”
Although now keen to focus on growing his business, Mark feels that starting it on the side of employment was the right decision. “I’ve had lots of “mini failures” in the early days. I was able to take my time and consider my direction carefully.”
“It’s important to choose something you’re really passionate about to maintain focus. I know that my work is supporting families in Romania, for example. Everything is design-led and ethical.”