Back on this day in 2013, I left my flat in North London and went to my job in a Buying Office for the final time. I had fantasised about this day for years… hell, I’d even made a playlist dedicated to it. Today marks five years since I quit my day job to set up my business.
Today, I’m so grateful I did that, and that this is now my life - I never take a day of it for granted. Oh Squirrel started as a hobby, became a side hustle, and now is a fully fledged company… and it’s all because I took a leap of faith.
When I set up Oh Squirrel, it was merely for something to do on an evening. I worked in Fashion and was growing more and more disinterested in it. Alright, I’ll level with you - by the end I hated it. It wasn’t one thing in particular, but working in corporate office was a big factor. Being told off for choosing the wrong colour button had started to eat away at me, and together with generally feeling unhappy with life, I wasn’t having the great time that I had hoped my twenties would be. Going home to make cards gave me a sense purpose, and when they became in demand, I felt like I had found what could be my way out.
Leaving a stable job to set up a business wasn’t something that was easy. I had few savings and nobody to depend upon financially. I was lucky enough to find part time work as a bookkeeper, employed by a wonderful lady who found me through Twitter, which served me well for my first year whilst figuring things out.
I’ll level with you - when I left the ‘real job’ I gave myself a year to make things work. During this year I made all the financial sacrifices I could think of - my food budget was £10 a week and my outgoings were strictly bills and business expenses. If I couldn’t make it work, then at least I’d given it my best shot, throwing every hour I had into working away on this idea in the hope it would work.
Spoiler alert… it did.
This post isn’t intended to be a ‘how I did it’ or celebrating every step of the journey - it’s just a momentous occasion I feel is worth marking. As a business owner, you always hear about everyone’s secret ‘alternate career’ (often from complete strangers) and as someone who has managed it, I wanted to share that it is possible. My intention isn’t for this to be a humble brag, I’m just sharing a little of my story.
To say this business has changed my life would be entirely correct. My life is wonderful, and I owe so much of my happiness to the people who had a little belief. My first customers who emailed out of the blue based on an Instagram or twitter post, the wedding clients who trusted me when I had just a shred of a portfolio, the shops who boldly placed orders when my line list didn’t even exist - people who put faith in me are the reason I’ve been able to grow, both as a brand and as a person. When I was 25 and leaving that office, I cried. Not because I was going to miss it, but because I was terrified, and didn’t have that many people who thought I was doing the right thing. It was a lonely time and feels a million miles away from where I am today. I don’t think anyone from back then would recognise me now.
Looking forwards is something that doesn’t scare me so much these days. Running a business still remains challenging, and in the current economic climate I’d be lying if I didn’t frequently think about throwing the towel in when I have a bad day. In the last year there have been some serious challenges and I know that there are more lurking around every corner. I’m grateful to have a brilliant support network, which is one of the most important things I’ve worked on, and try and see everything as an opportunity and not a threat (see, the fashion buying experience doing SWOT analysis certainly comes in useful!)
In terms of the future itself, things look good. I’m currently working on an entirely new range that will launch this Autumn, which is something a bit different product-wise. I, as myself and not as Oh Squirrel, am looking to work on a few creative projects outside of (but linked to) the business too.
Knowing what I know now, I wondered about what advise I would give my past self. I think the first bit might have been to take a bit of time off to travel before doing this - running a business is a huge commitment and there are times when it’s ruined many a special occasion! The second would have been to find a mentor and invest in a bit of training, and the third (I could probably do 1,000,000, but let’s stick to 3!) would be to have that self belief. I researched my ideas inside out, so I should have been more confident, but I now understand that comes with experience.
I hope there are many more years to celebrate, and celebrating I certainly shall be! Learning to to be proud of all the little victories is something I highly recommend, whether that be an ice cream for successfully installing a wifi printer, or taking a holiday when reaching a business goal.
Thank you to everyone who has bought a card, wished me well, commissioned a project, booked their wedding stationery, hung a print in my hand writing, bought a sash… everyone who has been part of this journey.