Employees Bid Farewell to Corporate America
"We had worked at our jobs in New York for about two years when we felt it was time to actually do something that mattered to us for 40-plus hours each week," says Flavin. "Sure, making 70 percent less money made us rearrange our life and the decisions we make, but I would argue those were rearrangements that were long overdue.
"We had to give up weekly sushi. No more cable TV. We couldn't be constantly buying new clothes and shoes, and we actually had to live with a budget. But what was the alternative, to keep living life comfortably yet without passion and with terrible flaws in our priorities?"
For those thinking about starting a new chapter, entrepreneurs offer hard-won insights from their first-hand experiences.
Get Your Finances In Order
"Take a look at what you earn every month in your salary. Figure out in your business plan how you could realistically survive knowing that you may only get a third, or half of that, for a few years," Lawton says. "Make sure you are truly ready and make sure you are not disappointing anyone else."
Both Avallone and Lawton said their decisions were easier to make because neither is married or has children.
Build a Strong Foundation
"Get training or additional education to help support you in your new career," says Meredith Foltynowicz of Hoboken, who went to the Institute of Culinary Education on the weekends to become a pastry chef before leaving a successful job in fashion recruiting. "Not only will this give you credibility in your new field, but it will give you the inner confidence you need as you are getting started."
Find A Mentor
Nik Mody, who spent more than a decade climbing the corporate ladder only to leave to start the travel savings club MHNSaves.com, says, "Seek guidance from seasoned professionals in that niche when developing your concept. Don’t think you know it all, because you don’t, trust me. Form an advisory board or get personal mentors in your business. Leverage the experience of others."
Lawton agreed, "Bounce ideas off people that you trust. You can’t work in a silo," she advised.
Mody also recommends seeking advertising assistance, noting that in most cases entrepreneurs will face stiff competition, making branding that much more important.
Be prepared to be a one-man show for a while, said Lawton, who went from having ample resources to tap into on the corporate side to being completely on her own.
"You might be doing everything for yourself for a while. You have to be nimble and sometimes make decisions quickly. Trust your gut," she says. "Try, while you have your job, to get your concept really clear. Try early on to get a lot of the logistical stuff ready. Contracts and separate bank accounts can take up valuable time once you’re trying to run your new business."
Mody concurs. "Be prepared to give up free time at least in the very beginning. After all, if you are passionate about it, you will want to keep at it forever," he says.
Lawton said she is at her desk, albeit one in her home, at 9 a.m. every morning with coffee in hand, dressed and ready to work.
“I absolutely treat this like a 9-5 job,” she says.
Have An Exit Strategy
"Know your backup plan," says Mody. "When all else doesn’t work out, you will need to know your next chapter in life."
For those ready to roll the dice, a question to consider: Do the rewards of freedom, autonomy and the chance for personal happiness outweigh those of following the traditional path?