By Niki Chesworth – Evening Standard
The Virgin Media Business VOOM Pitchathon broke a world record and is set to inspire even more people to set up on their own. But how easy is it to quit your day job and to pursue your dreams?
If you, too, are dreaming of telling your boss to shove the job you hate so you can go it alone, who better to ask than one of last year’s VOOM finalists?
Gem Misa, the founder of Cauli Rice – which as the name implies is rice made from cauliflower – is actually a serial entrepreneur. You may have seen Righteous, the healthy salad dressings, stocked in supermarkets.
CauliRice ticks all the boxes for people on special diets. Low carb, low fat, low calorie, gluten free, vegan, on of your five a day and easy to prepare.
So how did she make the switch from corporate life working in a global job for Unilever in London to entrepreneurship?
It started with a feeling that she could not see projects through from start to finish and seeing ‘something you have worked on as a concept through to fruition’. ‘I had worked as a brand manager of a two billion pounds brand, but after eight years, the novelty wore off. Instead of being able to give birth to an idea, I was handling strategy – a lot of Excel speadsheets and Powerpoint presentations. So I lost the magic that I loved about the job in the first place,’ she says.
IF YOU’VE GOT TO GO….
Next came the risk-taking-somehitng anyone thinking of going it alone needs to think carefully about.
‘It was during the recession and everyone was telling me that I should not leave a comfortable job with a fat salary,’ she continues. ‘But I knew I want to be an entrepreneur. Even so, it did take me a year to decide, as I was worried about letting go of the security of my job.’
Her next tip is to be prepared to fail.
‘My first business failed, my second did okay, and now I have Cauli Rice,’ she says. ‘So be prepared for failure, but do not think of yourself as a failure. You have to learn the hard way through trial and error and look objectively at why you failed and learn from that.’
However, while she was driving to become an entrepreneur, it was passion that go her started – a passion for food. And is her other tip: ‘Pick something that will get you out of bed every morning. There are going to be times when you feel that nothing is working, so you have to believe in what you are doing.’
And this brings her on to her other tip for would-be entrepreneurs: be persistent. ‘It took us three years to perfect the product, so my husband had to work to support us.’ He now works for the business too.
So, with hindsight, what would her advice be to others?’
‘Keep your 9-5 job while you are in the planning, research and testing phase,’ she says. ‘Don’t give up the day job too soon, as it can take time to be successful. Also before you leave your corporate life, find a clever and creative way to test your business. So if like me, you are launching a food business, test it at food markets before you quit. Until you have proved your product works, secured orders and know that brand will succeed, do not take the BIG risk.’