“I'd become disillusioned with the corporate work environment. I knew I needed to make the jump.”
What work were you doing previously?
I was UK and International Marketing Manager for a large corporate.
What are you doing now?
Now, I'm the founder and owner of PJ Mamma Organic.
We sell mum, maternity and baby pyjamas.
I also do some freelance marketing, roughly one day per week.
Why did you change?
Although my professional background is in marketing I've always been very crafty and loved art, design and sewing.
I started to make pyjamas for myself when I was pregnant as I couldn't find well-fitting pyjamas, and nothing made from organic cotton. I then started to make and sell my pyjamas online when I was on maternity leave, and they proved really popular with great feedback.
I returned to work after my year of maternity leave in a different mindset. I was passionate about my new business and also knew the long hours and regular travel wouldn't fit around my son. At the same time I'd become become disillusioned with the corporate work environment.
When was the moment you decided to make the change?
There were quite a few 6 a.m. cycles to work when all I wanted to do was turn around.
I thought about my vision and hopes for the future, and I knew I needed to make the jump.
Are you happy with the change?
I'm so happy I made the change and followed my heart.
I'm so motivated by my business and love seeing it grow. My son Tate is always my number one priority and I love the flexibility I have to work around him. I'm originally from Yorkshire and we have no family living close by so that flexibility is so important.
I've met so many lovely friends who are also designers / makers from London and love being part of this new community.
What do you miss and what don't you miss?
I miss friends from my old work, but we still keep in touch.
I really enjoyed managing a team and watching people develop and grow in their roles. I do miss this aspect of my old job. However, I'm now an active member of a group called the London Local Team where we support designers and makers, so the mentoring aspects of this are quite similar.
I don't miss the cut-throat corporate environment – I found it really fake at times. Also, I don't miss the lack of flexibility around Tate.
How did you go about making the shift?
At the point I left my job as a marketing manager I'd been selling my pyjamas online for six months.
I was getting really good feedback and reviews, and sales were good. I spent every evening, weekend, baby nap time and any spare time I had looking after orders, building up my social media presence and developing my designs.
As a new mum I was surrounded by other mums who were the perfect focus group to help with advice and feedback, too.
I was in contact with people who'd previously approached me to help them with marketing, so I was in the lucky position of knowing I could earn extra income from freelance marketing management to support my new business.
I had limited finances so I had to learn new skills to save costs. I built my own website and taught myself new skills. I asked for favours from friends. It's surprising what an amazing network I have around me through friends and friends of friends – I've found a photographer, an accountant, and mums with babies who've helped me out with modelling.
What didn't go well? What 'wrong turns' did you take?
In an ideal world I should have done more planning and got a few more foundations in place at the start.
However, time was extremely limited as I was managing my business around work and looking after my baby. I needed to prioritise and certain things didn't get done.
Instead of things like spreadsheets to manage my finances and stock, I had a notebook of numbers and plans in my head. It meant I wasn't able to create accurate stock forecasts and on a number of occasions I sold out of product lines, or was surprised to find I was out of stock of certain sizes / designs when I went to fulfill an order.
I make all my products with EU organic cotton and I've had occasions when the lead time was eight weeks to get fabric in stock, which can mean months of being without certain PJ styles. I know it's crucial to understand my numbers to move from it being a hobby to a business so it's something I've really had to make time for.
It's only recently I have had the time to get all these spreadsheets set up; they make running my business so much easier.
How did you handle your finances to make your change possible?
My shift wasn't just about setting up a new business. It was also a life change – one that meant I would get to spend more time with my son.
I made plans about what I would need to earn to survive and in the period prior to leaving work I saved as much as I could to help. I set myself goals for my business to help support its growth. At the point of leaving my job I was selling my PJs on my own website and on Etsy. To help increase sales I started to sell on new online sales platforms including Not on the High Street, and All by Mama, too.
I was lucky to have freelance marketing work as soon as I left my old job which was a huge help. I love my freelance work too as I've been lucky enough to work with small creative businesses that I feel passionate about.
What was the most difficult thing about changing?
It has been really hard work and a big learning curve.
I think the hardest aspect is how entwined it is with my life. As I manage my business around family life, often when my day with Tate ends and he's gone to bed I'll carry on doing orders until the early hours. I'm always on call answering questions, managing my social media, etc.
However, I totally love it and still get such satisfaction from each order, lovely feedback, and photos from happy customers. I never set out on starting my own business for an easy life, just a more fulfilled one, and on the days when I feel super tired I never have regrets that I made the jump.
What help did you get?
Friends doing me favours around aspects of my business photo shoots, accounting advice, and being models!
I also get a lot of support from the team I co-organised: the London Local Team. I set it up with two other designers as we all found it quite hard to set up our new businesses and felt there wasn't a good network to support designers / makers. We share ideas and give advice; I've found the network to be a great support and I've met some friends for life.
What resources would you recommend to others?
I'd recommend the London Local Team, and Careershifters!
What have you learnt in the process?
During the busiest times when I've been working silly hours things can get a bit much.
I've learnt that sleep makes everything better!
What do you wish you'd done differently?
In an ideal world I'd have slowed down a bit at the beginning and set up better foundations (stock sheets, budgets and so on).
This would have saved me lots of time and made my life easier in the long run.
What would you advise others to do in the same situation?
If you have an idea or dream of a career change, ask friends and family for advice.
Also, reach out to the network around you. Read about others' stories and experiences. From my experience I've found the small business community very friendly and willing to help each other. Together we're stronger!
To find out more about Becky's business, visit www.pjmamma.co.uk.
What lessons could you take from Becky's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.