I was a big hairy builder in my past life. Seriously!
Before I gave it all up I was a construction manager for a firm in London, I had a hand in the new Wembley Stadium, some shiny office blocks, the 2012 Olympics, the Shard (yes I am showing off a little bit!). I loved my job and I never even considered having children or what the impact of having children would be on my professional life.
Then I got married and had a baby. Suddenly my past life seemed like a distant memory, I had every intention of going back to work after maternity leave but after my son arrived, those intentions faded away. I couldn’t even comprehend returning to commuting into London, let alone leaving my precious baby for more than 12 hours a day to fit in the hours I would be expected to work.
So I didn’t! I decided to stay at home and handed in my notice at my job (I realise how lucky I am to have had the luxury of this option when so many don’t and now appreciate it (and my husband) a million times over). But I needed to do something to keep myself busy, other than push a pushchair around the streets endlessly, go to baby classes and drink coffee, otherwise I was going to fall off the edge of sanity, so I started messing around on my laptop while the baby slept, creating art prints which I framed and hung around my house. I also became one of those massively over-achieving new parents and created bespoke thank you cards for my 3 month old son to send to our relatives after Christmas……Lol.
One weekend my sister in law came to stay, she was about to embark on a crazy cycle ride for Women V Cancer and asked me if I could create some greetings cards for her to send to her friends and maybe use to raise some money for the charity. We spent a drunken Saturday night coming up with rude (and some motivational) things about cyclists. I listed them on Etsy and she started posting about them in all her cycling groups in Facebook and the next day, I had 20 plus orders and then the same the next day and the next day. I have no online retail experience or graphic design qualifications but it turns out I am good at making fun of crazy sports people. I started selling at an Art and Design Market every month and built a website and expanded into selling via Amazon and so Worry Less Design was born.
My sister left her day job a year ago to join the business and we went to a terrifying Trade Show and are now stocked by about 20 independent gift shops as well as some large online cycling and running retailers and this year we have already been an event partner of the National Running Show and are heading up to the London Marathon Running Show in April.
On paper we work 3 days a week during school hours and maybe 2 weekends a month at events. When we first decided to go for it, we went to the pub (all the best business meetings happen at the pub) and agreed what we wanted to achieve. It went something like: we don’t want to be millionaires, it needs to be a lifestyle job that can work around the children, we want to fit in exercising every day and it needs to be fun.
In reality, we work a lot more than 3 days a week! Both of us work at home on our “non-work” days and do a lot of evenings and extra hours at weekends. My laptop is never far from me. But when it comes to inset days or school holidays or sports days or dentist appointments or even just being there when they come home from school, I can be there. I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission, I am my own boss. Which is AMAZING. Plus we run or swim or bike most work days and I can wear jeans every day and work from my sofa if I feel like it!
My advice to anyone out there considering the same is not to overthink it. You can get TOO hung up on business plans and details and doing the exact right thing first time and become paralysed. Start small, minimise your risk and test out your idea, Etsy is amazing for design led products as it costs virtually nothing to set up, also consider taking your products to a local market where you can see people’s reactions and what works or doesn’t work. Then when you find what works, you can get serious and devote proper time and resources to expanding it. I now can’t imagine doing anything else.
Caroline Adamthwaite, Basingstoke Hampshire, age 40, mum to Jonty, 5 ½ and Verity, 3.
Joint owner of Worry Less Design , which creates unique and quirky cards and gifts for cyclists, runners, triathletes, golfers, footballers, crickets as well as gin lovers! Find out more at: