A CHANGE IS GONNA COME

Cre­ative jour­neys are rarely lin­ear, but how can you tell a dead end from a fork in the road? We asked two come­back queens for ad­vice on chang­ing di­rec­tion

Mollie Makes - - Introducing - Words: JES­SICA BATE­MAN Il­lus­tra­tion: VERON­ICA DEARLY

There comes a point in most cre­ative jour­neys where what­ever you’re do­ing isn’t quite go­ing to plan. Maybe your Etsy shop isn’t ex­actly bring­ing in the big bucks, you’re strug­gling to progress with your craft, or you’ve fallen out of love with it and want a break. Th­ese sce­nar­ios are so com­mon, but it’s all too easy to feel like a fail­ure rather than recog­nis­ing them as an op­por­tu­nity for re­flec­tion or chang­ing di­rec­tion. So how do you get over a cre­ative stum­ble, and switch things up to your ad­van­tage?

TURN IT AROUND

“Many cre­atives and en­trepreneurs have a good mind­set towards fail­ure,” says Sam West, cu­ra­tor at the Mu­seum of Fail­ure in Los An­ge­les ( www. fail­ure­mu­seum.com). “The main is­sue here is that ac­cept­ing fail­ure only makes sense if we are also will­ing to learn from it. This is of­ten over­looked.”

Leona Baker, AKA Leona Thrift-o-la, founder of sub­scrip­tion box ser­vice Lucky Dip Club ( www.luck­y­dip­club.com), is pos­si­bly the craft world’s num­ber one come­back queen. She launched a hugely suc­cess­ful new ven­ture af­ter be­com­ing com­pletely burnt out and ex­hausted by her pre­vi­ous busi­ness, jew­ellery la­bel Lady Luck Rules OK. “I started LLROK in 2003, and over seven years I built up a very suc­cess­ful on­line shop, supplied whole­sale to over 100 re­tail­ers, and em­ployed seven peo­ple,” she re­calls. “But there was no em­pha­sis on self care for small busi­ness own­ers back then, and I ended up work­ing my­self into the ground. I hit a wall and just couldn’t do it any­more.”

Leona quickly made the de­ci­sion to close the busi­ness and go trav­el­ling to “fill up on in­spi­ra­tion” again, buy­ing and sell­ing vin­tage cloth­ing as a way of pay­ing the bills. How­ever, she says she some­times feels re­gret over chang­ing di­rec­tion so hastily. “I’m so glad I started Lucky Dip Club, but it took a num­ber of years to get the idea for it [she launched the boxes in 2014] and for a long time there was a lot of self doubt as to whether I would ever run a suc­cess­ful busi­ness again.

“I think when you con­sider chang­ing di­rec­tion, you have to delve down into the rea­sons why. Are you just over­worked? You need to un­der­stand why the pas­sion has gone. If I’d been look­ing af­ter my­self prop­erly then maybe it wouldn’t have left me.”

A FRESH START

There can be other rea­sons for los­ing pas­sion that are trick­ier to solve. Zoe Bate­man ( www.too­cute­to­quit.com) made a name for her­self with her vin­tage-in­spired jew­ellery line La­dy­bird Likes, but de­cided to close it in Jan­uary 2017. “I changed di­rec­tion in what I wanted to do,” she ex­plains. “I was into that vin­tage, retro style when I first started, but over the years my own style changed a lot and I felt re­ally at odds with my brand. It had also be­come very jew­ellery-fo­cused, when I never in­tended it to be that way. I felt I was just do­ing what was ex­pected of me.”

Zoe is now build­ing her new brand, Too Cute To Quit, which she hopes to launch in Au­gust 2018. She says the brand will be more colourful and play­ful, and will also fea­ture sta­tionery, tote bags and T-shirts. The change in di­rec­tion hasn’t come with­out some chal­lenges, though. “You need an ac­tion plan for deal­ing with is­sues like left­over stock, and you need to keep your cus­tomers in the loop,” she says. “You also need to pre­pare for your new busi­ness. Get your do­main name and so­cial me­dia han­dles all at the same time, and have a plan of how you’re go­ing to make an in­come. And although set­ting up a new busi­ness is re­ally ex­cit­ing, it’s also a bit dis­heart­en­ing be­cause it can feel a bit like be­ing back to square one. You have to re­mem­ber why you’re do­ing it.”

As well as the prac­ti­cal lessons learnt, the main take­away both women drew from chang­ing di­rec­tion is the sup­port they’ve built stays with them, no mat­ter what they do. “I kept all the so­cial me­dia channels and just changed the name,” ex­plains Zoe. Leona agrees: “Peo­ple buy from peo­ple, so if you’ve cre­ated a cus­tomer base, that’s yours. I don’t think I’ve ac­tu­ally made a fun­da­men­tal ca­reer change, be­cause those peo­ple stayed with me. Chang­ing di­rec­tion is never a dead end, it’s al­ways an evolv­ing process.” So, here’s to find­ing new roads, and the paths our mak­ing takes us.

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