I always find other people's stories of how they quit their day jobs to run their own business incredibly interesting and since it's really easy to forget how quickly things change, I thought I would write my own business biography.
2010 - 2011
I was really into illustration and design so I went to a few zine fairs, started making friends and meeting people online and then I joined Etsy and started a "hobby shop" selling zines, badges, notebooks, tote bags, and costume jewellery. At this point it wasn't for profit, it was something I enjoyed doing and it wasn't ever something I considered to be a potential job in the future. I was having fun making things, selling them for little to no profit, and being part of the handmade community.
In 2011 I designed a series of silhouette brooches hand cut with a scalpel from plastic. These brooches became pretty popular so I dropped the illustrated notebooks, tote bags, and badges and started selling more jewellery. The jewellery I sold was created using brass chain and findings with cabochons featuring clippings from vintage books.
During 2011 (or maybe early 2012?) I applied to Crafty Fox and sold at my first market. I did surprisingly well considering I still didn't think of my shop as a proper business, I still considered Oh My Clumsy Heart to be a hobby. I didn't have a business plan, products weren't priced for profit, and I wasn't doing much in the way of marketing but I was networking and making connections.
Late 2011, I continued to sell the silhouette brooches, dropped the costume jewellery, and started working on new designs. I also met Jack Spicer Adams and started travelling to Birmingham regularly to visit him.
In 2012 I started designing and making high quality jewellery using sterling silver and gold. These materials weren't cheap but instead of taking out a loan or relying on credit, I funded everything by working full time. I bought a domain and set up a Big Cartel shop but kept the Etsy shop running alongside it. After working on SEO and marketing, attending more handmade markets, and being featured on a few websites, Oh My Clumsy Heart started getting more attention; certain designs became popular and the shop began getting more regular sales along with its first UK stockist.
Halfway through the year, PayPal contacted me to say my account with them was "very active" and I needed to confirm whether I was a business or not. Until then I was still thinking of Oh My Clumsy Heart as a hobby; I officially registered myself as a self-employed sole trader with the HMRC and in August 2012 Oh My Clumsy Heart officially became a business. I started reading as much as I could about running a small business, began pricing for profit and actively began seeking wholesale stockists.
Christmas 2012 was busy, I took Oh My Clumsy Heart to more markets including Crafty Fox again and Craftacular, which were both incredibly successful. Oh My Clumsy Heart also gained several new stockists. Two months before Christmas, I quit a job working in retail and found a new position working as a marketing assistant for a private company. I went from working at a job that made me completely miserable where the people I worked with didn't take my business seriously, to working with a wonderful group of incredibly supportive people. They understood and respected my commitment to the new business and without that support, I don't think Oh My Clumsy Heart would have grown the way it did.
2013 - 2014
Things moved pretty quickly between 2013 to 2014.
The more I learned about Etsy and its restrictions, the less it appealed and I started to promote the website more. I made the decision to focus on selling through Big Cartel, stopped promoting the Etsy shop, and encouraged people to shop there instead. The move to Big Cartel was an immediate success and that had a lot to do with being able to imprint branding and aesthetic values into the shop's design. Oh My Clumsy Heart had one last Christmas in 2013 and then ceased trading completely on Etsy.
In 2013 I really invested time and energy into online marketing and distinct branding. I sold at five markets over the Christmas period including Crafty Fox, Craftacular, and Renegade; I introduced a whole new range of products; I worked on improving key areas such as branding and packaging; Oh My Clumsy Heart gained more new stockists.. and I started planning to move from Kent to Birmingham. I was working 14-hour+ days and suffering from stress pretty bad, I got sick a lot and I felt drained every day. I needed a break.
As part of our application process for an apartment and studio space in Birmingham, we had to provide business plans that proved our businesses were financially viable. The entire process was frustrating, upsetting, and rage inducing - I hated every moment of it. There was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing with a lot of dead space inbetween. But writing a business plan was the best thing I ever did for the business. Up until that point I didn't really know where the business stood financially; physically seeing, in writing, that Oh My Clumsy Heart was financially stable was like that feeling you get after holding your breath for too long. After six months (!) we were told we had been accepted, the place was ours, and in May 2014, I moved to Birmingham.
The initial plan went something like this: quit my job, move to Birmingham, maybe take a few weeks off to settle in, look for a new (maybe part time) job, and aim at becoming full time self-employed in early 2015. Before I'd even moved I was thinking, "if not now, then when?" I had more than 6 months worth of living expenses saved; I had stock, materials, and equipment set up; I could walk into the city centre, and I didn't have to commute anymore.. I also realised the business had grown to the point where it wouldn't grow unless I quit. The more I thought about it, the more sense it made; I realised I had spent the last four years saving money and I'd forgotten what I was saving it for.
As of May this year I have been full time self employed and I cannot express how happy that makes me every single day.
TL;DR? Had an idea, got some money, made things, sold them, quit my job, became self-employed.
Edit: I've been pretty overwhelmed by how well this post has been received (thank you) and I've been getting quite a few questions, so I'm thinking about doing a follow up Q+A post. If you have anything you want to ask me, leave a comment, tweet me, or send an email - I'd love to hear what you've got to say!