“How Do I Know If My Plan Is Worth The Risk?”

Denise is just getting her confidence back after being made redundant. She's made small steps towards setting up her own business, but she's doubting her ability to follow it through. How do you find the strength to keep going when your inner critic speaks so loud?

What's your career history and current job?

I was recently made redundant from a social affairs change charity where I was a business fundraiser.

Prior to that, I was working for a youth charity and, before that, a major cancer charity, raising money through strategic partnerships with companies, using my skills in networking, negotiating, project management, innovation, marketing, and brand management.

I've always felt that I needed to personally resonate with the cause and feel that my work is meaningful. That's why I moved from the larger organisations to smaller charities, because I wanted to have a connection with beneficiaries make more of a positive difference to people's lives.

Before that, I'd worked as a trainee stockbroker (until I realised I didn't want to make money for people whom it seemed to me were glorified gamblers). I went to university and did a degree in business and information systems, which eventually led me into corporate charity fundraising.

How do you feel about your work?

The aspects of the work I used to enjoy were being able to use my business and account management skills in an environment that had a real social purpose.

I enjoy diversity, meeting new challenges and coming up with innovative new partnerships to reach common goals.

It's taken me some time to unwind after the redundancy, which I took voluntarily because my role had been changed and I wasn't happy with it. The whole process was quite emotionally draining so my confidence really took a knock.

Management processes were poor, there were hardly any staff benefits and I decided it wasn't worth the ill effects on my mental health.

It has taken me several weeks to adjust and reflect on what I'd like to do next.

What would you like to be doing instead?

My sensible side says I need security in my work.

Having flexibility is also really important to me because I have a young son.

I've always thought about cooking as something I could do whenever there's been a major junction in my life, but I've never felt like I've had the guts or been ready.

I'm from Trinidad and it's not often you see cuisine on offer from this Caribbean Island. Now I've had the space to think about things, I'm starting to think maybe there is a niche for my style of cooking as a reflection of who I am.

The landlady at my local pub has offered me a night for customers to try out my food, which will be good in terms of helping me to get some practical experience, which I don't have, and to see if I really enjoy doing this after having imagined it for so long.

I'm not sure yet whether I'm ready to set up on my own, or if I want to go down the road of doing supper clubs and a pop-up restaurant. I figured this would be a good opportunity to see if I can scale up my cooking and everything that involves in a way that I'd enjoy.

There will be elements that I won't enjoy, but sharing my happiest food memories with other people – that's what I'm excited about.

Once I made the decision to do it, opportunities just seem to have appeared.

I found that my local council runs a free ten-week course for food business start-ups, so I've signed up for that as well.

Even knowing that I'm doing something for me, that it could be the start of a new adventure, gives me such a buzz.

What's the biggest obstacle in your way?

I'm not sure I'm brave enough to carry it through.

I go through stages of believing I can do this, followed by stages of doubt.

I'm confident about my cooking skills and I have experience in business and project management, but when it comes to doing this kind of thing for yourself, it's a lot harder to think pragmatically.

It's one thing cooking for family and friends, but I don't have any catering experience so I don't know if I'm good enough to scale things up yet, especially for people who don't know me.

The more I see other people who've done something on their own, the more I realise that no-one ever feels 100% ready. Going to a Careershifters event also helped me realise that. Meeting other people who were looking to change their situation reassured me that I've not totally lost the plot!

But there's a part of me that is really terrified. I sometimes wonder whether I should just sack off the whole idea and join the rat race again.

I've thought about the worst thing that could happen and how I could draw on my project management experience to prepare for that.

I know I'm capable, but how do I know if I'm good enough?

And how do I know whether it's worth the risk?

Can you help Denise?
  • Have you been in a similar situation, or are you in the same boat right now?
  • How do you think Denise could move her shift forwards?
  • Do you know anyone she could talk to?

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