Knowing when to take the leap of faith
Chelsea Thomas' ability to sniff out a bargain ended up taking over most of her spare time. Photo: Supplied
Don't quit your day job … unless you have a promising start-up on the side, experts say.
Summoning the courage to leave a steady job and follow your dreams is a dilemma every entrepreneur faces.
Knowing when to leave the safety net of a salary is a difficult financial and career decision, but often the only true test of a business's potential.
Chelsea Thomas, 30, was working in public relations for Southern Cross Austereo in Melbourne when she decided to take a leap of faith and become her own boss.
She had spent 10 years in the PR industry, her job was rewarding and her boss was flexible.
But her side business was eating up more and more of her personal time.
“It became too much,” she says.
“I was working 8.30am until 5.30pm during the day, coming home to feed my son and put him to bed, then finding myself opening my laptop and starting a new day.”
Her fashion website I Heart Bargains was born when Thomas was on maternity leave.
The idea for her business grew when her mothers' group friends discovered Thomas's canny ability to sniff out a bargain.
“They would ask me to email or text them when I found bargains,” she says.
“I started to turn into that person you would ask for advice on bargain hunting. So the natural progression was to start a blog of some kind.”
What started as a blog quickly turned into a retail hub. I Heart Bargains not only displays clothes and fashion accessories priced under $100, but also allows viewers to click links that take them to where the products are sold online.
It effectively leads bargain hunters to the bargains.
While her business picked up momentum, Thomas realised the juggle was unsustainable.
Conscious of not doing the wrong thing by her boss, Thomas kept both jobs very separate.
She also began forming an exit plan.
“It took me six to eight weeks of preparation and I had a saving plan, which was really important,” she says.
“Funnily enough, when I quit my job, that's when things really started to flow.
“Now I'm able to give it 100 per cent of my attention.”
Thomas's site began turning a profit two months ago, just six months after launching.
The avid bargain hunter says she now runs the company of her dreams.
“I'm very grateful for where I am, but I've also worked really hard," she says.
Budding entrepreneurs may be reluctant to leave the security of a full-time job, but creative business advisor Kate Hurst says there are alternatives.
“Having a trial period is a good idea because businesses can take a long time to become profitable, so don't put yourself under too much pressure,” she says.
“If you have a flexible boss, discuss cutting back your hours or maybe working part-time.”
Make sure you have a written business plan that accounts for initial and ongoing operational costs, Hurst advises.
“You've really got to do the numbers to make sure it will work,” she says.
“The worst thing would be starting a business that isn't making money and your back is against the wall and you're too stressed to make it work.”
When you are pouring all your energy into your side business and know it would operate better if you were working on it full time, you should finally give up the day job.
“You'll know when you've reached a tipping point when there just aren't enough hours in the day and you just can't manage it any more,” Hurst says.
“Many people have a fear of being their own boss, so they have to be committed to going to work every day.”
Joining a business support group such as Startup Club or Flying Solo can give business hopefuls a way to share ideas and get free advice from those who know the ropes.
It may also provide the right mix of inspiration and passion to take that leap of faith.