What a year!
So, you may have noticed, 2018 is at its close and predictably we start to look both backwards and forwards. If you’ve been reading our posts you’ll know that 2018 has been a year of surprises, changes and action, and that is not a reference to British politics!
We started the year in the backpacker mecca of Bangkok with a few faint ideas of what we wanted to do next with our lives. We would end the year in a more familiar place but with a hugely different lifestyle, outlook and quality of life. This article aims to let you know where we are now, on our journey to re-balance our lives…..
Old To New
To journey into why we needed to make changes predates 2018 and was routed in our ‘old’ lifestyle. We worked the normal 9-5 and had a very comfortable life, but found that we were getting worn out from the intensity of work and it was starting to make us both quite anxious. Ali’s anxiety had started a few years before and mine pre 2017, seemingly out of nowhere. It didn’t make sense because we had it all on paper; good jobs, a home that we owned, wonderful friends and family, but were struggling with something we couldn’t quite put our fingers on. Maybe it was an un-stratchable itch that this was the life that was set out for us, or perhaps it was hitting 30 and seeing the inevitable humdrum or the endless grind of work. A two-week break in Patagonia confirmed our suspicions and pushed us to start thinking about what was next and how we could make a change. We took some hard decisions to leave our jobs, financial security and our friends and family to go and see more of the world, giving us some life-changing adventures to look back on before starting a family. Avid readers will know what happened next, cue 10 months of travel around the world and all-the-time to think about what we might do when we got home…..
Big Dreams, No Job
Suddenly we were back in London with no jobs, full of ideas, with no clue on how we were going to achieve any of this. Luckily, my old school took me back 4 days a week contract teaching design and technology. The extra day off made a huge difference to my wellbeing and was well worth the 20% pay cut! In reality I’ve had to work harder than I did before just so I could get everything done but I actually prefer it this way. What’s more, I feel far more focussed when i’m in work being less tired and certainly more efficient. Although heading back in on a Friday after a day off feels plain wrong!
Whilst I’m busy working 4-days-a-week to pay the mortgage; Ali has all the fun, and frankly the far scarier task, of pioneering the ‘project business’. Ali’s decision to avoid re-employment in the fashion industry was more natural, she knew that designing mass produced clothing was not for her, especially after the balanced lifestyle of a year travelling (forgetting about plane travel!). But an exodus out of the clothing industry meant she was walking new ground, that classic line “do something every day that scares you” rings true. We put our heads and money together and invested in a laser cutter, which we’d use to manufacture something. When the laser cutter arrived we didn’t have a single product designed!
Move Fast, Break Things
But to make an omelet you have to break some eggs. To be honest, we chucked a whole box of 12 from a 10-storey car park! Every person who has pushed their own project into fruition has taken risks and made mistakes and luckily for us, buying a laser cutter wasn’t one of them. There were times of self-doubt and times when Ali was ever-so-close to taking a fashion industry job and giving up. Fortunately our year off gave us the confidence to know we could make it work and the short-term sacrifice was worth it. Months passed before we developed our first products and we had hoped to push online sales so we could sit back and let the couriers cart off our products around the country. I can tell you now e-commerce is not as easy as building a website and just letting the sales tally. The website is secondary to real people and their relationship to you, your products and your brand.
We quickly realised we just needed to get our stuff out in front of people and get feedback. By September we started to sell in London’s markets, in a trial and error fashion, until find customers who liked our stuff. Ali stood out in some very cold and wet weather to sell virtually no products quite a few times. As you can imagine our confidence was started wain. Fortunately we started to receive some great feedback and sales! Comments from customers and their rising purchases quickly communicated to us what people wanted and helped us refine our products so we could make them cheaper, re-sized or bring ideas together to create totally new ones. All the recent developments have been created out of a customer need, which is the best way to start any business!
We are even starting to get some commissions on larger furniture pieces and other homewares so it’s going to be really exciting to share those with you all in 2019. Remember, all of our products are inspired by our experiences from our travels, giving each piece a story and grounding.
Closure On A Year To Remember…
It seems unbelievable that in 2018 we’ve climbed to 5,400 metres in the Himalayas, camped in the Jordanian desert and started a business and sold products that we’ve handmade in our flat! If anyone is thinking about making a change, small or big, in your lifestyle….unieqivevely, you must do it! None of these changes would have seemed possible a couple of years ago, but now we can happily say that we are living lives we are enjoying and challenged by. I don’t say this like our business is done, completed, ticked off. It’s really not, and we’ve got lots of hard work to come. We spend much of our weekend either sanding or selling pieces of plywood! For the last few months we’ve been working 6/7 working days a week but it’s been worth it because we’ve had some fantastic news…..
…We broke even on our spending! That means we’ve earned enough to pay back everything we spent on the business including the expensive laser cutter, all the equipment and materials. We can confidently say that a lot can change in a year….. if you have the will that is. Bring on 2019!