Just starting out: Taking a leap of faith and switching careers

woman going through a career change

In this regular column, Andrea Kolokasi, Head of Business Development at Workspace, highlights hints and tips for burgeoning entrepreneurs, reflecting on insights from the inspiring business leaders within Workspace’s customer network.

Starting a business can be a nerve-wracking experience for any entrepreneur. Taking that leap of faith and switching careers, and potentially industry, is never easy. Communities are essential support networks during the setup and growth of any business; your immediate colleagues, those businesses around you, and your family and friends help make that initial step a little bit easier.

Taking the leap

Moving within industries might prove to be hard. However, starting up in a sector that you have little prior knowledge of – or background in – is something that really takes guts.

That’s exactly what Joanna Dai, Founder of ethical fashion brand Joanna Dai Limited did. Previously an investment banker at JP Morgan in New York and London, she set up her fashion brand after spotting a gap in the market to provide comfortable, professional clothes for working women. She drew on experience from her previous life, saying: “There were so many times that the tag or the lining on a garment would scratch or my skirt would ride up. It got frustrating and I wanted to change it.”

Going from investment banking to running a clothing brand, something in which she had no prior experience, was a test. So Joanna threw herself into the world of fashion: enrolling in a course at the London College of Fashion in design and pattern-cutting, followed by an unpaid fashion internship with Emelia Whitstead. In doing so, she put the groundwork in place that would ensure that her leap of faith would ultimately prove successful.

Assembling your community

While at the London College of Fashion, Joanna met Marion Thomas, a head of production with 30 years of experience in the industry. Marion has become a key part of her network and helped in getting the right team in place.

For many entrepreneurs, making sure you have a vibrant community around you is vital. Surrounding yourself with other entrepreneurs, start-up businesses and creative people encourages you to push your company further – through collaboration with like-minded businesses and gaining valuable business insight from networking events.

While other businesses might warn you just how hard it is starting a business, Joanna says it is worth persisting: “The entrepreneurial journey can be a rollercoaster, but it’s about having faith that you can do something.” She added: “As an entrepreneur, I think you have to be a real optimist. I doubt a realist, or a pessimist would take that initial bold step in the first place.”

Starting a new business can be a daunting prospect where success often appears to rely on your ideas alone. By choosing a flexible office provider you will have access to a supportive community  – a typical business centre, for instance, might house more than 100 like-minded, dynamic companies with a wealth of entrepreneurial experience – helping you overcome early obstacles and kick-start your business.

Andrea KolokasiAbout the author

Andrea Kolokasi is Head of Business Development at Workspace.

Workspace is a FTSE 250 London-based office provider that owns four million sq. ft. of commercial space, housing thousands of businesses ranging from start-ups to established companies – including Hugo Boss, Nutmeg, Citymapper, Bloom & Wild and Joanna Dai Limited.  

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