“I didn't want to leave my son, no matter how perfect the job might seem on paper.”
From E-Commerce to Own Businesses
What work were you doing previously?
I was an e-commerce buyer for a large national home improvement chain.
What are you doing now?
I currently own two companies.
I own an arts and crafts company called Twined, and a marketing consulting firm called Silver Shade Group.
Why did you change?
I decided that my corporate career did not provide me with the flexibility I wanted and needed to spend time with my young son.
I've always been interested in arts and crafts. I used to create watercolour paintings in my spare time as a good stress reliever from my corporate job.
When was the moment you decided to make the change?
I was on my way home from a job interview.
I thought all the way home about how much I didn't want to leave my son, no matter how perfect the job might seem on paper.
Are you happy with the change?
I'm incredibly happy with the change I've made.
What do you miss and what don't you miss?
I miss the camaraderie that comes with an 8–5 corporate position.
I miss going out to lunch with the same group every day, and silly office pranks and jokes.
However, I'm glad that I no longer have to deal with the sluggish progress of large, bureaucratic organisations. If I see something in my business that's not working, I change it immediately, usually to the delight of my customers.
How did you go about making the shift?
When I left my corporate position, I applied to graduate business school.
I'd been thinking about pursuing my MBA for about 10 years. When my boss left the company I was with, he told me to decide whether I wanted to pursue his job or leave to get my MBA. I chose the MBA.
I started a little company that didn't do well and also did some marketing consulting work on the side while I waited for my MBA programme to begin. Once the course started, I focused on only that for a little while so that I could decide what I was passionate about and wanted to do long term.
Near the end of the programme, I opened Twined, my arts and crafts company. I still take on marketing clients that are the right fit for my background and now run an online programme for my marketing business as well.
What didn't go well? What 'wrong turns' did you take?
I took a huge wrong turn by opening a ladies' consignment shop.
It wasn't my area of expertise and it didn't keep my interest very long.
How did you handle your finances to make your change possible?
I'm lucky to have a husband with a stable corporate position that provides an income and our benefits.
We also saved a lot of my income from my job in e-commerce so that I could pursue my MBA and leave that company.
What was the most difficult thing about changing?
The most difficult thing was constantly adjusting my expectations.
By nature, I set very high standards for myself. Opening a new company requires more slack than I was willing to give. I expected to know everything out of the gate, and that’s just not possible.
As a business owner, you have to make some assumptions about your customer in order to get started. Sometimes, those assumptions are incorrect, or just slightly off. You also have to be willing and able to adjust to actual needs of your customer as you learn them.
My entrepreneurship professor told us that our business plans are out of date the second that they're printed, but it's still important to write them. I wholeheartedly agree with him.
What help did you get?
My family is incredibly supportive.
My MBA team also provided so much support and help with my business as I was launching it.
What have you learnt in the process?
I have learned what I want and how to accomplish it.
I want to spend time with my son and also to do fulfilling work. I accomplish that by working for myself and by taking on just enough clients to ensure they all still get my best work.
What do you wish you'd done differently?
I wish I'd been a little easier on myself.
What would you advise others to do in the same situation?
I would advise everyone to go for it.
Find the things you want to do most and make them happen. It might look ugly for a while, or mean working two jobs when you are exhausted, but in the end it's worth it.
What resources would you recommend to others?
I like local and online networking groups.
I feel like I've been able to help others on their journey and I've also received help from people who are further along than I am. Some of the people that I've met in my networking groups will be lifelong friends of mine.
To find out more about Tamara's work, visit www.silvershadegroup.com.
What lessons could you take from Tamara's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.