Two years ago, over Christmas, I was on a beach in the Philippines. It was a deserted beach, and this lady just decorated her beachfront with things made out of natural materials: silver stars wrapped with aluminum foil, straws made of bamboo, bowls made of coconut shell… People were crafty, resourceful. With no money, they were able to make something out of nothing. At the time, my partner was writing a blog. He asked me, if I’d write something, what would it be? I thought, it would be about crafts, and travel. That’s how we came up with the name Crafty Nomad.
I worked as an Event Manager in a law firm for about 12 years. The company used to spend at least thirty thousand pounds a year on corporate giveaways, the stuff that people pick up at the conferences, but when they get home, they’d throw it away.
One of my buyers used to buy Teddys imported from China. It had a ribbon with the company logo around its neck. I thought, instead of that, why don’t we buy these brightly colored animals made of waste plastic flip-flops? We can tag them with the company logo; plus, the clients can select different animals each year and make their own safari. So I convinced my buyer to take 650 units from Ocean Sole, a social and environmental enterprise based in Kenya. It turned out that the animals were such a success that the stand was emptied within the first few hours.
I started the startup course six months before leaving the company, as I knew I needed to find something else. You work your career 10, 12 years down the road. You are good at what you do, you get promoted, but you reach a point where you start to wonder: is that all? Is project management all what I can do? But I am also interested in finance, sales, business development, and marketing. If you limit yourself to the only thing that you’ve done, then you tend to get comfortable in this one little box. We all have our creative sides. For me, to set up my own business is the opportunity to try everything. That’s it. A small business like mine, I price it, I deal with freight, which is very new to me; I make mistakes. But it’s all part of the process. Every time I buy something, it’s always a different quantity, or a different destination country. So it’s always kind of a new experience. Of course, it comes with the downsides, such as lack of stability that I was used to. But generally, I just feel so much more satisfied, free and happy, because I’m tapping into every different skill set, and I am learning something new all the time.
Until you jump out of your comfort zone, and until you look fear straight in its face – that’s when things start to fall into place. By stepping out of the stability and the routine, by being spontaneous and open to new possibilities, by embracing the unknown, not having any backup plan – that’s when miracle happens. When I quit my job, I’ve got nothing lined up. One week before I ran out of money, I got a freelancer job working for the New York Times. It allowed me to sustain myself while setting up my own business. That would have never happened if I had planned it three months in advance. You just got to go for it. Jump, and something will catch you. It will probably lift you up even higher than where you were before. Trust that it’s going to work, because it will. That’s what I’ve found. Every time I have doubts about my sales, or start thinking my business is such a silly idea, then I get an email: “hi, I really like your product, can I order some?”
I know I can always make more money, but I don’t need so much money. I’m actually at the poorest stage that I’ve ever been since university, but I have everything I need. When you work at a corporate job that you hate, you end up going into all sorts of therapies. Because the week has been stressful, you feel like you deserve loads of wine, an expensive massage, or you got to go shopping. It’s never enough. The more money you earn, the more problems you have. But when there’s less money, you think more about how you spend it. If it’s a salary, it comes in, it goes out. It doesn’t really matter. But when the money comes because of a sale you made, a client you got after having worked on it for months, that’s when you really earned it. You’d save every penny and you’d only buy what is really needed.
If you could have your own business, something that brings you joy, makes you enough money to live the life you want, but something that is also doing good for the world – then you are lucky. But if you are still working in a corporate, thinking that you can’t make any impact – that is not true. If I were still working as an event manager, I would make my company consume more responsibly, and I would feel I’ve done my bit. I think we should all be giving back, whichever way is feasible. Start with yourself, that’s what I would say.