From Advertising to Own Health Brand

“Even in my darkest moments, I would rather be doing this.”

Melanie Lawson

From Advertising to Own Health Brand

Melanie Lawson's life had completely changed. After taking a career break to have children, she realised she'd outgrown the long hours and low pay of her old industry. So, she decided to build her own business instead. And despite some struggles along the way, she's not looking back. Here's how she did it.

What work were you doing previously?

I worked in advertising as an Account Director for ten years.

It's a young person's career (with all the socialising and long hours that go with it), and surprisingly not very well paid. So I left when I started a family, had three children, and did that full time for seven years.

What are you doing now?

I have an Omega 3 health supplement business.

It's extremely high quality and available in liquid form, which isn't that common in the UK.

Why did you change?

I didn't want to return to advertising, be an absent mother and spend most of my wage on nannies and commuting.

The plan had always been for me to start a business that my husband might join me in, so creating a family business; it was just a matter of finding the right one.

When was the moment you decided to make the change

I'd been reading a Tim Ferriss book and ranting at my husband about how difficult it was to find a good Omega 3, and I realised that's what I should do.

The really big moment was when I found out about a major health supplement exhibition in Geneva. We worked out I could get out there and back in a day, so I got on a plane and that's where I met my supplier. She wouldn't ordinarily have supplied to people like me, but we got along really well and she said yes we can do this!

What was the most difficult thing about making the change?

It's been really hard knowing it will take time before the business is profitable.

But I accept that's the nature of business and my husband is very good at encouraging me to have faith and ride it out.

Are you happy with the change?

Yes.

Even in my darkest moments, I would rather be doing this.

What do you miss and what don't you miss?

I miss the socialising.

I don't miss working for other people and feeling that my future is in the hands of another person (a boss). I don't miss the time-wasting, politics and having to be somewhere at a particular time. I joke with other mums that I'm unemployable now.

How did you go about making the shift?

It was quite gradual and a bit like training to run a marathon.

It started with a little bit each day, whilst my little one napped, and it built up slowly over time.

How did you handle your finances to make your change possible?

I used personal savings which we'd been putting aside for a pension and to start a business.

The business did break even, but now I've had to dip into my savings again because I've just launched two new products. We took a calculated risk because I'm now stocked by some good retailers and it's an investment in the future.

What help did you get?

My husband has a strong product marketing background and although we disagreed on some of the designs, I've run everything by him.

I also spoke to old advertising colleagues who helped me with copy editing. People never pay enough attention to the copy and it's so important.

What do you wish you'd done differently?

I wish that I'd had a few more systems in place.

That would have saved a lot of time, but then I'd never have started a business if I'd tried to make everything perfect before I got going.

And some of my mistakes were things I couldn't possibly have known before. For instance, some of my bottle lids were discoloured and spoiled by the way they were initially packaged. Nobody spotted the problem until it had happened and I ended up throwing quite a few bottles away.

What resources would you recommend to others?

If you want an e-commerce site, use Shopify.

They have pre-built websites you can customise. They are easy, affordable and beautiful.

And I'd recommend some books: Tim Ferriss' The Four-hour Workweek (my bible), Arianna Huffington's Thrive for taking care of yourself, and Charles Duhigg's The Power of Habit for learning about how you can do things better without it being difficult.

What would you advise others to do in the same situation?

Firstly, do loads of market research – know what everyone else is offering, doing well or not doing well.

Until you do that you won't have the confidence in what you can offer, and you won't know what will differentiate you from the competition.

Research also gives you confidence when you meet potential clients or retailers and they ask you those Dragons' Den questions. You'll have a lot of the answers. And, of course, figure out if you can actually make money out of it!

Find out more about Melanie’s Omega 3 business at www.barebiology.com

Interview by career coach Lisa Westbury www.lisawestbury.com

What lessons could you take from Melanie's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.

Plus, if you know someone who's made a successful shift into work they love, we'd love to hear from you. Drop us a line at hello@careershifters.org.