“Dear Keith, further to our recent conversations, please accept this letter as formal notification of my resignation…”
So started Ted Tolfree’s letter of resignation before he left a stable career as a corporate high flyer to start Crisp Salad with his wife, Shey. It was a bold move, but one that’s paid off: they have a thriving business, a better work life balance with the help of technology and control of their own destiny.
And success stories abound – lawyers turned photographers and executives turned small business advocates are just a couple of examples that skills learned from corporate culture can be applied in new ways to revolutionise world perspectives and change lives.
“People had always been so interested in this glamorous life of this executive female,” says co-founder and chief collaborator of BKindred, Penny Locaso, when asked about her previous life as a high-flying executive for Shell.
“[Redefining what I wanted] was the smartest thing that I could have done, because what happened opened my eyes up to this world that I didn’t know existed … But they were in small business because … a lot of them wanted to have a positive impact on the lives of others."
It’s a sentiment that’s echoed by Ted.
“The best thing about running your own business is there's none of that Sunday night feeling when you're having to iron your shirts for the week ahead. When it comes to Sunday, I'm excited about what that week's going to bring and what we're going to be able to achieve.”
Putting the time in
With the highs of running a business come some serious lows, and it’s important to recognise that - especially in the early days - running your own show comes with some significant challenges and responsibilities.
“It's a living, breathing thing, a small business,” says Ted.
“It takes time. It needs to be fed and tamed and disciplined sometimes … but it is very much about trying the best you can. It's not always easy but trying to enjoy that journey rather than just the destination".
Preparation is of primary importance – having a solid business plan, a good vision of what success looks like and investing in the right people to make things work. For Crisp Salad, the skills of Ted and Shey made a lot of difference.
“Shey and I are such great partners in this business ‘cause she can focus on the artistic side and I really focus on the numbers side,” says Ted.
“When you run your own business you're the CEO, you're the COO, you're the CIO you’re the CMO and a casual member of the team as well.”
Hindsight is 20/20
What’s common in stories where big corporates have made the transition to small business is that looking back at the journey brings a sense of fulfilment and pride at success – because success is a direct result of hard work done their way.
“It was two years of highs and lows, and back then you are nervous and anxious and slightly stressed. But it's lovely now thinking back to that guy and saying...it's gonna be alright," says Ted.
Making the jump
Taking a leap into something new can be exciting, scary, stressful and everything in between. But overwhelmingly, those doing their thing are encouraging others who are willing to make the leap.
“To be honest I couldn’t be happier in my life,” says Penny.
And Ted has words of wisdom for would be entrepreneurs:
“Don't be scared, back yourself and you'll achieve what you want to achieve,” he says.
“Be confident of your decision making, listen to others but be able to distil that down to what's important for the business. Keep the energy going. It will be tough, it will be hard, but with that energy and with the hard work, the rewards will come".
Finding your niche can help your business get a foot in the door.
Read about how Crisp Salad cracked the Melbourne food culture.Find out more