7 Tips on how to turn your passion into a business

By Decorcafe Expert, Rebecca J Mills

For many people, the idea of quitting a full-time, stable job and going it alone, sounds like the scariest thing ever and it can be. I know there are a lot of people out there who really want to start their own business and do what they love every day. In this blog I am going to share my experience of turning my passion for interior design and fashion into my business and lifestyle brand that I have today. I hope to even inspire just one person who is thinking about doing the same to take the leap and put faith in themselves!

My top tips are:

1. Identify your passion and what really drives you
2. Listen to your gut instinct
3. Be brave enough to take the leap
4. Officially launch your business
5. Celebrate every business success
6. Review, adjust, make mistakes and grow!
7. Surround yourself with people that believe in you.

1. Identify your passion and what really drives you.

Since a young age, I’ve always been fascinated by home interiors. I would always be changing my small bedroom round to gain a different perspective and remember the excitement of going to bed in what felt like a new room.

When I was at University I loved creating wall collages; from pretend mantel pieces with a fireplace, complete with flames, to a floor to ceiling patchwork of tiny Vogue front covers. It’s a shame I don’t have any photos of them, but I still remember them vividly.

In my early twenties I travelled for a few years and my fascination with print and pattern grew.
I took endless photos of repeating objects, whether these were racks of shoes in an Indian market or pebbles on a beach in Bali. I loved looking at how the same object filled up the lens and the finished photo. At this point I think I took colour for granted, as everything seemed so colourful.

It’s clear that home interiors, colour and creativity were always something that excited me from a young age, but I didn’t fully embrace this until later in life, as I got caught up in other things. I encourage you to look around and notice your passions; start to harness them and imagine what it would be like to do what you love for work.

2. Listen to your gut instinct.

When I came back to the UK I continued my career that I had started previously as a Buyer/Product Developer. It seemed like the “right” thing to do but I felt all the inspiration from travelling stayed with me.

I always worked closely with designers and I loved the partnerships we built in creating a vision for each collection. I felt very lucky as the role of a Buyer requires you to travel quite extensively and I was able to absorb more of the world while working. This was the ultimate job for me at this point, but there was still something missing.

After thinking about starting a family, it became obvious that a role with lots of travel was not going to work for my family unit, so I moved into licensing working for Global companies. Although looking back at the experience I acquired is amazing, I really didn’t feel like it was a good fit.

For many years I had been thinking about starting my own business and I knew it would be something involving home interiors. I was finally listening to what my gut had been telling me all along. I knew now that this was my real passion but I had to figure out a way to make it my reality.

I carried on in the corporate world for some time and once my young family was a little older and I started to have some space to think and I began to get back in touch with my passion.

I think you always know what your gut is telling you, you just need to listen. The hard part is working out how to make the dream a reality.

3. Finding the moment to be brave enough to take the leap.

A pivotal moment was when my husband bought me a place on a course at Chelsea College of Arts in Textile Printing. In the first hour of the first day, I knew this was what I wanted to do. I went on to study print design for 3 years while still working, which led to many late nights and early mornings, but I was totally inspired and dedicated. It was even clearer now that this was my passion and the hard work and late nights were worth it for something that I loved so much.

After the 3rd year I realised the time was right to take the leap and leave my job and start out on my own; I knew that it wasn’t feasible to run my own business while still in a job. Over the 3 years of study, I’d grown in confidence and belief in myself; I read a lot of books about mindset and I knew that if I didn’t take the leap at that point, I probably never would. Crucially over the years I’d saved enough money to give myself a good start financially. So I finally jumped and I have to say I’ve never looked back.

Sometimes I wish I had done this earlier in my life and think of where I’d be now if I had, but the truth is I believe I needed to gain all the work experience to really understand the business side of things. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still on a very steep learning curve, but it feels different when you’re doing it for yourself.

If I’m honest I spent years planning the moment up until my leap. It was something I always had in the back of my mind. Yes it is all about belief, confidence and the right mindset, but the fact that I saved towards it was a big part. I think this is important to point this out, as personally I wouldn’t advise anyone to go for it without knowing they have some kind of financial safety net at least for the first 6 months to a year.

4. Officially Launch your business.

I officially launched at Top Drawer London back in Jan 2019. I was part of the Spotted section, which was for first time exhibitors who had never done a trade show before. It was such a great group of designers and makers curated by the extraordinary Charlotte Abrahams. I can honestly say my first experience was fantastic! It was nerve wracking and hard work, but worth it in every way.

I got to meet so many wonderful buyers and interior designers who gave me so much more confidence about my brand and what to do next. This was amazing for me as I was finally fully engaged in the industry that I wanted to be a part of. It finally felt real.

Everyone’s launch will be different. It doesn’t have to be something as big as exhibiting at a trade show. That might not be right for your industry or business. It could just be an instagram post to your followers announcing the business or an opening party for your shop. Just something that marks a turning point for you, where you can say that you are officially open for business.

5. Celebrate every business success.

I was shocked to learn at Top Drawer that I was shortlisted for the Spotted Award in which my designs stood out as one of the brands to watch out for. I felt elated that my brand had been highlighted for something like this in the early stages.

It is important to celebrate every business success, however small or big. Running your own business is also challenging and you need to remember why you have the passion for what you do in the first place. Celebrating success is a way to keep your passion alive.

Since then I have gone on to do a few more shows such as West Elm pop up and The Decorcafe Christmas Festival at Strawberry Hill House. The last show was incredible and it will be sad not to be there again this year but glad to know that it is doing a virtual event.

6. Review, adjust, make mistakes and grow!

Once you’ve started your business you’ll be surprised where things take you. No one really knows what they’re doing all of the time and actually making mistakes is the best way to learn. When I first set up my business, I was a bundle of nervous energy and felt I needed to anchor myself, so I signed myself up to a lot of emails and courses to gain advice on how to run a small business. Of course some of these were useful, but there were so many, it eventually became one big noise and so much of my time was taken up and I wasn’t actually moving my business to where I wanted it to be. I soon realised that I need to find my confidence and stand on my own two feet and only look for help on specific topics, as I moved on my journey. Making these mistakes helps you grow and become more aware of how you want your business to be.

You have to take hold of opportunities when they come around too. It’s always been a dream of mine to have a retail shop, and this is now a reality for me! I have an online store and also share a physical shop in Teddington with the wonderful floral designer and stylist Cassandra King. This has been shut recently due to Covid 19, but reopened on 2nd July and we can’t wait to see all our lovely customers again, from a distance.

7. Surround yourself with people that believe in you.

While I was studying, I had to let a lot of other things go in order to focus. This raised a few questions with friends and family and I started to realise who doubted my vision and who was really behind me and supportive. These opinions of others carried through to when I launched my business. I remember feeling quite shocked and saddened by some people’s reactions.
It wasn’t until 9 months in, when I mentioned it to someone I work with quite closely and she said the same thing had happened to her and that she had consciously moved away from people that didn’t believe in her. I’ve taken on this advice and it’s really made a huge difference. There are so many people out there who will believe in you and want to support you, there’s really no point in spending time with those that don’t.

The current situation with Covid 19 has been unplanned for everyone, but another opportunity for me to review my business and adjust to the situation. I had to focus more energy on online sales and have used the time at home to work on new products and designs for my new collection. Despite all this craziness the business is still growing and I am excited for you all to see what’s next for my brand.

Rebecca J Mills

 

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