I don’t know whether starting my own business was a wonderful or risky idea, but I feel very grateful to be able to do what I love. I still have moments every so often where I am like “am I really doing this?!” and get so consumed with the day-to-day running of Qtique that I forget why I started. I sometimes wonder how different my life would be if I’d continued with a corporate job and like to dream about how nice it once was to have a steady salary. I think of all the shoes and bags I could be cuddling right now, then snap back into reality and double check I haven’t lost my mind because my cupboards are full of samples of mugs.
Before I went to uni, I had that painstaking question to answer of “what do you want to be?”. I had no idea. Due to being quite creative, I was urged towards Textiles and Photography. I thought Fashion was a good culmination of both (plus I loved to shop) so set about getting into a design course in the London College of Fashion. I had this idealism that working in Fashion was uber cool and fun, and I could make my way to the top in no time. The problem was, in reality it wasn’t really that fun at all and a million other people cared about fashion *way* more than I did. I was not inspired by my degree (yikes) and so I began to look about getting more involved with the business side, getting myself into placements within small businesses and in Buying. Although these jobs initially made me feel more positive about working within the industry, they just were not for me. My heart was not in it and so in my third year I started to work on ideas I had about supporting British businesses and British craftsmanship. I had this deep routed passion about it and couldn’t let it go. After working in companies who outsourced nearly all of their manufacturing, I wanted to help in some small way to bring it back here.
I had many, many ideas but nothing that I even thought to go further with. Post graduation, I got a job with a tech company to do Digital Marketing and didn’t focus too heavily on pursuing the ‘do it yourself’ route. It was only during a trip away to Paris that the chap and I randomly started to talk about pottery. You see, I have always been obsessed with pottery. I loved to make it in secondary school, winning an actual award and achieving the highest grade for my work. My sixth form college didn’t have the facilities for me to take it any further so it just died there and then. I never thought it could have been a career. Anyway, so there we were, in Paris, and I was enthusing about these beautiful piece of pottery in our restaurant and the chap simply said “this is what you have to do”. It was like my eyes had actually been opened and I started speaking 1000 words a minute. I told him about how I’ve collected local pottery from everywhere I go, how I’d already started to build an Aladdin’s cave of plates and bowls for a house I didn’t even own yet (terrifying), and how I’m always looking out for the perfect mug as I just couldn’t find it. And there it was, that was my idea.
From that point I was on a mission. It took me 21 months to take my idea and turn it into an actual product to sell. It was not easy, much harder than I thought it would be, but I persevered because I didn’t see that there was any other option. People would ask me when I would finally be launching my business and I would want to run away into a corner because I felt so ashamed it was taking much longer than was expected. Some people didn’t get it, which is fine – I also don’t get why some people do the jobs they do. I was supported by people who got my idea, who understood that I was trying to build something bigger for myself than a capped salary would have. I was taking a gamble and that was on me, I understood that it might not work and I was happy to try my hardest to see if it might.
Starting a business is not something everyone fully understands or has the desire to do. I get it – why choose uncertainty when you can have a good stable job? Everyone has ideas and say that they are going to start something, but very few people actually bite the bullet and do it. There’s a whole lot of difference between having an idea, and actually working every possible moment focusing on building that idea into a working reality. I feel like business starters probably require a certain kind of person, ones who can’t escape that itch of “what if?” and risk everything to pursue it. They see their dream and do everything they can to try and make it a reality. They don’t fake it, they just get on with it and work their hardest to not screw the opportunity up. Sometimes is works, sometimes it doesn’t, but by trying at least I know that I did everything I could.
So now, I am in the first year of running an actual real life business. It’s still not easy (nor do I expect it ever will be), and I still question myself at every possible moment, but I love what I do. It the toughest, most mentally demanding but rewarding job I have ever had and I have learned more in the last couple of years than I have done with anything else I have done. If I don’t figure out and try to conquer every aspect of my business, then it is on me that it fails. My business won’t grow if I don’t help it to. I don’t have someone in another team to fall back on, it is completely on me and I have to make it happen. I’ll try 20 approaches to make a task work till I find what's successful, and then start all over again with the next one. It’s hard and can be painful and trying at times. I do not have set 9-6 office hours, and rarely truly switch off from my business, and nor do I want to. I enjoy what I do and I want to invest my time into something that gives back to me, and right now I’m happier to put the money I could use to buy that glorious Wang bag I *really* want straight back into my business.
I’ve learned to think more about the long-term rewards than focusing what I can get right now. I am taking a gamble but I hope that it works and keeps growing bigger so I can continue to do this everyday. I don’t particularly like to use the word ‘entrepreneur’ as I think that is a title you earn once you have made it – like truly made it. People tend to wear it as a badge of honour where they think that by being called an entrepreneur means success, whereas being a successful entrepreneur is a very different thing. Until then, I am a small business owner simply trying my hardest to keep growing my idea. I’m just figuring out a plan that can take me from A to B and trying every productive method I can to get me there. Starting a business simply requires a good idea, sacrifice, patience and determination, and if you have at least 3 of those attributes, you can work on the other.
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