Starting a business: The leap from corporate life to entrepreneurship

Starting a business is daunting, exciting and one of the biggest learning curves you'll ever experience. Leaving the safety of an office job to become your own boss is not an easy decision. We spoke to an entrepreneur who's been there.

Starting a business: The leap from corporate life to entrepreneurship

“Pursue your dreams but do so in a realistic way.” – Julie Taylor

If you’re thinking about starting your own business, but need a little nudge in the right direction; or if you’re in the ‘starting’ business growth stage and feeling alone in your entrepreneurial journey, then this is for you.

We spoke to Julie Taylor – previously the Head of Communications in Sub-Saharan Africa for a large corporation – who took the leap of faith to leave the security of her full-time employment and start her own business. Guns & Rain is a curated online gallery of contemporary fine art from southern Africa.

Watch this short video as Julie gives us some insight into her journey, and read below for some advice on making the big leap.

1. Understand the real reason and motivation for starting a business

Julie left a great job because she wanted to do something she was truly passionate about. Whilst travelling, Julie was exposed to beautiful works of art by African artists who were often unsupported and struggling. This, coupled with her love for art, lead her to create a solution which she believed would give artists the platform to kickstart their careers.

Ask yourself if you really care about the business you want to start and the impact it will have – on yourself or the people who have inspired you to act.

Is your passion genuine, or is the motivation to start your own business because you don’t like your boss? Be clear on your reasons and intentions.

2. Speak to people you trust.

“It’s important to speak to other entrepreneurs because they know the highs and lows of what it means to start something from scratch and on your own.”

Seeking advice from other people does two things for you.

Firstly, it forces you to contextualise and vocalise your ideas and thoughts.

This may sound silly, but it’s surprising how often things make sense in your head but confuse others when you don’t provide enough information.

This is a chance to figure out how best to explain what you want to do in a way that’s captivating and easily understandable.

Secondly, it’s an opportunity to get honest feedback.

Some people could highlight weaknesses in your plan. Others might share knowledge of an industry’s landscape. And some could even inspire you with additional ideas.

Be cautious though. Whilst everyone has an opinion, be sure to do your homework before acting. Research, obtain factual information and data and then make an informed decision.

3. Research, then scrutinise your business plan

“Ideas are great but you must get everything down on paper and do your market research and homework.Once you’ve brought it all together ask yourself if your idea still works given what you’ve uncovered.”

To start, think of the uncertainties surrounding your idea. In Julie’s case, it was things such as:

  • Will people be willing to purchase art online if they haven’t seen it in real life?
  • What’s the best way to display art to ensure it’s appealing enough to lead to a sale?
  • Will artists be interested and willing to get involved in this project? What could hinder their involvement?
  • How will I make enough money to live?

In general, key areas to research are:

  • Target audience: Who are they, where are they, how big is the market, and what’s the best way to reach them?
  • Financial projections: How much will it cost to get things off the ground? What are the ongoing operational costs?
  • Capabilities: Do you have the required skills or a plan for how to acquire these skills?
  • Commitment: Can I guarantee a long-term commitment to this business – despite all challenges?

4. Be open to learning

Some people are natural learners. Other people aren’t and have to make a conscious decision to open themselves to learning.

Julie comes from a diverse background that includes anthropology, writing, corporate communications and finally, entrepreneurship. She’s learnt that you need to be open to learning, you need to be passionate about it, and be able to embrace things that you find challenging. Above all else, have the ability to learn from other people.

If you invest all you have into a new business, be willing to adapt in order to take things to the next level.

5. Maintain an income stream independent of your new business.

Watching your savings run out is extremely stressful. Especially while you’re still trying to get a business off the ground. It could also lead you to make rash decisions, like pushing a product before it’s ready because you need the income.

Julie recommends trying to keep a side job that you’re already qualified for or have experience in, such as consulting or freelancing. Even if it’s just for a few hours a week. Having a form of constant income will take the edge off a bit. It’s one less thing to worry about while you’re focusing on World domination.

Do you have any questions or concerns about starting your own business? Let us know by clicking this link and we’ll try our best to answer them.

About the author: Alice

Alice - Marketing Associate

Alice is a content junkie with a passion for crafting honest human focused stories. She did time at UCT on her B.Bus Sci degree, and completed it with all the bells and whistles. She has since focused on the digital marketing space working at a number of SA’s top agencies.

When she’s not interviewing entrepreneurs, attacking the keyboard or helping the team she’ll be exploring new wine farms in the Western Cape.

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