“I now work from home, around my family.” When Vanessa Germond solved a problem for her daughter, she didn't expect it to become a route out of her career. But with the right support, she's discovered a new level of confidence and has launched a business she loves. This is her story.
What work were you doing previously?
I was a primary school teacher.
What are you doing now?
I'm the Managing Director of The Hair Helper, which is a product that we've designed and manufactured in the UK as a hair accessory organiser for little girls.
I now work from home, around my family.
Why did you change?
Since having my daughter, I'd been desperate not to go back to teaching and was searching for an alternative.
Then, I had an overwhelming response to a storage solution I'd made by hand for my daughter's hair accessories. So, my husband and I started on the journey to produce our own product.
When was the moment you decided to make the change?
My husband was actually the one who questioned the possibility of mass producing a product.
It was quite a surreal moment, as he slid a piece of paper and a pen across the table and told me "It's time to dream."
Are you happy with the change?
I wouldn't change it for anything!
We've learnt so much through doing research and trying various avenues to get to the point where we had a product to sell. We've learnt a lot about ourselves as individuals, but it's also added a new dynamic to our marriage.
What do you miss and what don't you miss?
I do miss working with children, and seeing them have those "Got it!" moments.
I don't miss the paperwork associated with teaching.
How did you go about making the shift?
I was fortunate enough to have been on the back end of maternity leave, and we'd made the decision for me not to go back to work until our youngest was at least in school.
My husband has maintained working in his field, which has enabled us to pursue this.
What didn't go well? What 'wrong turns' did you take?
Our biggest 'wrong turns' have actually been in our relationship.
We've had to learn how to communicate as business partners, and how to separate business and home, somehow. There's definitely no business talk while the children are around as so much just gets lost in translation.
How did you handle your finances to make your change possible?
Most of this business has been self-funded, and we've had to dip into our 'nest egg' to make it financially possible.
We did it in the hope that this was an investment, and that we'd see a return.
What was the most difficult thing about changing?
I've been working with little to no financial reward, especially in the development phase.
I have to continually remind myself that this will change as the business grows. It has also been challenging to balance business and two small children, and still give them priority.
What help did you get?
I've joined a few key networking groups, some on social media platforms, and some I attend in person on a regular basis.
What resources would you recommend to others?
If you have the budget for a business coach, consider investing in someone to help give you direction and set goals.
The British Library also has a wealth of information when it comes to trademarks and patenting, as well as the opportunity to win interviews with businessmen and women in various fields.
These have been invaluable places of support, where I can ask questions and gain new ideas or perspectives.
What have you learnt in the process?
On a practical note, I've learnt how to use WordPress.
On a more personal level, recently I've learnt that I have a lot more confidence in myself and my product than I ever thought possible. I happened to be in a store on an outing with my son, and ended up chatting to some of the staff, leaving my business card as well as getting the details of their buyer. Before this I would have considered myself a shy individual.
What would you advise others to do in the same situation?
Definitely shop around and do your research as much as you can.
Read the small print to understand what other businesses you will need, such as designers, or manufacturers. If you're manufacturing a product, meet your manufacturer if at all possible. The manufacturer that we ended up choosing was the one who made the time to meet with us and show us around the plant.
To find out more about Vanessa's business, visit www.thehairhelper.co.uk.
What lessons could you take from Vanessa's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.