I started my own business, natural skincare company Oleo Bodycare, at the age of 49 -- a time when most people start to look seriously at their retirement plans not becoming an entrepreneur!
A decade earlier I had decided to re-train and follow my passion -- holistic therapies, health and well being. I actually graduated from university with a first in 2003 -- something I'd never imagined would happen!
I was blending products for another skincare company in 2008 when unfortunately it went into administration at Christmas time. In January 2009 I no longer had a job but I realized I had a great opportunity to work for myself -- something I'd always had aspirations of doing.
Taking the first step was definitely the most frightening bit -- I remember being very nervous when I bought my first bulk order of product ingredients -- but once I'd placed the order I was fully committed and everything else felt much less daunting after that.
Three years later and I haven't looked back. Working for yourself is a huge confidence boost and extremely liberating and empowering.
I'm a firm believer that more women should consider becoming entrepreneurs (and at any age!) as it would create a more diverse UK workforce and a more competitive, innovative economy. Boosting the number of female entrepreneurs in the UK would give women more confidence and inspire continuing generations of female business talent.
Issues such as gender pay gaps and how to start a family whilst enjoying a successful career never seem to disappear but perhaps change can only really happen when we have more of a 50/50 gender split at the top British businesses.
If you're seriously thinking about becoming an entrepreneur then I'd encourage you to read through a few learnings from my own experiences:
- Believe in your business
I don't see myself as an 'entrepreneur'; I'm just doing something I love.
I'm passionate about health, well being and holistic treatments, and I wanted to offer an affordable alternative to the high street beauty products that are packed full of cheap and nasty chemicals. There are ranges of natural skin care products already available but I wanted to make it more accessible for people who want to look after their skin for a reasonable price.
You've really got to love what you do or you won't enjoy putting in the level of work needed and therefore it is less likely your business will be a success.
- Do your research
I was fortunate enough to have gained great experience in a similar role previously (the beauty company that went into administration) and this meant was fully of aware of cost of ingredients and where to source the best raw materials for the best price.
I'd urge you to the same if you can. For example if you want to set up a café or a florists consider doing a Saturday shift for several months so that you get the basics mastered. Making silly errors at the start of a new business can cause unnecessary cost!
- Think carefully about what a work/life balance means to you
A better work/life balance can be the main reason most people start their own business but actually setting up a business means you may need to work very hard and you could end up working seven days a week, at least for the first couple of years.
It can then be hard to 'let go' once it is established.
Of course I can manage my time more or less how I please, which is a great benefit, but if you are the type of person that enjoys clocking off at 5pm and not thinking about work over the weekend or when you're on holiday then running a business might not be for you.
People's view of what constitutes a healthy work/life balance varies but if you are passionate about your job and enjoy it then perhaps this is more important.
- It's not easy!
Setting up your own business brings lots of benefits -- independence, flexibility, fulfilment -- but one thing it isn't is easy.
Firstly you'll probably be working on your own for at least a few months, if not longer, which can be quite lonely.
There's also lots of times when I've been completely out of my comfort zone tackling things I'd never done before. Setting up a website and managing my accounts are two things that spring to mind immediately! You might make mistakes and you may spend hours doing something someone else could complete in minutes but at least you'll be learning.
All I can say is seek advice when possible and persevere.
- Nothing ventured, nothing gained
I finally took the plunge when I realized that I would always regret not giving it a try. If you feel the same then go for it!
Olivia Chapman, founder of Oleo Bodycare, www.oleobodycare.co.uk