“I wanted to feel like 'me' again.”

Image of Sarah Cooke
From Sales to Jewellery

Frustrated with corporate politics and seeking a more flexible way to work, Sarah Cooke decided to take matters into her own hands. With a little ingenuity and a lot of hard work, she spotted her new business niche and crafted a career where she's fully in charge of her schedule. Here's how she did it.

What work were you doing previously?

I worked in sales and marketing in the corporate world for a large healthcare company, during which I relocated from the UK to Singapore.

Most recently, I was Regional Manager for a wine company across South East Asia.

What are you doing now?

I'm the founding owner of Halia Rose, a jewellery, accessories and gift collection for fabulous mums and their young families.

All Halia Rose products are BPA free and made from 100% non-toxic, food-grade silicone.

How did you feel about your work before you decided to make a change?

I generally enjoyed my job but became frustrated by corporate politics.

The lack of flexible working also made it difficult for me to return to the company I was working for after having a baby.

Why did you change?

I'd always wanted to have my own business.

Having parents who worked for themselves inspired me, but I also knew the realities and hard work that are involved. However, I had a passion for it, so I was already halfway there!

When was the moment you decided to make the change?

I'd just had a baby.

Maternity leave was only two months in Singapore at the time, and coupled with having a difficult birth and no family living in the same country, I didn't feel ready to go back to work six weeks later.

So, I decided to take some time out to spend time with my new baby.

Are you happy with the change?

I think I work many more hours now than when I was in the corporate world.

Being the only person in my business means that if I don't work, nothing gets done.

However, I love the flexibility of my business and that I can choose my hours to work around my young children. I am fortunate to spend the time with them as they are growing up.

What do you miss?

I miss having a team of people around me to bounce ideas off.

I'm now working on my own running my business, so I don't have the same daily contact with people as I used to, let alone being able to share feedback with other like-minded people.

How specifically did you choose your new career?

After the difficult birth of my son and feeling that new-mum, constant exhaustion, I wanted to feel like 'me' again.

Being able to wear something designed for me was part of this. My body hadn't popped back to its pre-pregnancy shape, so buying clothes wasn't something I enjoyed doing at the time. Wearing gorgeous jewellery, however, was something I could do.

But when I looked I couldn't find anything that I liked that was also safe for me to wear around my baby. I also noticed that colour really affected my mood.

I recognised other mums were in the same boat, and so the idea for Halia Rose jewellery was born!

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

I've been very fortunate and haven't experienced any real 'wrong turns', but I think that's come from planning and adapting as I go.

It's always hard to know stock quantities that you'll need when you start out; it's a constant evolution and I'm learning all the time!

Also, things have definitely taken longer in terms of growing awareness of my brand and business than I perhaps anticipated.

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

Having a budget has forced me to be careful with investments and to learn how to do things myself rather than outsourcing from the start.

It's also helped me to be really clear on what areas to focus on (and what I most need help with).

What was the most difficult thing about changing?

Juggling family life with running a business brings with it another level of complexity.

Quite often, I don't work the traditional hours of a corporate day, so switching my mind and focus from family to work and vice versa, multiple times a day, has been tricky.

What do you wish you'd done differently?

Relocating back to the UK with two young children at the same time as setting up a business was not ideal!

What help did you get?

I went to local networking groups which helped me to overcome my feelings of isolation as well as allowing me to feel inspired by others who had their own businesses.

I've found other mum entrepreneurs to be incredibly supportive as they understand the real-life juggle. There's a definite strength and drive with women in business but I also think, as women, we often over-analyse things. This can become quite lonely, especially if you don't have family and friends who understand what or why you're doing what you're doing.

What resources would you recommend to others?

Local networking groups, or seeking out like-minded people on social media.

There are lots of Facebook groups for entrepreneurs, etc.; you just need to find the right fit for you and your business.

What have you learnt in the process?

To be true to myself and my values.

There will always be people who have differing opinions, but I'm the only one who's living and breathing it, so I've learned to do what works for me and my family.

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

Go for it!

You'll never know what may happen if you take that first step, but you'll always wonder "What if?" if you don't. It can be challenging at times, but then nothing worthwhile in life is ever easy.

And keep going. There will always be negative people (including family and friends!) out there who'll criticise what you're doing. If you believe in your business then you can make it happen.

To find out more about Sarah's business, visit: www.haliarose.co.uk.

This story was sourced by e-commerce marketplace All By Mama.

What lessons could you take from Sarah'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 [email protected]. and you could win a £25 / $35 voucher in our monthly draw.