Helen Brimacombe, the co-founder of Lister & Bruce Ltd, a childrenswear company, shares her story of leaving a well paid job in marketing to work for herself.
Over to my old school friend, Helen and her inspiring experience.
I can’t tell you how many times in the past year people have told me how brave I am or even how many more have said, ‘I wish I could just do what you’ve done’, so I thought I would write about my experience going from the rat race to a band of 2.
In the summer of 2017, I decided that after 15 years working for other people, I was done and wanted to do something for myself, so I left a secure job in a marketing agency to embark on something completely different. The driving force behind my decision was flexibility and seeing my children for more than 10 minutes a day while shouting, ‘get your shoes on’ for the hundredth time!
I wanted to be there to help with homework and to take them to their tennis lessons, and to not have to rely on my parents and after-school clubs every day. Anyone that works for a marketing agency knows that late evenings come with the territory, and you are constantly at the demand of your clients, so planning in advance not to work one night, or to leave early, can be tricky.
It took me a while to actually pluck up the courage to leave as I had been at the agency in question for nearly 10 years and had made some wonderful friendships, but I knew the time had come to try something else.
Leaving a stable, established position, without a job to go to was scary and meant big changes for us as a family (no more daily Starbucks Lattes for a start!). At first, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and even looked into other salaried jobs but I soon realised that nothing was going to offer me the flexibility I needed.
It is such a shame that there isn’t more of a focus on flexibility within the workplace for parents. Like most, I am not work-shy and am happy to put in the hours but it would be nice to do it around my children so I’m able to actually see them and be at Sport’s Day and nativities without feeling guilty.
I had to make a decision and it was clear the only way I could do this, was to be my own boss, so at the end of 2017, Lister & Bruce was born.
My sister-in-law who lives in Dubai also dreamt of moving back to Yorkshire and over Christmas last year and a few too many mulled wines, we decided to go into business together in the hope that our success would eventually mean her being back here for good. Claire’s mum (My MIL) has been making accessories and toys for our children since they were born and we had always received compliments about them, usually because they’re equally unique and purposeful, always helping with our children’s learning and development.
We used these ideas as our inspiration and to cut a long story short, ended up putting our creativity to use by designing a collection of children’s sleepwear.
We wanted it to be the highest quality and over many rounds of designs, we came up with our clever cuffs concept – matching wrist and ankle cuffs on the left and right to support little ones in dressing themselves and knowing which way round to put on their pj’s. This was a real turning point as we had created something that was original and would set us apart from all the other kids’ pyjamas on the market.
MyJamas was born in the spring of 2018 and we spent the next few months finalising designs and sourcing the right factory – something we had never done before… We feel so fortunate to have found a family-run factory in northern Portugal who are just as passionate about quality and organic materials as we are. The launch to market has been a bit of a blur and has meant putting in long hours but we wouldn’t change it for the world.
I have designed and manufactured a full collection of beautiful pyjamas which I’m so proud of! I have created a brand, built a website and started a social media following to support the launch, and growth of the brand and I’ve learned so much throughout.
The reviews to date have all been 5* and the support from friends and family has been overwhelming, I am so pleased to have been able to create something that people actually love and want to buy.
I was fortunate enough to be able to take the time to do this without a salary coming in and I know I couldn’t have done it whilst working my old job, but it has meant some changes to allow this, fewer holidays and no more shopping at Waitrose, and I’d like to say we go out less, but who am I kidding? We have a 3 and 6-year-old so we barely go out as it is!
Seriously though, if anyone is considering setting up themselves, it is hard work and I do miss my salary and not having to think about spending or buying this season’s must-have outfit, but the benefits far out way the sacrifices.
If you can’t afford to leave your current job, maybe even look for a part time job to allow you the time to start working on your own side business. Working at midnight on something you’ve created yourself doesn’t hold any of the stress or resentment I personally once felt when doing it for someone else, and even waking up in the middle of the night to do something I have forgotten that day is all part and parcel and feels satisfying.
I get to take my kids to school almost every day, I can put them to bed at night and enjoy reading them stories instead of rushing them and worrying about someone else’s deadline I need to hit. Claire and I have found a way to work together from afar with plenty of FaceTime and Skype calls and we are both determined to make this a success. We already have lots more ideas for new collections and avenues we want to explore so this is just the start.
Lister & Bruce is still only months old so have no illusion it will be easy, but I am excited to see where it takes us and I’m looking forward to the future. Watch this space!
Excitingly you can win a pair (ages are from 1-5) worth £24.
Ends 28th Feb 2019
If the winner does not respond, a new winner will be randomly selected.
No cash alternative.