From Snowboards to Baby Products

“I didn't want to work for anyone else anymore. Also, I calculated the number of hours a year that I was spending commuting. It was insane!”

Image of Mark Harries

From Snowboards to Baby Products

Here's how Mark Harries launched out on his own, reclaimed his family time, and learned some tough lessons along the way.

What work were you doing previously?

I worked for a winter sports retailer buying snowboard equipment.

What are you doing now?

I run a business from home selling baby products online.

Why did you change?

I was bored and wasn't growing.

Also, I didn't want to work for anyone else anymore. We'd just had a baby. For me, seeing my son briefly before and after work wasn't good enough. I wanted to watch him grow up.

I was really feeling the need to step off the hamster wheel and create something for myself that would a) allow me to work from anywhere and b) see my son more.

Also, I calculated the number of hours a year that I was spending commuting. It was insane!

When was the moment you decided to make the change?

Probably around the time my son was born.

Are you happy with the change?

Absolutely.

I get to choose when to work and for how long.

This means of course I have to be a firm but fair boss to myself, which isn't always easy.

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

I miss snowboarding.

The old job afforded me the luxury of calling this work, which I was extremely grateful for as it's a real passion.

I also miss the community feel of that industry and the relationships. And I miss the travel: the opportunity to learn about the world through the vehicle of snowboarding.

I do NOT miss sitting at a desk for long hours, endless meetings, the two-and-a-half-hour commute, having to make large presentations (I'm an introvert), or the endless spreadsheets.

How did you go about making the shift?

I took the maximum paternity leave allowed to get to know my son.

It gave me some time to re-evaluate where I was in life, and where I wanted to be. I also knew that when I went back to my desk after two months off I would feel awful to be back there. So I sort of forced my own hand.

Within days of being back I handed in my notice. I just couldn't take any more! Knowing I had a certain amount of days left there I was able to think ahead to what was next and start planning the next move.

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

Plenty.

I took a part-time job locally to pay the bills while I was without a main source of income, but it dried up. This left me in a tight spot financially.

I should have started the business and quit when the earnings had matched or exceeded my job wage. Looking back now I'm glad I learned that lesson, but man it was tough going for a while.

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

I started to examine all of my outgoings and cut things right back.

This was a great exercise for me as I was horrified at some of my expenses. As a result I'm much more of a minimalist now and the headspace alone from having less crap and less to manage is worth it for me. I appreciate what I have.

What was the most difficult thing about changing?

As I mentioned earlier, being a boss to myself.

And learning to run a business, which is of course a work in progress.

Switching off can also be difficult. Because it's my own business I tend to carry the work into the evenings, which I'm working on!

What help did you get?

I took a course in sourcing, selecting and selling products online.

And I formed a mini mastermind group with other online sellers. We get together and work on each other's businesses. This is like gold to me!

What resources would you recommend to others?

I'd recommend Tim Ferriss's 4-Hour Work Week. It changed the way I think and really inspired me to do something for myself.

What have you learnt in the process?

That I'm horrible with numbers despite my background in retail buying.

And that it's impossible to do it all by yourself. I need accountability too.

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

Get your business or idea up and running before you press eject on your job!

Hone in on your strengths and base your work around this. Get help or outsource the parts you really don't enjoy when possible.

Don't do it alone. Build a network around you of like-minded people. Get an accountability partner.

Overall, spend all the time you need getting clear on what you really want.

To find out more about Mark's business, visit www.mushymushy.co.uk.

What lessons could you take from Mark'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.