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5 Things to Consider Before Quitting Your Day Job

Jan 20, 2020 | Small Business | 15 comments

Many of you who follow me on Instagram know that as of Nov 1, 2019– I went all-in on Borderlands Bakery. Up until that point, I had a super solid career in biotech and was quite “successful” by the traditional/socially normal definition (skillset, recognition, leadership, fulfillment, money). 

I have an Instagram highlight on this– scroll to my bio and check out the “#iquitmydayjob” stories for a candid chat of my thoughts .. (you may need to scroll right since I have many highlights in my bio)

… These videos were taken on my drive into the office the day I gave notice–though I went in with the intent of discussing how to make it another 6 months, my target quitting time was around Feb/Mar 2020!! But life has a lovely way of surprising us all. 

Side Note– my last day with corporate America was Nov. 1, 2019. My husband’s last day with Corporate America was Oct. 31, 2019. What a shit show of emotions that was. We’ll need to circle back to this another time! This is us last week — happy to be here with you all. And yes– Brian is now a part of the Borderlands Bakery team coding up special projects for the community 🙂 

I had already been massively overextended for 3 years now balancing two jobs (plus… sort of a life) and it was starting to take its toll. I wasn’t at my best and couldn’t give my all to any one thing. I was starting to miss appointments and miscommunicate my needs. I was giving up opportunities for Borderlands Bakery left and right in an attempt to give my “day job” the priority, yet I wasn’t performing at a level that I’m satisfied at either jobs OR life. Although happy and grateful for my situation, I also felt frustrated and incredibly stressed. Something had to give.

The time had come for me to put all the eggs into my own basket. And so I did! It’s been a whirlwind recently but I wanted to take some time to share some wisdom I’ve gained in this transition. I want to focus this post on the top 5 things I considered very seriously before taking the plunge, and I hope this provides another perspective in your decision-making process as you figure out whether or not you want to pursue your own gig full-time. 

Please note that I’m very specific about highlighting each of these things as they suited ME. You should thoughtfully consider how they fit YOU as you read through this.

  1. Know your money, inside out and be realistic.
    • I put together excel sheets of my income streams and spending, I knew exactly what we were spending on how much and when. Do this for the last year and you’ll start to see patterns, I promise. It’s not fun and takes time but absolutely worth it.
    • I minimized my spending to the best of my ability and what I defined as acceptable for how I want to live life. (This. Is. Huge.)
    • I put together a 6-month savings fund. If I made zero cents for the next 6 months, my husband and I would be fine.
    • I started to explore options for health insurance and retirement for the self-employed. To this day I’m not 100% set of the retirement part but it will get handled soon.
    • I wrote down all my Borderlands Bakery revenue streams and had a benchmark for how much I needed to make in order to quit– it had to be consistently more than what I was making at my day job for 6 months.
  2. Have an unwavering support system.
    • It’s very hard to accomplish difficult things when people around you are not behind you 100%. This can be your spouse, children, people at your existing job, extended family, friends, anyone who you interact with on the regular. In my mind — my friends/family could:
    • A. Support me 100% and totally understand and not take it personally if I chose to put my time into my business instead of spending time with them, not judge me for it and they did not interpret my lack of time with them as lack of love for them.
    • B. Give me shit and provide all kinds of unsolicited advice and impose their thoughts on my life. “Why would you do this?” “What do you even DO?” “Well, you just bake cookies, that’s easy”. “Why aren’t you spending more time with me? Don’t you love me?”
    • C. A mix of A and B. Which is probably more common. These are not simple situations.
    • Limit your exposure to those in camp B. And if you are in a situation where B are super close family or friends, work on your relationship so you can better empathize with each other. I would NOT be here without Brian backing me up. And we were NOT in position in our relationship to do this earlier! Another deep topic we can chat more about later. 
  3. Self-awareness is key! It keeps your feet planted, mind clear and self-accountable.
    • Know your “why”. Why you’re doing this. For who? (It should be ultimately for YOU and It. Is. Not. Selfish.)
    • Know what you’re giving up. For me, that meant time with my family and friends, a lot of time spent traveling/playing, and a LOT of sleep.
    • Know what you’re getting yourself into (or be OK with the unknown). It’s not easy to describe what I do … and I’m working on that. A lot of people think I just “bake cookies” and having to explain and justify my job to them is tiring. I need to be OK with riding out this weird phase and being uncomfortable. My own husband who has seen this entire journey unfold never truly knew how much work everything was until he also became fully invested!
    • Not everyone is going to be a good business owner or leader, that’s reality. A lot of people love the idea of “being their own boss” but the reality is that it’s really tough and not glamorous. The reason why 50% of small businesses fail within their first 5 years is because people are not fully aware of what they are getting themselves into. I’ve had a track record of other businesses that have been successful in their own right whether it be K-Pop bookmarks at 14, importing/reselling Asian beauty products at 18 or selling handmade jewelry until 2011. Even with this experience under my belt, I still approached this change very pragmatically.
    • Self awareness is a HUGE topic and we’ll have to save more for later, but to summarize a few more key things– consider checking your ego, taking accountability for your actions (catch yourself when you’re in a “victim” mindset and learn to snap out of it), audit your time to find ways to ‘save time’ like getting a housekeeper, using Instacart or getting meal prep like Trifecta. These are affiliate links so if you end up signing up, we both benefit!
  4. Learn how to be disciplined
    • Motivation is a feeling that is fleeting. What defines people who can keep making progress is not because they have motivation– it’s because they have enough discipline to get the job done especially when they least feel like it.
    • Discipline is incredibly simple, but like so many things in life, simple does not imply easy. I practiced discipline all my life and it’s a skill that you need to keep practicing to keep up– and like other skills, once you get over the initial hump, it becomes easier to flex that muscle. And it starts with small things that have great impact, like getting my nutrition and fitness inline
    • Discipline comes in handy so much when running your own business. Get your paperwork done on time and correctly (licenses, invoices, permits, agreements, etc… stuff that I avoid like the plague but need to get done). While not fun, these required tasks ensure you run on the up-up and keep your business legit. Kick the habit of procrastinating (it’s not easy), make a habit of monthly to-dos and stick to your schedule (i.e bookkeeping) OR you make enough to pay someone to do it (or take less home for yourself so you can pay other people!).
  5. Have a backup plan.
    • While we all hope things work out for the best, I found it most comforting to know that IN CASE I got myself into deep shit with Borderlands Bakery, I have an out and am still able to make a living doing something else.
    • Leaving your previous job(s) on good terms allows for an easier way back into your old world if need be.
    • I actually *loved* my old jobs– it wasn’t a choice of a shitty situation vs. a better one– it was about working for someone else vs. giving my own dream a shot.

All of our lives are crazy complicated and context is everything! In the coming months, we’ll touch upon many more aspects of business and life together.

If you’d like to get more insight into the context of my life as a whole, etc. and “how things came to be”, you can hear some more as I chat with MikandCookies on her new podcast “Isn’t Life Sweet?” – episode 1! Please go check it out and make sure to Subscribe to Mik if you want to hear more stories like this in the future! Listen on Apple Podcast OR Listen on SoundCloud

As we move into 2020 — I need to reassess my priorities. How do I want to impact people? And how do I do it in a way that aligns with the things I love to do/am interested in — baking, writing, leadership/people, small business management, self fulfillment and self reliance… 

I’d love to move my business in a direction that would do just that. Supplies and decorating techniques are a part of it, but for those of you who want to also (eventually) be in control of your own life/work, how can I help you? Would really love for you to take some time, reflect, and drop a comment below with what you’d like to see from me.

Thank you for reading– I hope this gives you some practical insight into my decision making process and that it opens up a new line of communication with you. 

 


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15 Comments

  1. Ivi

    I started following you and a few other cookiers after taking a cookie decorating class at Little Goat this past summer. Your matcha shortbread recipe is AMAZING btw? Sharing the business side of things and how everything that you show on Instagram fits into your life as a person and not just a curated account is so refreshing. How did you get started decorating cookies, and when did you realize you wanted to go full send with it?

    Reply
    • Lisa He

      Hi Ivi! Thanks for reading and your question. I got started decorating as part of my continued baking stress baking adventures during college. I did my first “official” decorated cookies for a fundraiser at work in 2011. I haven’t looked back since. I knew I wanted to go full time only really last year… more tidbits in that podcast I linked– give it a listen! Lots of insight from both myself and Mik 🙂

      Reply
    • Vivi

      Thank you for sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly of starting a small business. I think all of us who do this, weather it be baking or any other small business, go thru a lot of the same obstacles. So its hard when those who have “made it” make it seem like it was all easy for them. You keep everything real and down to earth, even your IG post and the way your recipes are written. I recently resigned from my job as a firefighter/paramedic to work as a tech at a hospital so I could focus on my small business. My husband supports me, my family…well…lol they want me to go back to school and finsh my nursing degree just in case “my cakes dont work out” and I get it. I feel like I have so much to prove, to my ex coworkers, to my family , to myself. But im slowly trying to turn that mind set around to use it more as a catalyst instead of an obstacle. Id love to see more small business management blogs and posts. I have no clue what im doing in that department, and im slowly learning. I paid for a (very expensive?) business course by another popular Baker and I was quite disappointed. The zoom calls and anything interactive, thou limited where GREAT! But the rest of the course were prerecorded videos they had used for older courses. The management part, different sources of income from the same business and how to grow your following I think would be my 3 main takeaway wants. Thanks Lisa for making this all not so scary and making it feel attainable.

      Reply
      • Lisa He

        Hi Vivi, thank you for taking the time to leave such a long and thoughtful reply. The fact you read it means a lot– and I think that’s one of the most important things! So much info is out there, but spending the time to dig hard and digest the content is a step not so many would take. Would LOVE to help you with your business– drop me an email hello@borderlandsbakery.com and I’m happy to do a free consulting session 🙂

        Reply
    • Shamantha

      Hi… your blog is lovely and gives a realistic approach to meet personal goals…. I have recently started to learn decorating cookies and my interest is leaning towards the same…. I quit my full time job as I’m a mother of 2 and have lot of things to juggle with. I ease out my stress baking and learning new techniques. Looking forward to learn more from you on cookies and maybe inspired by you to start something by myself too.

      Reply
  2. Tiffany Lo

    I’m here for it Lisa! Pragmatic and realistic. Always have multiple plans A, B, & C! Such exciting times ahead for you and your business.
    As much as I agree with you on discipline and hard work, have you ever thought about the “luck” and “flow” entrepreneurial type of mentality?
    Being over worked, sleep deprived, and over extended can only go so far. I know you know this, but what about, for lack of a better term, “serendipitous” portions of owning a business?
    The “big break moments” if you will. I think there is something to be said about being in the right place and right time in your life and how that business is incorporated and compliments your lifestyle.
    What are your thoughts on that?

    Reply
    • Lisa He

      Hi Tiffany– Yes, I have a lot, and I keep coming back to why “luck” and “timing” isn’t a HUGE part of *my* success story. When people ask how I got here- I always tell people that it’s combination of hard work and luck (but less luck). Timing and opportunity is important but only if you are smart enough to be open to them, put yourself out there (often!) and see them. I was LUCKY to have some AMAZING bosses/leaders who literally changed my life, but I’ve also been LUCKY to have some not so awesome bosses who showed me how I would NOT want to approach similar situations. I was LUCKY someone from food network found me and asked me to apply for the competition, but had I not been posting on IG or Reddit, no one would have found me. There is always luck and flow but it’s not predictable and guaranteed. What you can guarantee is how much effort you put in.. and how much you are able to put yourself out there. And if effort is leading you nowhere, something needs to change, maybe the approach. I’ll need to dedicate a whole different post (or whole series, because it’s not a simple topic) to the “serendipitous” aspects of owning a business. I don’t think people “just” get lucky often– I think you can increase your chance of luck by the actions you take. I didn’t have any single “big break”. It was a series of small, consistent steps in the right direction. No single event (i.e. having good bosses in 1 part of my career, food network, netflix) “launched” me into the next phase of my business. It took every single event to happen for me to come to this decision to be where I am. I know people who become “instagram famous” or whatnot in a matter of months– and I’m definitely not one of those.

      Reply
      • tiffany lo

        Thank you for your reply Lisa. When you explained it as you did I wholeheartedly agree with you. You have to be ready for the quote on quote “lucky” moments or those opportunities pass you by. Thanks for sharing this post and I look forward to your future posts discussing various portions of this topic. 🙂 

        Reply
  3. Catherine Schroeder

    Lisa,
    I am new to the cookie world. I’ve been practicing for about a year now and have learned so much. You are a huge inspiration and resource for me. I am constantly blown away by how much time you take to not only share your experiences, but to teach as well. I have never been passionate about anything until I discovered cookie decorating and I can’t tell you how exciting that is for me. I’m officially addicted. ? After practicing I’ve decided to move forward and try to get a stall at my local farmers market. It’s very intimidating for me. I’m usually the type that will shy away and give up just because I’m scared or maybe don’t understand how to make it work. I want you to know that because of you, I have found my inner strength and motivation. You’re a natural leader and have shed light on soooo many different topics that I’m able to take steps forward and not be afraid! I’ve even started a website and new Instagram for my up and coming adventure! I just can’t thank you enough for what you do and I wish you every bit of success and happiness with this transition! I look forward to seeing where it takes you! Thank you for laying it all out there for us! I know that takes a lot of courage! I am forever a loyal follower!! ?❤️

    Reply
    • Lisa He

      Hi Catherine, thank you for taking the time to write such a thoughtful note and for sharing a part of your story! I’m so happy to be that enabler — but at the end of the day, YOU are the one who found the strength/courage and are doing the work, so proud. Also- being afraid is OK!! I’m scared every day (like how do I make generate enough income to support my husband and I full time PLUS 4-6 part time folks??) I think acknowledging that fear and finding a way to push past is the “level up” that is hardest for so many of us. Keep practicing that!!

      Reply
  4. Tannis

    I followed you before on insta and now that i live in California i think its so awesome how many instappl seem more real. I love that you are following your dreams and also after seeing you help out a “competitor” on baking challenge i was like i love her! Shes so nice she must secretly be canadian?. Good for you for following your dreams, if it fails, at least you took a chance!

    Reply
    • Lisa He

      Hi Tannis! I think authenticity is complete case-case basis. The internet in any format (regardless of platform) allows people to make up a persona. You’ll find people across the entire spectrum of “real ness”. I’m also all about finding ways for everyone to win — if they want to be in the same industry and do the same thing, GREAT. How do we ALL benefit and grow the market instead of fight for existing pieces of the market? Things I think about all the time and I’m always looking for the right partners in this. Thank you so much for dropping by and leaving a note!

      Reply
  5. Tiffany A

    Hi Lisa!
    I’m in the thick of the beginning stages of moving my love of creating and baking to the forefront and stepping back from my regular day job career. I will be moving to part time soon, and it’s scary! My word for the year is Believe – to believe in myself, in what brings me joy, believe that I can make this work and bring joy to others, believe that this can help me be a better person, wife, mother. I love how you share the fun, the difficult, the logical and the creative. I’m a physical therapist and being a health professional often forces science and logical thought. I’ve always been some sort of creative and to mix the two can be a challenge. You help me realize you can, and should! I can believe all I want but still have to put in the work! Thank you for encouraging us to learn on our own but also sharing so much to help us get there. You’re thoughts on going all in on Borderlands hit home, and I’m amazed and proud of what you’ve already accomplished!

    Reply
    • Lisa He

      Hi Tiffany, thank you for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful response. I think moving to part time is a GREAT, low risk way to test this out (esp. if you’re on good terms with your employer!); I always suggest this as a way for people to dip their toe into the life to get taste of business ownership. When I think about my mentors and what makes them successful– it’s because they are very self aware and have a combination of technical and soft skills– and then they surround themselves with people who have varying strengths to create an amazing machine. I think the beauty is IN the mix– both within yourself and those you are closest to. Best of luck in YOUR endeavors and I’ll be opening up a sounding board community soon so would love to see your engagement there as well.

      Reply
      • Tiffany Arney

        Thanks so much Lisa! I appreciate your response and encouragement 🙂

        Reply

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