Taking The Plunge

Moving from corporate to entrepreneur

Hannah Hellyer

With millennial entrepreneurs being as common as a smashed avo these days, it wasn’t a huge shock to my family and friends when I told them I was taking the plunge to start my own business.

I’d been working in 9-5 corporate jobs for 5 years and figured I’d experienced all they had to offer, at the ripe old age of 26. I’d spent the past half-decade being sardined on the peak hour Bankstown line, and playing good old office politics with my more competitive colleagues.

Despite it's perils, If I cut past the corporate bullshit and the stale lunch time small chat, I really wouldn’t be in a position to even think about starting a business without that professional experience. I’d learnt a huge amount about people, business and how to manage a team. I just knew in the long run it wasn’t something my personality type would be able to sustain. I had a lifestyle expiry date so to speak.

Lucky for me, my Husband started his own design agency 4 years ago which was thriving (check them out at www.chalkco.com). He had a lot of clients asking if he’d manage their online advertising after he’d done the design and created the content, but it wasn’t what he’d specialised in or had the time for.

Digital is something I studied at Uni, but never thought much about developing a career in. Posting on social media and editing pretty pictures seemed like too much of a fun past time, surely that couldn’t be considered work.

My husband and I were on a morning walk one Sunday after a night of heavy boozing, and in our hungover state started questioning the quality of time we were spending together. We were either tired zombies shuffling around the house after our busy work day, or surrounded by friends and family socialising on the weekends. Our best hours were being spent in different offices, with different people. Between this realisation and the apparent business opportunity for a digital agency, Romper was created.

I had 2 business days break between jobs. Spare time generally confuses me so I figured that would be enough. We’d been renovating and building flat pack furniture in our new office on the weekends leading up to the move, so by the time I started I had a desk set up and was ready to go.

The first thing I noticed moving over to my own business, and working in an open plan office with the Chalk team was the huge change of pace. It seemed to be an unwritten rule in the corporate world that everyone needed to be stressed. If you didn’t look stressed, you were obviously not doing your job properly. The high pressure lifestyle did force me to be productive, but in hindsight not in the right way. The whole office energy was very tense.

Coming into our new office I spent my first day talking shit with the Chalk team. We had a team meeting where we tried and failed at getting the projector up and running, then talked through what projects everyone was focussing on for the week, and what everyone wanted to learn by Friday. I spent the rest of my day listening to classical music, watering the office plants and researching tips for online advertising. My parents delivered me flowers as a congratulations and good luck gesture, and my Husband and I went on a nice lunchtime wander around Marrickville.

Interestingly, I wouldn’t say my first day was any less productive than a day in the corporate world. It was just different. 

It was a big mental shift, switching the tone from tense to timid and taking the time to enjoy what I was doing and the people I was surrounded by.

The stressors I’d imagined around finding clients and slow work days were balanced out with good podcasts, online tutorials, sales strategies and soaking up all the research I could get my hands on to be better prepared for when clients did come along.

Thanks to my Husband and the Chalk team, I’ve got great mentors around me that are oozing creativity in everything they do. They support and inspire each other, laugh at their own jokes and proudly share work when they’ve learnt something new.

It hasn’t been long in this new business life, but if I’ve learnt one thing it would be this:

Life’s too short, do what makes you happy, find work that doesn’t feel like work and become a smashed avo like I did.