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From employee to business owner – taking the leap

Looking to make the transition from regular employee to owning a business? Discover how new business owners went from 9 to 5 to seeing their start-up thrive.

It takes courage to make the transition from working for someone else to running your own business. Don’t panic! You can draw on the skills and experience from previous jobs to give your start-up an advantage. Start Up Loans spoke to new business owners who have made the move from employee to entrepreneur.

It’s daunting to let go of the familiarity of working 9 to 5 in a job. Making your business idea a reality can feel like a lonely experience that demands a wide range of skills and experiences. Many new business owners have felt the fear of leaving employment, with its safety net of sick pay, holidays, staff perks, and help and support when you need it.

Whether you’re apprehensive about starting a business, or keen to learn and expand your skills to take on a new challenge, it’s important to realise you’re not alone. Many Start Up Loans applicants have successfully moved from jobs or unemployment to build a thriving business.

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Learn about the medical perspective, psychological perspective, and social need perspective to make sense of mental ill-health with our free making sense of mental health problems course. As part of our Learn with Start Up Loans partnership with the Open University, our online course is free to join, delivered by experts and includes a free statement of participation on completion.

Taking the leap from employee to entrepreneur

“You go from a job where you’re responsible for your projects and tasks, and you know who you’re reporting to,” says Nicola Patalong, co-founder of PO’Sh Creative, an integrated creative agency in the West Midlands that launched with the help of a £19,000 Start Up Loan.

“The next thing you know, you’re responsible for absolutely everything – from tax returns to paying the rent on your office to advertising your business. There’s so much responsibility. It can range from being quite manageable to quite overwhelming.”

If you’re unemployed when deciding to start your business, the pressures can be immense. Financial worries and a lack of a support network can lead to new business owners being afraid to get off the starting blocks.

“I was scared,” admits Michaela Alexander, founder of the Miles & Mia brand. “I had left my job. I had young kids. I didn’t know what I was going to do. Is this wise? But it gave me the time to realise that I’m going to do this book. It turned out to be the best thing ever and something that I’m so proud of.”


Learning new business skills

New business owners have to wear many hats. Yet many already have the skills and experience needed – even if they aren’t aware of the breadth and depth of them before embarking on their start-up journey.

Skills picked up in previous jobs can play a role in start-up success, says Susan Bonnar, founder of The British Craft House in Lee-on-the-Solent, which launched in 2019 with help from a £12,000 Start Up Loan.

“I was in the military for 23 years as an air traffic controller in the Navy. As a military officer, you want to fix things,” she says. “Needing to solve problems meant I was keen on doing that for myself. For instance, when I set up social media accounts, I watched videos, saw what the best practices are and what other people were doing. I learnt from other people by trial and error and not being satisfied with stopping until I’d solved the problem.”

Launching a new business is a positive challenge – and the chance to learn new skills that help you get closer to your business.

“I was a software engineer, so not gin-related at all,” reveals Emily Robertson, co-founder of Roundwood Gin in Cambridgeshire, which launched in 2017 with support from a £25,000 Start Up Loan. “There’s an element of when you’re working for a huge company, you’re a tiny cog in the machine. I wanted more. Starting your own business is the opposite. You’re suddenly every cog in the machine. And that’s what I wanted. I wanted to feel really connected with all aspects of the business.”


Developing a side hustle

One option for would-be business owners is to test your business idea before calling it quits on the day job. Going part-time or running your business in your spare time offers the chance to discover if your business idea is viable.

“We both had really good jobs and were getting lots of experience,” says Nicola. “We both had experience working in agencies and in-house, and we thought we could probably do this for ourselves. To get started, I went part-time, and my partner started freelancing to see if we could start to make money.”

However, there comes a time when you need to make the jump. “I was still working, basically, as long as I could while setting up the business,” Emily says. “I stopped about six months before launch. It just got too difficult to juggle both. I think it gets to a point when you’ve only got so much headspace and time in the day. And you’ve got to make the leap somewhere.”


Know your market

Many new business owners draw on their research and project management skills from previous jobs – and they’re handy skills to use when researching your market and competitors.

“I wasn’t really enjoying the construction industry at the time,” says Melissa Sinclair, founder of Big Hair + Beauty in London. As a surveyor, Melissa was able to bring her skills to bear on her new venture. “I started doing the research and investigating how brands are operating in the US and the market projections and realised there was potential in the UK.”


Filling the skills gap

The sheer number of roles a new business owner needs to take on can be off-putting. And while many of the skills and experience needed can be gleaned from previous jobs, new skills can be developed or outsourced.

If you’re looking to develop new skills, our Learn with Start Up Loans partnership with The Open University can help you improve your financial, marketing, project management and organisational skills.

Outsourcing is also an option, according to Daniel Edwards, who founded D&K Accounting in Yorkshire & The Humber with help from a £25,000 Start Up Loan.

“Running a business is very different from having a job,” says Daniel. “Overnight, you become the administrator, the payroll person, the accounts person, the marketer, the publisher – and most people don’t have the depth of skill to do everything. So you have to outsource. Understand what you’re good at and invest money in somebody else who is better than you in certain areas. That reaps the rewards.”

Learn with Start Up Loans and help get your business off the ground

Thinking of starting a business? Check out our free online courses in partnership with the Open University on being an entrepreneur. Our free Learn with Start Up Loans courses include:

Plus free courses on finance and accounting, marketing, project management, management and leadership.

Disclaimer: While we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.

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