Launching a side business while working full time is not for the faint-hearted. Those who do, warn that it requires real sacrifice and commitment. But when a start-up takes off they say there is no greater sense of satisfaction.
Anureet Sra, a qualified accountant from Essex, set up her own web design and development business, Couture Web Design Ltd, last year.
Although working full time for an accountancy firm, Sra wanted to stretch her creative side and took a variety of courses to build up a portfolio in web design.
She admits that balancing her business with a full time career is challenging. “To stay motivated I try to remember that I help people with their businesses,” she said.
Sra has to be disciplined with her time and starts work at 7.30am, but she has also had to learn when to stop.
“I used to come home and go straight onto my laptop to work, including client work, courses and reading about business, but this became quite overwhelming,” she said.
“I was advised by my coach to take a one hour break before touching my laptop and then having a hard stop at a certain time.”
Now Sra works on her web business from 6-9pm Tuesday to Friday, and at weekends works around errands and other social activities.
She sets boundaries for when she takes client calls, and uses a project management tool to organise her client work.
“I’m delegating and outsourcing more now rather than trying to do everything myself,” she said.
She has discussed her business with her current employer and has their support. “My manager thinks that running a business, being coached and helping others is helping me develop as an employee,” she said.
Sra now plans to offer “strategy sessions” to help other so-called “9-5ers” set up their own businesses.
“I have a year of experience of trying to balance career and business and would love to help others navigate a clearer route to successfully balancing everything,” she said.
Her top tip is to invest time in research. “Really investigate whether what you want to offer is something that is needed,” she said.
For Rebecca Lundin, a Swedish entrepreneur based in Hong Kong, passion is the key to success.
By day Lundin is a merchandising manager for a large fashion company, running a team of ten and working across China, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Thailand.
When not travelling, she spends every evening in her kitchen, creating soaps, body lotions and candles with entirely natural ingredients.
The recipes, with oils, water and wax, are her own invention, and she now has a solid client base in Hong Kong shops and markets, and with private customers, who can order from her website, www.swedish-handmade.com
Working up to 15 hours a week on her project leaves Lundin little free time.
But her side job is less about financial gain, and more about pursuing her passion to educate on skincare products.
“When it comes to bodycare, people don’t really know how many chemicals are eating through their skin,” she said. “There’s a lot of bad advertising out there.”
Lundin believes her enthusiasm wins her customers. “I think that shines through and I enjoy it so much that the customer gets drawn into it too,” she said.
“You need to be sincere in what you do, you really need to believe in it.”
Hazel Southam, a journalist from Hampshire, agrees. It was her undying belief in her product that kept her motivated during six years of working six to seven day weeks.
Southam worked full-time editing the Baptist Times, a church newspaper, managing a team of five, when she launched her Real Jam and Chutney Company to promote fresh food.
Her business, built on her grandmothers’ recipes, was an instant success. Within six weeks her customer base was so large that she had to hire four cooks while she focussed on sales and marketing.
Southam began selling both to local markets and to high end restaurants and shops like Harrods and Fortnum and Mason.
She eventually gave up the business to spend more time with her aging parents, but admits it was tough to choose between journalism and her new enterprise.
“I think if you’ve got an idea you should pursue it,” she offered as advice, but cautioned that introspection was also important.
“You’ve got to ask yourself stern questions about your motivation,” she said. “Then you’ve got to make sure that you have a market for what you’re selling or doing.”
Setting up the right infrastructure is an important first step.
“That means that you never run out of food in the fridge and there is always petrol in the car,” said Southam. “You’ve got to think of all of the bits that will need doing and put something in place for those.”
Equally, if you turn your hobby into a business then you must find another way to relax. “You have to have a thing that’s fun,” she said.
Not everyone starting a side business keeps their day job. Some entrepreneurial endeavours are so successful that they become full-time occupations.
Theresa Pope, from Newport Pagnell in Buckinghamshire, is now reaping the dividends of her business Dandi Patch, five years after it began.
The company, which sells patches that prevent underarm sweating, won a British invention of the year award in 2015.
But for Pope, who launched the business while still working long hours as a Human Resources consultant, it has been a hard slog that at times she wanted to give up.
Pope and her sister invented the patches after noticing there were few options to cure an embarrassing problem that affects so many people.
She carried on working about ten hours a day in her HR job for the first two years, while she researched how to make a top-quality, skin-friendly product and find a manufacturer.
Business started to pick up after the launch of the prototype, so Pope took a lower paid part-time admin job to stay financially afloat while building up her new business.
“Personally it was very tough, I had to really pull in the reigns and just put everything into it,” she said.
“We didn’t have investment. So I had to learn how to build websites. I had to learn Photoshop, I had to learn music editing so I could put together some videos. I’m not really a designer but I had to learn to design any images
that we used,” said Pope.
“I’ve worked ridiculous hours now for most of the last five years. And it gets quite exhausting at times. I’d finish the day job and then I’d be working until the early hours on Dandi Patch,” she explained.
“I’d really given up everything from a financial and a time point of view. My social life has been completely affected.”
In January investors came on board and she could finally start earning a small salary and recruit staff.
What kept her motivated was a firm belief in the size of the market for her product.
“If there’s a market for something then that’s all you need really,” she said, but warned that entrepreneurs must be ready to make sacrifices.
“You have to be prepared for it to be very tough. You are going to feel completely under pressure and there will be times when you feel that you just can’t cope. It’s just perseverance, believe in yourself and keep going.”
Pope has no regrets. Her company has been successful and is now looking to go global.
“The satisfaction of the first sale was such a great feeling,” she said. “When it does start to happen it’s an amazing feeling of accomplishment.”