‘Don’t leave it too late.’

Having started as a secretary, Jan worked her way up the corporate ladder to become a director at Merrill Lynch in the UK. By 2001 she was living Sydney, ‘having a ball’ working 14-hour days and travelling around Asia and beyond.

But the long hours took their toll. Once Jan married she wanted to avoid another overseas posting so, when she saw an ad looking for people to start up a wellness business, she reconnected with her old dream of being an entrepreneur.

Like many startups, she squeezed her business activities around her job until she got three months’ long service leave. Two weeks in, she knew she wasn’t going back.

It wasn’t all plain sailing, and there was plenty of fear. ‘But the minute I left Merrill Lynch it was as though the corporate blinkers came off and I saw the whole world for what it really was. I thought, ‘Oh my God, aren’t I lucky? I nearly missed out on life.’’

She loves the excitement of being in business, but it’s also scary and sometimes lonely. There were new skills to learn – sales and marketing, IT, and how to be a one-woman show.

‘I was used to saying ‘Jump’ and everyone responding ‘How high?’ – now it’s ‘Who do you think you are?’’ She did some training to bridge her skill gaps, joined a few networks, had some business coaching – and started to thrive.

Jan believes her age is a big advantage. It gives her confidence and experience, and clients love seeing someone who knows what’s what. As she says, ‘I understand them and I can be empathetic, but I can also kick them up the butt if they need it.’

Jan’s advice for others? Pick your timing, do it when you can afford to take a little bit of a risk. ‘Don’t leave it too late. And remember that there’s no such thing as failure: it’s all feedback and learning.’ She believes many people give up too early, and you need to build a strong support network around you to keep going.

‘I think that ‘success’ changes as we go through different life phases,’ she concludes. ‘When I was younger success was climbing the corporate ladder and the title and pay that went with it. Now it’s having quality time with my family, husband and friends, and it’s the autonomy to run my business the way I want to and still see money coming into my bank account.’

Joanna Maxwell


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