Step one: The big idea
The perfect coffee cup, an industry networking app, a towel that sees you through F45 ... can’t find what you’re after? "Create it," says Lottie Dalziel, Men's Health's Digital Content Manager and also the founder of Banish, an eco-friendly online marketplace. Start by looking for a problem in your day-to-day life, then try to solve it. “With Banish, I saw this massive gap in the market when I tried to reduce my own waste and found it really confusing,” Dalziel says. “I thought, I’ll use my skills in social media to tell the stories of [eco-friendly] companies, and create a marketplace for all their products.” Bonus: if you’re scouring your own life for inspo, chances are your ideas will be in areas you already enjoy. “At the end of the day, if you’re going to do something that’s your passion, it’s not going to feel like work,” says Dalziel.
Step two: Learn and leverage
With the web affording us more networking and swotting-up opportunities than ever, it’s a prime time to branch out into a new biz. When Claire Tonti and her husband founded Planet Broadcasting, an independent podcast network, she was on maternity leave from her job as a primary school teacher, and had never worked in the audio space before. “I remember googling ‘podcast advertising’ and finding some PDF on a website from 2001,” she says. “It was all self-taught.” Chloe Saintilan, an advertising-creative-slash-digital-product-strategist, began working on her yet-to-be-launched app (it’ll “bring the coupon into the 21st century”) a year and a half ago. With zero experience in coding, she went online to find an engineer who could turn her idea into reality. “I put it on a platform called Angel List, which connects people with side hustles to people in tech. This guy in the States got in touch and really loved the concept,” she says. “What surprised me was the amount of people who will lend knowledge or skills if they like your idea."
Step three: Drop the ball
Even Oprah and Sheryl admit to making massive mistakes throughout their careers. The key – as with most things in life – is a positive mindset. “The more rejections you get, the more you realise they don’t mean anything in the long run,” says Emma Gannon, a podcaster-slash-blogger-slash-author of The Multi-Hyphen Method, about how to “work less and create more”, whose career-slashing nous has even seen her meet the Queen. “Keep a good group of people around you for emergency pep talks, and a folder of nice messages and brilliant feedback in your inbox to remind you that you can do it.” Tonti adds, “I was very, very afraid of failing, but no one has made anything without making a huge amount of mistakes. Failing is what teaches, motivates and makes us grow.”
Step four: Share the load
If your boss is bringing pilates plans into board meetings? Slide this into her desk tray (anonymously, obvs): when Saintilan was developing her app concept, she struggled with burn-out, working all hours at home and on weekends to flesh out her idea while juggling her full-time job. “I started off keeping the idea to myself and got obsessed about it,” she says. “But it takes a load off when you share the idea and get other people involved.” Gannon also loves co-working spaces, where you can rent a desk in an office full of other small businesses and entrepreneurs. That way, you can draw the lines between work and home. “Try to give yourself ‘lieu’ days too,” she suggests. “For example, if I’m working all weekend on a crazy project, I’ll make sure I have time off in the week to relax, read and catch up with people. You get to design your week yourself.” And who doesn’t love that idea?
Just back yourself
Anna Whiteside works in finance HR while also running training-gear brand Unit Nine. Here, she shares how she juggles business with her corporate 9–5.
“We launched Unit Nine, which sells functional training gear with a luxe edge, about a year and half ago – I’ve probably learnt more in that time than I did in the five years before! HR has been my background since uni, so I had no experience in designing, manufacturing or sourcing. It was a whole learning process. It is not easy: with a full-time job, I have to be extremely disciplined with my time. I exercise, go to work, potentially check emails for Unit Nine at lunch, and then pretty much from the time I get home I’m working on the brand. I’m pretty tired, but you just have to think about the purpose in what you’re doing. From a personal development view it’s been amazing; all these problems you never thought you’d be able to solve, and then you find a way.
My advice? You just have to back yourself. And if it doesn’t work, what’s the worst that can happen? You’ve learnt lessons along the way, you’ve met some amazing people, you might have lost a bit of money but at least you’ll never die going, ‘Why didn’t I do it?’”