What did you used to do?
I’d always worked in the IT industry almost as soon as I’d left school, in the Service Management side so not particularly technical. I learnt a lot, made many friends and really enjoyed working for large companies such as IBM, Centrica and Computacenter. The industry is hard tough, long antisocial hours, continuous cutbacks, yearly rounds of redundancies and applying for your own job
What made you want to change?
I’d spent a few years contracting, and while the money was very good my last full time contract was particularly horrendous. Long, long hours, with little or no support and conflict with a manager. After 20 years in the industry, fast approaching 40 years old and weary of all the office politics, I decided I wanted to have a change.
How did you make a start?
I was working with glass as a hobby and really loved it, in fact my hobby was pretty much out of control and although I was selling pieces I needed sell more to fuel my habit!. One of my friends was looking to open a beauty salon and was in the process of looking at properties so I decided to start looking myself. I found a property in Chalfont St Peter and although the layout was perfect, the place needed gutting. After about a year of negotiation I finally signed the lease and got the keys. It was a very exciting day but then the renovations started.
How did you go about it?
I employed a builder to do all the building work, I also needed an electrician, plumber and flooring contractor. Literally everything needed replacing; floors, walls, ceilings, electrics and plumbing. I project managed it myself but it was difficult managing everyone’s time for them.
What were the challenges?
There was very little help out there, which I knew of, for people setting up shop. Everything I did was on my own. My one saving grace was I got a survey done. It was really worth the money and the surveyor gave me lots of good advice over and above his remit. There were damp and other problems with the property which the landlord had to sort out, that took an age. I had problems getting a phone line in therefore I was unable to set my alarm or take credit cards, this pushed back opening by a couple of months. Literally everything that could have gone wrong did! I ended up taking another short IT contract while all this was going on to keep the money coming in. Set up costs were in excess of £10k so the extra money really helped. I was then able to continue the contract on a part time basis for the first two years of the shop opening. During all of this I was also trying to make enough stock to fill the shop, not knowing what people would like or buy.
How long did it take?
The renovations took almost 6 months – not because it was massive project, but my builder was fitting me around other work. His costs were less than half of any other quotes. But from first negotiations to opening it took almost two years.
What would you do differently?
In hindsight I wouldn’t take on a rental property that needs too much work. The landlord now has a beautiful shiny new shop should anything happen to my business and I wouldn’t be entitled to any of the money I spent.
What do you do now and what does that look like?
I am a Glass Artist. I now have a much better idea of my customer base and the types of things they want and therefore sell. I realised early on that people are very interested in the process so I run workshops for children and adults. These have proved extremely popular and I have recently changed around the shop so I have a small working studio. This has made me much more productive during the day and saves me some hours during the evening when I would have carried on working to produce glasswork.
I have integrated myself into the community, currently standing as President of the Chamber of Commerce. We work hard to provide Community, Support and Promotion to the businesses of CSP – this is a full time job in itself! I also provide talks and demonstrations for various different groups – WI (Women’s Institute), VOPAG (Village Older Peoples Action Group) and the U3A (Third Age Uni) etc.
How has your life /work changed?
I work longer hours for much less money but I wouldn’t change it for the world! I love what I do, the community spirit in the village and the huge amount of support I am shown by everyone as well as the challenges my customers set me on a regular basis.
What top tips would you give to someone who really wants to change career?
Go for it! I always say nothing good ever happens in your comfort zone and if you don’t take a risk you’ll spend the rest of your life wondering ‘what if’