Believe
Five Incredible Career Changes To Inspire Your Inner Entrepreneur
Words by AMERLEY OLLENNU
Photography by ANNA SHVETS
Believe
Five Incredible Career Changes To Inspire Your Inner Entrepreneur
Words by AMERLEY OLLENNU
Photography by ANNA SHVETS
Be it a life-long passion, a new love or a lightbulb moment, inspiration to launch your own business can come in many forms. You just have to be open to it - as these five women will tell you…

Are you thinking of making a career change? Good news. AllBright's exclusive research has painted a positive picture of women’s work prospects post-Covid.

Rather than feeling tired and defeated, women are motivated and fighting for the change they want to see in their careers. In fact, 61% of the women we surveyed left lockdown with hopes of a total career shake-up, while three quarters of women are now hoping to start their own businesses. Proving their resilience, 1 in 4 women have already put the wheels in motion to launch their new venture, confirming that the setbacks of 2020 won’t last for long.

With over half of those surveyed foreseeing new opportunities on the horizon post-pandemic, we hear from five women that have already taken the leap of faith to change direction themselves.

From School Teacher To Beauty Brand Founder

Zara Saleem, 31, London 

“I come from a family of educators, so teaching always seemed a natural step. I started as an energetic, single 23-year-old who didn’t mind staying late to mark up to 120 books and plan my lessons. However, four years later, I was married with an 8-month-old baby and another on the way. I just knew that my heart was no longer in full-time teaching and to carry on didn’t feel fair to anyone. So, after my second daughter was born, I decided to become a stay-at-home mum.   

"However, that decision didn’t last long. While I was pregnant with my second, I developed a skin condition that no over-the-counter medication could treat. I took matters into my own hands and formulated a body scrub using the Ayurvedic principles that had been taught to me by my Indian family when I was growing up. That scrub is now the bestselling product from my beauty brand Delhicious, a company I run around my childrens' schedule.

"It was a challenge to start my own business; working from home with two small children in tow was no mean feat. Plus, I had absolutely no experience, which meant Google became my BFF.

"After just one year in business I’d sold over 100,000 units of my scrub. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve had setbacks but going it alone has been so rewarding. Not having to compromise time with my kids makes it even more so.”

From Yoga Instructor To App Founder

Alyson Friedensohn, 30, San Francisco 

“A few years ago, I made a move across the country, got laid off from my job as a hot yoga instructor, was dumped by my then-boyfriend and my new apartment building had a massive flood, leaving me homeless. My own yoga practice was my saving grace but I was so stressed I decided to see a therapist, too.

"But it turned out that finding a therapist wasn’t so easy. At the time I called 30 people, most didn’t get back to me and those who did weren’t taking on new patients. Although I eventually found a brilliant one, the whole process was the catalyst for my app Modern Health – a one-stop platform to increase accessibility to mental health services for all; from online coaching courses and meditations, to virtual and in-person check-ins with licensed therapists. 

"I had previously worked for a few different digital health start-ups, so I wasn’t exactly going in blind, but this was still unknown territory for me in terms of running my own business. I launched at the beginning of 2019 and the business is growing like crazy. I now have over 90 customers including the likes of Twitter, Peloton, Pixar, Nextdoor and Gusto. The platform is live across 25+ countries and in 30+ languages, and we’ve raised a total of $45 million in funding. 

"I still teach yoga to this day because it’s one practice I know will help me centre and disconnect from the 'working' world, while still feeling connected to something greater.”

From Video Producer To Life Coach

Willow McDonough, 42, Lisbon/San Francisco

“I was working in my first corporate position at a huge start-up in Silicon Valley, creating video content for five brands. After two years I was laid off, with my boss telling me our relationship simply ‘wasn't a good fit’.

"I knew in my gut that corporate America wasn't for me, and I'd already thought about travelling solo around South America. This was the push I needed and travelling for three months helped me regain a new sense of confidence and fearlessness. I started to think about what I really wanted from life and it was to be outside of the 9-5 office structure, with more human connection that had a positive impact on myself and others.  

"For a while I felt paralysed by the potential judgment if I changed careers. But as I reached 40, I knew that I had to let go of my fear of failure, judgement, and self-doubt and start living my truth. 

"So, I chose to pursue a career as a coach, and am now a certified Life & Success Coach, NLP Practitioner [Neuro Linguistic Programming], EFT Practitioner [Emotional Freedom Techniques], and Hypnotherapist. I learned how to focus on the subconscious mind to release limiting beliefs, self-sabotaging behaviours and habits - and in the process my own life changed dramatically. Now, I host a podcast called Carve Your Own F*cking Path and offer a personalised one-on-one programme under the same name – inspiring and helping people to live the life they really want.”

From Banker To Jeweller

Marilyne Kékéli, 34, United Kingdom

“Two years ago, after a 12-year career in investment banking, I took a sabbatical and moved back to Paris, where I’d started my working life. I smelled a lot of flowers, and did a lot of self-work to figure out what I wanted to do next.

"I come from a family that loves art and design and beautiful things and, in fact, when I was younger I'd wanted to work in luxury retail. But a difficult internship at a luxury fashion house in Paris - with a manger who forced me to chemically straighten my afro hair - put the kibosh on that and I’d pursued finance instead. But coming back to Paris reawakened that creativity and love of beauty, so I enrolled on a jewellery design course.

"That’s how my jewellery brand Mamater was born. I now make statement jewellery that can be worn in a conservative boardroom as well as at a glitzy cocktail party and everywhere in-between. They’re akin to pieces of art and are inspired by the shapes and interior architecture I saw in my childhood home in Lóme in Togo, West Africa. This made the challenge of learning the ins and outs of a brand-new industry and all the time it took for me to figure out a system that would work for my business totally worth it. Mamater is still small, but I’m working every day to develop my offering and continue to grow.”

From Local Government Policy Officer to Baker

 Rhiannon Abbott, 38, Epsom

“I went straight from university to working in local government and stayed there for seven years. Following various staff re-organisations, I’d become quite unhappy in a role I no longer recognised, and left in 2012.

"I was doing temp work when I discovered Bread Angels – an organisation that trains people to set up their own bread bakeries from home. I’ve baked since I was a child, and this was the perfect opportunity to use my skills in business. I launched The Epsom Bakehouse through an occasional stall on Epsom marketplace where I sold 70% of my breads on my first day. Next I secured a stall at my local farmers market and built a loyal customer base. 

"I also began running bread-making classes and discovered that I loved to teach. So much so that this has now become the focus of my business. During the pandemic I moved my classes online and they keep on growing. 

"Taking a risk by changing careers has paid off but I had to learn to do a lot of new things, from running my social media to building a website, keeping financial records and doing tax returns and learning how to market and grow my business. I found that working alone left me feeling lonely at times but I’ve joined several very supportive online networks for small business owners. Having a professional support network is crucial if you're running your own business. It’s great to have people to bounce ideas off, chat to and learn from as we all go through similar challenges.”

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