From Merchandising to Nutrition

“A voice inside me said 'There must be more to life than this'. On the following Monday, I handed in my notice.”

Image of Amy Huggins

From Merchandising to Nutrition

Amy Huggins's corporate role was slowly starving her soul. Stressed and exhausted, she sought specialist help to improve her diet. But little did she know (or did she?) that she would feel so passionate about food and well-being that she'd turn it into a new career – and unleash her entrepreneurial side to do so. Here's her story.

What work were you doing previously?

After graduating, I spent 13 years working in the sportswear / footwear industry for brands such as Converse, Lacoste, and Nike, in merchandising and category management.

What are you doing now?

I run a health and wellness company that specialises in detox programmes and raw juices.

Why did you change?

I realised that I simply wasn't nourishing my soul.

At 35 years old I was a very different person to the 21 year old who'd entered the industry and had a very different set of values. I'd become tired of corporate game playing. I'm a hugely creative person (I'd originally studied English and wanted to be a journalist), and my job wasn't fulfilling this side of me. I was chronically stressed, exhausted, and had lost my confidence.

My own health challenges prompted me to seek help via a nutritionist. I soon realised that my diet (lots of red meat, processed food and alcohol) was impacting negatively on my health, and so I set about making some improvements.

Gradually, I began following a plant-based diet and reaping the rewards physically and mentally. Once I understood the real link between nutrition and well-being, I decided I wanted to study the subject to learn as much as I could, to empower myself and others.

I became so passionate about what I'd learnt about nutrition for myself that I was hungry to know more. In the back of my mind, perhaps I'd always known that I was destined to make this field my career.

When was the moment you decided to make the change?

After a stressful week working abroad, a particularly nasty email from a colleague left me crying hysterically at an airport.

This was what I called my 'Eat, Pray, Love' moment: a voice inside me said "There must be more to life than this." On the following Monday I handed in my notice.

Are you happy with the change?

Yes, yes, yes.

I now realise that I should never have worked in the corporate sector; I should have followed my heart to begin with.

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

I miss the travel, and some of my ex-colleagues.

Adjusting to not having a regular income stream has been a challenge at times, but despite this I appreciate that I am richer in so many ways.

How did you go about making the shift?

Initially I took an evening course, then I invested in studying for a diploma course at weekends.

The college I studied at offers a payment plan which made funding it much easier.

Before I left my job I went through a personality profiling exercise known as 'Insights Discovery', which is based on the work of Carl Jung. This highlighted my personality as hugely creative, entrepreneurial, and full of ideas – all traits which lend themselves to running a business.

I did have the option to take employment within the food industry, but made the decision to go forward with my own business. For me, building my own dream was far more preferable than executing someone else's.

I set up my company website and social media, and started to promote my business locally. Then I took a leap of faith.

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

I probably should have done some more research, and worked out my business plan and strategy first.

I also spent money on advertising which didn't work.

Sometimes you can overthink things, but when you are fuelled by a passion to succeed, I think it's impossible to fail.

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

I discussed the situation with my husband and we agreed that he would help support me.

I also had three months' expenses put aside to cover my initial outgoings.

What was the most difficult thing about changing?

Fear of the unknown.

Leaving a good salary.

And not having anyone to rely on – knowing that the success or failure of my business was down to me.

What help did you get?

My husband, friends and colleagues were all very supportive, applauding me for my bravery. When you start to network people are generally very supportive and want you to succeed.

What have you learnt in the process?

How easy it is to underestimate our potential.

For so long, I did the work that I thought would please others – the work I thought I 'should' do – instead of really doing what I loved: the thing I would do for free. I really believe everyone should build their career around their passion.

What do you wish you'd done differently?

Planned, researched, built a solid business plan.

But I'm a big-thinker and I get bored with details, so perhaps it was inevitable that I didn't go down that path.

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

Ask yourself, "What's the worst that could happen?"

Then go for it. Most of the fears that hold us back are completely irrational.

What resources would you recommend to others?

Kickstarter for funding.

And the book How To Start A Business Without Any Money by Rachel Bridge.

What lessons could you take from Amy'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.