So I’m chatting to a Blackberry contact about her intention to register for the Foundation Course when she suddenly asks me this question out of the blue:


“Do you think it is worthwhile for a young graduate from another discipline entirely to stick to fashion design without first working at her own qualification or you’ll rather advise that such a fellow works for a number of years and fall back to the fashion industry?”

The reason is I have 2 degrees in a completely unrelated field from fashion and I do have a bias for what I studied.  After a long series of processes, a company has called me for a position in this field but I do not want to let go of my fashion business.  I have built it to a certain level and have a steady clientele but I also want to have a feel of the organizational structure out there to justify my many years of academic hard work.

Unfortunately, I do not have a business system that can run without me in place yet.  I have been doing 70% of the work so right now, without me my business cannot continue.  I have a family and young children to take care of, with the huge demands of the type of work, with the possibility of working weekends, and my family commitments, I will have no time for the business.

Some have opined that I can hardly combine work and my business altogether effectively.  What do I do? :_(

_________________(edited to protect the identity of the contact).

Don’t worry she’s aware I’m posting this as I asked her permission.  I try not to break my code of confidentiality but I thought it would help to post this since I am sure many people out there are facing this same predicament (even if not in the field of fashion).  

This is not the first time people have sought my opinion on similar matters and my heart really went out to her.  I could really identify with her predicament and can only imagine how tough the decision must be for her.  However, I did not bat an eyelid when I gave her the following response…

“So I think you have your answer then.  A business which cannot survive without its owner  is not a business (at least in the long run I should have added).  So you need to learn how to create structures in your business.  With the demands of this new job, it will be tough!    

I suggest you weigh your options carefully.  It is a great opportunity but you need to know what is more important to you.  You can choose to work there for a while, say 2 years tops!  That experience will help you gather the funds and knowledge you need to take your business to the next level”.

And that is pretty much the advice I have given to others who also asked me the same questions in the past.

I have always being a firm believer in work experience.  When I left school, there was this mad rush for Masters Degrees and other qualifications!  My dad pretty much hassled  me about some form of Masters Degree but I refused!  I knew I wanted to work!  I loved the idea of being independent, earning my own money but more importantly, I knew I wanted to run my business someday.  So my plan was to work somewhere for a while and study the structures in a professional environment so I could apply the same principles to my business.  And I am thankful I did!  A lot of what I know now and the contacts that have been largely instrumental to my business today have been from the places I have worked.

Whilst the prospect of being an entrepreneur is very appealing, that work experience to me is key!  But then again, this particular situation is quite peculiar.

1.  She has 2 degrees in a certain course; 
2.  She wants to work in a field related to what she studied since she has a bias for that field;
3.  She would like to justify her years of study by working in that field (not a really valid argument in the scheme of things.  I know enough people who studied a Course and are currently doing something else and are better off for it); 
4.  She is a practising fashion designer with a steady clientele and revenue; and 
5.  She has a family to consider and the work hours vis-a-vis her current lifestyle would be detrimental to her family life.

Hmmnnnn… pretty tough one!  Looking from the outside in, I would ask 3 questions:

– how long she can sustain the business if she’s the only one doing all the work; 
– why she is the only one doing all the work; and
– if she has put in business structures in place in her current fashion business.

As for me, I vote for taking the job because of its obvious benefits (the work experience and the money she can save to move her business to the next level) but then again, she does have a family, business and clients to consider.  Though the truth is, if she’s still so good, her clients will come back and she would have gained even more knowledge to better manage the business.

And who says she even needs to shut down entirely. She can still run it on the side on a low scale and make it easier by outsourcing production or training someone to handle affairs for her while she’s at work.  Perhaps if she does this, she’ll come to the realization that things can happen in her absence and she never really needed to sew the garments herself.  I have never been an advocate of designers / entrepreneurs being at the sewing machine… at least not all the time.  You’ll never do anything else… But then again outsourcing production or training employees does have its hassles.

But I still vote for her taking the job.  I think work experience is key and I’m sure she can make it work if she’s determined to.  Some companies even prefer work experience over qualifications.  And she should not think of it as letting herself down.  I know of a facilitator who once told us she took up a management position because she reached a stage when she got bored.  But her case was different… her company could run itself in her absence. 🙁

Truth is, it really is a tough one and I wish I had a simple answer.  But each decision has its own consequences and it appears my fingers are tied on this one.  

Her solution to this predicament?  I would say “pray about it” and weigh the options with her husband.  The answers will come when she least expects it…they always do!

If you have any advice for her, you can post them here or send me an e-mail and I will forward it to her.

Many thanks!

PS!  Don’t forget the Foundation Course coming up.  Registrations are still on and I am looking forward to it.

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