I am grateful to Beki Gowing who has shared her story of changing direction by leaving a safe job to set up a business. I found some of Beki’s business tips really helpful and I hope you do too.
“I remember sitting in a meeting with my boss, and senior management from numerous other teams. She’d had a great idea, and was trying to get it passed through the bureaucracy of the business. As I watched her negotiate numerous complexities, watering down her idea with each one and taking on more and more work, I realised that I didn’t want her job.
On paper I was in a great position. I’d left university with a first class degree, and won a place on the highly competitive John Lewis Graduate Scheme. I’d been there three years and was working as an Assistant Buyer in their home ware department. I ran projects, travelled to overseas factories, managed a small team, and created products to sell in shops. However I had never fallen in love with the job, and missed the creativity and freedom I’d experienced while studying textile design at university, freelancing as a designer, and interning with fashion and design companies.
Deciding to leave was a big, terrifying decision, as I loved the people I worked with, and knew I was leaving a safe, secure job for something unknown and very risky. I spent over six months researching, planning and securing funding to see if my business was possible. I would recommend anyone considering starting a business to get as much support as possible. Try and go to as many networking events, trade shows, webinars, and free events, and see what free support is available from your local council, chamber of commerce, and local groups. You will get lots of unhelpful advice, but ideas and feedback from people who aren’t involved with your business, and the feeling that you’re not on your own, will make a huge difference.
I set about creating what would become Print & Press, London in the evenings, weekends, tube journeys, and any spare time I had. I knew the important thing was to create a point of difference with my company, so it could offer something different and better than other fabric printing companies in the UK. One of the easiest ways to start creating an identity for your company is to look at your competition. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and visit websites, shops, and markets. Find out what you like, what seems overly complicated, what seems to be missing, and decide on your unique selling points. I decided that Print & Press, London should give excellent, personal customer service; have an easy to use website; clear, easy to understand prices; and a focus on high quality professional prints suitable for designers and businesses. These aims gave me the foundation for the business, and everything we do relates back to this.
When I left my job (with lots of tears, and a small amount of panic), I thought I was cutting ties with my buying career, and starting something completely new. Since then, I’ve realised the opposite is true, and the importance of playing to my strengths. Most of our customers are small businesses and designers, who want to sell their products to earn an income. My previous retail and buying experience has been invaluable, as I have been able to offer support and advice on pricing, working with suppliers and retailers, launching collections, and building a strategy. I do this partly through our blog and weekly emails to help our customers grow their business, and am looking to develop this further to offer bespoke training and coaching. This is an avenue I would never have considered when I set up Print & Press, London, and I would encourage anyone considering starting a business to think about all of their skills (even if they seem unrelated) to see if they can be incorporated.
The past year has been tough, and I have had too many top of the world highs, and ‘I’ve made the biggest mistake’ lows to count. But not only do I now want my job, but I have the power to make my ideas happen without watering anything down.”
Beki Gowing is the founder and Manager of the digital fabric printing company Print & Press, London. They help customers to print their own fabric, and create printed textiles for numerous small fashion and homeware brands in the UK.
Are you thinking about leaving a safe job to set up a business?”