Two short years ago, I was sitting in an uncomfortable suit in a city skyscraper pursuing a very structured and stable career path as a mergers and acquisitions lawyer. While there were undoubtedly many wonderful opportunities and perks involved in what is generally perceived as a “high-flying job”, it was disappointingly less glamorous than what Suits portrays the lawyer life to be and I found the corporate environment increasingly difficult to reconcile with my passions for health, wellness and creativity. Fast-forward to now and I have left behind my “5-year plan” lifestyle to jump into a dynamic and vibrant world that doesn’t allow me to have even a 5-minute plan (and I absolutely LOVE it). Yep, I’ve stepped out of my suits and heels and into my active wear to enter the beautiful world of business.
By way of background, my partner, Nic, and I started our first business together, Matcha Maiden, as a creative outlet due to our own frustrations at a gap in the market. We never dreamed it would grow into a flourishing global operation or lead to our second business with two great partners, Matcha Mylkbar, soon after. FYI – matcha is green tea leaves ground into powder bringing you 137 x the antioxidants of regular green tea and much more versatility (think lattes, smoothies, desserts, even face masks). After six months of unexpected but rapid growth, we landed our first big US contract prompting me to leave my job and step into the business full time. We now have AUS and USA warehouses, 1000+ stockists worldwide, 80,000+ followers, multiple products and so much matcha magic on the horizon.
Looking back, it seems to have all happened in a flash but the honest reality more closely resembles a rollercoaster (an amazing one, but a rollercoaster nonetheless). Starting a business has been at once the most incredibly rewarding and most challenging thing I’ve ever done. I still pinch myself that I get to live my dreams every day and I love being constantly pushed out of my comfort zone, but moving from a career you’ve had years of training for to a world where you have no experience can be overwhelming. It’s been a steep learning curve and I’ve learnt so many lessons along the way that I would love to go back and tell myself in the early days, so I picked a few to share for the aspiring entrepreneurs out there:
- Listen to your gut (and nobody else’s). Stepping away from what is seen as a “high-flying job” can evoke guilt and worry about what you “should” do and what people will think. It’s hard to follow your own instincts if other people’s opinions are drowning them out. But ultimately only you can truly know what lights your fire, so listen to what feels right for you.
- The longer you wait for the future the shorter it will be. There is no such thing as the perfect time. In a year’s time you’ll wish you started today. So if you’re sitting on an idea, get cracking! What are you waiting for? Make a list or a plan, and start working through it.
- Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will. The most destructive but common obstacle we face to action is self-doubt. But most of the time, you would astound yourself at what you’re capable of when you actually try. Even if it doesn’t work out the first time, failure isn’t a terrible thing – it’s an opportunity to perfect things for next time. Don’t be your own biggest obstacle!
- Make the most of your situation. Having said that you should power ahead, sometimes you do need to pace yourself i.e. deciding when to “make the jump” and leave your job. I stayed in law for six months to ensure the business would be viable and to save some capital. If you have to stay where you are for now, make the most of that time to prepare for the next phase.
- Done is better than perfect. Like not waiting for the perfect time to start, you can’t expect perfection once you get going or you’ll never get anything done. Despite my type-A anally retentive personality, I’ve had to accept that things need to get done and can be refined later. Better to keep up momentum than come to a halt because you’re being too picky.
- Everyone is winging it. On the perfection note, some days are plain tough and it’s easy to get disheartened when you feel out of your depths. But you learn very quickly that most other people are winging it too! You don’t have to be an expert, you will learn along the way. Also, it is OK to ask for help, everyone has been a “newbie” at some stage and they’re happy to oblige.
- The grass is greener where you water it. Speaking of others, it’s very easy to get distracted by comparison especially in the social media age. There will always be someone who looks more successful, happy, wealthy, etc and that’s mostly a skewed perception anyway. Look to others for inspiration but don’t get bogged down. Direct your energy where you want the best results – on your own grass rather than everyone else’s.
- Success isn’t finite. We have grown so quickly because collaboration has been a major part of our business. It’s easy to become protective of your ideas and knowledge but success is something that doubles when shared – it doesn’t get split in half. Teaming up with compatible businesses to share audiences is incredibly beneficial and also a heap of fun!
- Haters gonna hate. No matter what, you cannot please everyone so don’t bother wasting time trying to. In fact, if you have a hater that’s a sign you’ve made it! Don’t take criticism personally – use it constructively or don’t use it at all. There is no single business that can meet everyone’s needs at the same time, so don’t expend energy trying to.
- You can do anything but not everything. This is my toughest and still ongoing lesson – when you love what you do, you never want to stop (so I don’t). But your body has limits and will crumble if you don’t look after it. Running your own business means there will always be work you could be doing, but you have to let it go for the sake of rest or you won’t last!