From Engineering to E-commerce

“I enjoyed the work... but there wasn't really anything creative about my role. This was the missing link for me.”

Image of Beth Elsdon

From Engineering to E-commerce

So Beth Elsdon braved some rocky financial times to set up an online craft marketplace – bringing what she loved into her career and getting the flexibility she was after. Here's how she did it.

What work were you doing previously?

I worked for a huge engineering firm within the oil and gas industry for more than ten years.

I managed the Rest of World sales team (consisting of nine men – mainly surveyors, engineers and tech guys).

What are you doing now?

I now run my own business, promoting and mentoring creative businesses in the UK, and selling and promoting their products through my e-commerce platform.

Why did you change?

My little boy was starting school, and I needed more flexibility.

I loved the work I did. The team I had was great; I loved developing people and seeing their careers progress. I got the opportunity to travel internationally, pitch to some really big companies, write five-year business plans, etc.

I enjoyed the work and put everything into it but there wasn't really anything creative about my role. This was the missing link for me.

Art was my first love and university background, so I had an urge to get back to that.

When was the moment you decided to make the change?

There was a requirement at work for me to start travelling more again (I used to do a lot of international travel).

This didn't really work for me or my family.

Are you happy with the change?

I am happy with the change as I have the flexibility we needed.

That's not to say I don't wonder if I made the right decisions sometimes. When things get tough and overwhelming, I wonder if it would have been 'better the devil you know'. But I'm happy now as I'm in control.

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

I don't miss the corporate rules (which is unlike me because I love process and planning!).

It bothers me when regulations prevent growth.

I miss the people. Going from managing a big team to working on my own was tough.

How did you go about making the shift?

I left my job and got a part-time job doing some admin to keep a small wage coming in.

However, it was a huge drop, financially, and I put everything I had into building my own business. Doing my own branding, website, design work – I learnt so much.

What didn't go well? What 'wrong turns' did you take?

I have already had to rebrand my business because I felt it wasn't right.

I've also put money into areas of the business that I shouldn't have.

This is the first business I've had and being the finance, marketing, sales, admin, 'everything girl' became overwhelming. I was unrealistic about what one person could achieve. Things are different now as I approach things differently but my biggest mistake was not doing enough research!

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

I got a part-time job for as long as I had time to do that, but finances were extremely tight to start with.

Now I've been running the business for a while, things are starting to fall into place financially. I've made mistakes along the way (which I guess is inevitable with any start-up) but there is more focus and viability to the business now, so it no longer feels like we're scraping the copper jar at the end of every month.

Hopefully now the business will go from strength to strength.

What was the most difficult thing about changing?

Finances for sure – going from a £2k monthly wage to almost zero is super tough.

What help did you get?

Another mistake – I didn't look for enough help.

I didn't network enough at the beginning. There are huge networks of people to help and support people wishing to change career or start their own business.

What have you learnt in the process?

I've learnt that being clear about a vision and goals is a must.

And now, before I make any decisions I ask myself "Will this get me further towards my goal? Will this help grow my business?"

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

Go for it!

Get support from friends and family: this is an absolute must.

Join networking groups to find opportunities, and do your research. If you think you've done enough research, do some more!

To find out more about Beth's services, visit www.walterandmay.co.uk

What lessons could you take from Beth'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.