Am I too old to make a career change?

There I was, earning a great wage, with several senior executive positions under my belt. I had two happy children, a relaxed home life and we took wonderful family holidays each year. Life was easy. But it was also becoming quite predictable. My work wasn’t challenging me anymore. The kids were settled. My husband and I had a good routine. All was fine…

I could have left it like that.  

But when I reached my 40’s, I started to gain more perspective on life. I had less concerns about the little things and greater awareness about what I needed to make my life more complete. I think many of us reach an age where you know you have a solid foundation of skills and confidence within yourself, to be capable of doing many things.

I reached a tipping point just prior to Covid lockdown. It’s like the stars aligned. I was ready for a change, I knew what I was passionate about (due to a wee issue), and lockdown provided a timely pause in my life, which set the wheels in motion.

However, I was not prepared for the ups and downs I would face. While I had confidence in my ability to overcome obstacles, I was oblivious to the level of learning that I would be required to undertake. The set-up stage alone required all my problem solving, planning and strategic skills to be on overdrive. I loved the creativity of it all and stimulating my brain and challenging myself again was fantastic, but some days I found that my mental capacity wasn’t as agile as it once was. I needed to be so much more diligent and organised about how I saved my documents. I needed to consistently make, and follow, a to-do list. Most of all, I needed to be prepared to work hard again. I had given my previous career 20 years and for some reason I thought that I would be competent enough to take on a new profession and master it straight away. I instantly gained a new appreciation for all those people owning a small business. 

It was when I started selling products that I first queried if maybe I was too old to start a new business. It was trying to get my head around so many aspects of social media and digital marketing that made me question myself. I had to Google what the difference was between an Instagram Story and a Reel. I still thought that I was young at age 46. But clearly this is not the case. E-commerce is a cut-throat world and now with the pandemic continuing, it feels like a mission every day to just get one sale. I am constantly hustling, and I can see why 96% of small NZ businesses fail within the first two years.

The thing is though, now I am home every day when my kids finish school and I get to hear about their day while it’s fresh in their mind. I don’t spend 2hrs each day commuting, and I am being creative again and using a range of old skills and new talents in harmony. I’m stimulating my brain again and it’s glorious! Sure, it’s hard work and I’m unlikely to make a profit for many years, but I also don’t need as much as I use to. I don’t need a designer wardrobe or expensive make-up. I don’t need to eat out in fancy restaurants, and I don’t need a monthly massage (although – I do miss that the most!)

What I have found is that I’m doing something for me… and that feels worthwhile. I’m no longer living predictably through the days as I head towards retirement. I am showing my children and myself that personal happiness and fulfilment matters.

My new business inspiration all started as a result of having two ginormous children that came out the size of toddlers and demolished my pelvic floor muscles. Over time I started a nasty habit of wearing disposable pads/panty liners every day to catch any bladder leaks when I exercised, laughed or sneezed. Sometimes I would need them and sometimes I wouldn’t. But the waste continued. I started to realise that I could do better, both for the environment and for myself. It was then that I started to wear reusable absorbent leakproof underwear, but every style I tried wasn’t absorbent enough, or the top layer felt damp, or I heard a plastic rustle sounds when I walked. I thought, surely us women shouldn’t have to put up with that!

I think my tipping point was discovering that it took 500 years for sanitary pads to decompose. I knew then, it was time for a change! And so began my journey to create Vivo Bodywear the most absorbent reusable leakproof underwear you can buy. Since then, not once have I walked down the sanitary products aisle at the supermarket. Instead, I now run again, and jump on the tramp, and laugh with friends without a care in the world! It is liberating!  

Should you feel like joining the revolution, try Vivo Bodywear today – they are simply perfect for replacing pads, liners and tampons. You will be amazed at how great these are! Not only are they stylish, comfy and environmentally friendly but they are also infused with anti-odour and anti-bacterial properties, so you will feel fresh and dry all day long! 

If you’d like to read more about the things I did and didn’t do well when I made my career change, then check out this article Key tips on how to survive a mid-life career change.

Four essential tips for new businesses starting out

It takes perseverance to remain motivated, especially when progress is slow.

Some of you may know that this year I started my own business – to develop absorbent washable leakproof underwear for pee, periods and perspiration.

It has been an exciting yet tumultuous rollercoaster. Today I wanted to share with you my four essential tips for those who are just starting out.

  1. Perseverance is key!

It takes a lot of motivation to dedicatedly work for yourself day in a day out. Particularly in the early days you must be the ‘master of all trades’ (the CEO and decision-maker, the strategist, the product designer, the investor, the marketer, the logistics expert and so on). Some tasks are easier than others. But when things get tricky it is hard to keep slogging away at it.

I have goals to keep me on track – work wise. But what keeps me – pushing forward – is a verbalised aspiration (that I’m committed to). You see, I found that I needed to be clear about what I wanted to achieve, and by when, because my family kept asking me when I was going back to work. So here it is: my aim is to give the business two years to break-even and three years to make a viable profit.

In addition to this, I let my family know what my boundaries are, to protect myself from risk. That is, when I have spent a certain level of funding, without any profit then I would stop and go back to full time work.

Three years to achieve my first big milestone is long enough for me to think “I’m in this for the long term”, which keeps me jumping over the short-term hurdles.

  1. Clarity is essential.

I never realised just how hard it would be to find the right specially fabrics for moisture wicking, absorbency, comfort and odour reduction.

It’s been a hard learning curve. My one piece of advice for dealing with any type of suppliers, is to be as specific as possible with what you want. If that means you must ask a million questions first to better understand the lay of the land. Then ask away. There is no harm in asking. I like to lay out my requirements in clear tables, or under specific headings. I then number each question and answer. I give my emails informative subject lines so that I can easily keep track of information down the track. But importantly, I never let myself stay in a position of doubt. I clarify immediately when uncertain.

  1. The 80/20 rule is beyond helpful.

It’s easy to waste time perfecting certain elements when it’s your own business. But taking the approach, where you keep working on something because you don’t want to risk getting it wrong, will slow you down unnecessarily. Try to accept that things will evolve rather than be perfect the first time. When you start to spend too much time on a task – STOP immediately and put some time restrictions in place. Because when you think of the time that people will actually spend looking at it, it’s just not worth your valuable and limited time. This is why it is so important that new businesses land a minimum viable product as the primary goal. Because perfection is impossible to achieve, whereas trial and error keeps you moving forward.

  1. Build a following.

As you start your business you will meet many people who will help you or take an interest in what you are doing. Make sure you add their email address to your contacts database and grow this list as you progress your business.  

It’s important to nurture this group by keeping in regular contact. One way I do this is to send out a monthly newsletter that provides a simple update on my progress and some interesting tidbits. It doesn’t matter how you keep in touch but just that you do. Your early tribe are your greatest supporters. Mine mean the world to me and I cherish their feedback and support.

If you are keen to show a fellow start-up support, I would love it if you could like or follow my facebook or Instagram page. Just go to:

https://www.facebook.com/vivobodywear

https://www.instagram.com/vivobodywear/

Thanks for reading! Catch you next time.
xxoo

Step 1 – in my entrepreneurial journey towards the world of ecommerce

It’s exciting and a feel silly for jiggling in my seat, but I’m also grinning with pride, because I have hit two key milestones this month.

Now I’ve got to say – there have been roadblocks. Home schooling during Covid19 lockdown for one! I have now walked around the block and played Monopoly Deal more times than I can count. Because my kids have a clear limit of patience and focus when it comes to schoolwork.  

And while I have felt pulled in many directions and have had to jump from one task to another in rapid succession, I am still moving forward. Mmmm, maybe I deserve a glass of wine!

Wine aside, the first milestone I hit was coming up with my brand name. I didn’t think coming up with a brand name would be that hard. But it was the HARDEST! Note to self – if this ever happens again – ask less people for their advice. Because everyone has a different opinion!!

The worst enemy to creatively is self-doubt.

Sylvia Plath

I reached milestone number two when I finally choose the selection of fabrics that I’m happy with to progress to the next stage (prototype development). I have now tested hundreds of fabric samples. Not only have I undertaken all the scientific tests but I also borrowed a friends sewing machine and made some very rough prototypes to exercise in. Because that is the ultimate test! Running without leakage, especially after a day of drinking tea. I was so disappointed when the first few didn’t work. My bottom lip was out and I was not happy. But it didn’t take many mishaps to realise where I was going wrong. On the plus side – I have also somewhat improved my sewing machine skills, which – if I’m being honest – were absolutely terrible. But when I finally found the right fabric layers – I was surprised my neighbours didn’t hear my huge sigh of relief!

It’s early days yet and I know I have a long road ahead. But it feels rewarding to be stepping over the hurdles just the same.

How I started my entrepreneurial journey

Starting a new business venture is exhilarating! It brings out my creative side and makes me feel like I’m doing something with my life that adds value. With it – also comes self-doubt. Because its hard to know if you are making the right decisions.

I have asked myself many times if this is the right thing to do. Yet, in saying that – I don’t like to waste too much time on self-doubt because it takes my mind away from other more productive thoughts. Instead, I acknowledge the thought (when i have it) and remind myself of my three key reasons for doing it and then I swiftly move on.

Now – before I get into my recap on the key activities I’ve done in starting my entrepreneurial journey.  I must first tell you that I have never owned a business before, and I have no experience in designing a product. What I do have – is lots of motivation, dedication, and passion. I realise that – that alone is not enough. I will make mistakes (and I already have). My aim is to learn from my mistakes and not spend too much money on them. It helps that with Covid19 lockdown we have no money coming in – so it’s hard to spend when you have none to spare! All my knowledge is coming from either podcasts, google or the Creative HQ Incubator Program. Which is a tad restricted by the fact that the country went into lock-down one week before I was meant to start and we are still in lock-down.

That aside, I’ve still been able to find time to work on four key focus areas. The boxes shown below identify the key tasks that I have done. Some further insights are covered in more detail below that.


Guiding documents


Market research


Prototype prep


Online presence

1 Business Plan

2 Project task register

3 Marketing strategy

4 Forecast financials

5 Brand Framework

1 Online surveys

2 Competitor research

3 Problem and solutions review, incl: scientific journals, online research and chats to specialists

1 Sample materials purchased

2 Fabric tests performed

3 Potential suppliers identified

4 Pattern maker selected

Personal website: tamsinsomerville.com

Started a blog:
enablepositivechange.com

Guiding documents

I started my journey by developing a business plan. I used the template from the NZ central government business support agency. It gets you to cover everything from your timeline and market analysis through to supply chain, product creation and financial strategy. This document has been invaluable in making me think through the multiple elements required and I think it is an essential starting point for any new business.

I use Excel for my project task register. Every time I think – “owww, that’s something I should do”, I add it to my register. Its currently list over 100 tasks that I need to do under key themes. This is guided by goals that I have set myself to achieve over the next 1, 2, 3, 6 and 12 months.

With my marketing strategy I first started quite detailed but then I simplified it into a one A3 page that simply sets out my goals, approach, marketing pillars, product niches, and key messages. It is super helpful!

My brand development framework starts off with elements that I will retain throughout my business journey, such as outcomes, goals, vision, values, strengths, insights, and desired brand experience. But then it moves into elements that I will change over time once my branding is finalised, including words that describe the brand, brand name ideas, logo ideas, as well as colors and fonts I like.

Market research

I used Survey Monkey to test the market viability of my product. I avoided friends and family because I needed the results to be honest. I sent out about a hundred emails and received 40 responses. The results were clear – progress forward!

My second survey tested my six possible brand name ideas and the associated tag lines. The results were not overly clear. Everyone thought differently. The best advice I received was by reading a book called Hello my name is … Awesome.

Prototype development

Arguably my hardest task to date. I have ordered and tested more fabric samples than I care to admit. This has been my biggest expense to date, and I have now learned the importance of asking more questions prior to excitedly ordering the fabric of my dreams. Finding the right fabrics is so much harder than I thought it would be. Especially finding sustainable fabrics that will work.  Note to self – when designing my next product – hire a professional!

Online presence

I developed a personal website because I thought it was important that if people wanted to learn about me, they would be able to. I paid US$50 for a domain name and website hosting for a year. This included an easy website template, which had me up and running in a morning.  

I developed my blog so that I could share the reasons of why I was on my entrepreneurial journey and share some tips along the way.

My next website development, will be my online retail store. This will not be so easy or cheap. Eek! I’ll keep you posted.

Life essentials – steering me towards entrepreneurial success

It’s been eight weeks since I started my entrepreneurial journey towards developing an online business selling leakproof underwear for pee, periods and perspiration.

I found it quite easy to stick to a healthy routine for the first five weeks, but since then I begun to slacken off. I’m hoping that by writing this post and becoming more aware of my naughtiness, that I will start to do better.

Below is my list of five essential healthy habits that I’m trying to stick to. The checkbox identifies how well I’m going.

Sleep – the no-brainer! Go to bed and wake up at a similar time each day and allow for some quiet wind-down time before bed. Not only is this great for my mood and focus but its also great for my skin. My current problem is waking during the night. If I wake then I focus on my breathing and try to clear my mind. If that doesn’t work then I read a book on my dimly lit phone with the black back light. I realize that this is probably not good. But it does take my mind off everything else and put me back to sleep swiftly. But I’m sure that listening to a meditation podcast would be better. Might have to try that.

Water – drink a full glass of water with lemon or lime first thing each morning. Then grab a 1L bottle of water and I make sure that I get through this, and then some, each day. Initially I was trying to aim for 2L but that was impossible with my weak bladder.

 3Exercise – I like to exercise as soon as I wake up, but if that’s not your best time – then find a time that works for you and program it into your day. I find that if I look at my phone when I first wake up then I am more likely to skip exercise. NAUGHTY! But if I get up and put my activewear on straight away – then I’m good to go! The question is – how best to stick to this? Because I started off great and now, well – I’m just ok. Starting NOW – I’m going to make a goal (not too ambitious) and stick to it.

 4Stretches – for me this involves stretches for a frozen shoulder, a stiff neck and pelvic floor exercises (gosh I sound old!). I’m not sure why I’m so bad at this – but while initially I started off doing this daily and I felt great too – now I’m lucky if I do it once every three weeks. I need to do better! Much better!
I know that I’m pretty good at doing them if I remember. So, starting NOW – I’m going to set a daily reminder alarm to get me back on track.



 5Staying positive and motivated – remaining positive through problems and roadblocks is very difficult – but absolutely essential! I’ve been able to do by being diligent with four things. But that is way too much information for this one blog post – so if you are keen to read more go to: The key to staying positive and motivated.

Remember – happiness is contagious!


My passion project

It was 22 January 2020, when I chose to tell my husband that I’m taking a year off from full time paid employment to work on my passion project – and that he would have to go back to work. My profession at the time was consulting/contracting for government agencies, primarily in policy and strategy development. I was paid well and I enjoyed it, but when I thought about what I’d do if money wasn’t an issue/requirement then I knew it wasn’t that.

So when I had my lightbulb moment (see previous blog story) I thought to myself – there is never going to be a better time to make a change. It was on that day when I registered my new company, with the intention of developing leak-proof underwear for pee, periods and perspiration. I was beyond excited!

I knew deep down it was the right decision. But self-doubt plagued me. It was very hard saying “no thank you” to the first few policy contract roles that were presented to me. And even after a month, when my husband still had no job, I was tempted to accept yet another short-term role. But I knew if I did this then I would lose momentum.

My husband and I had agreed that I could spend our savings, we would scrap the planned holiday, and there would be no more take-out or meal kit delivery. 😦 Plus we would need to take out a loan against the house for my first product shipment. This was my chance and while the since the family was being impacted I knew that I needed to have faith in my ability to deliver.

I started with a business plan, and then a brand strategy, a marketing strategy and a project task register. After that my primary goal was to develop a minimum viable product. However, textile manufacturers are not that common in New Zealand anymore. Not to mention, no one sold the fabric that I wanted. So while I waited (rather impatiently) for fabric samples to come from abroad I focused on everything else, such as pattern making, label requirements, packaging, and learning about online sales and marketing.

It is fair to say – that since I had never developed a product before, let alone sold anything online, I had a lot to learn.

With more time available each morning (because i was not rushing off to town on the train) I would walk/run and listen to podcasts. My husband turned the garden shed into an office for me and I would work all day out there. I was so excited to start each day. Then at night-time, when I would normally enjoy watching a light-hearted tv drama series, I found that I could no longer pay attention to them. I wanted to be thinking about my business or watching Startup School videos instead. My mind, which had previously been completely exhausted from working a solid 40hrs each week was now alive and in overdrive. This was a bit of a revelation to me. It was like a creative driven entrepreneurial energiser bunny was just desperate to be free. Who knew!

The exciting part is that its more than just making and selling a product. I am passionate about the subject of light bladder leakage because it has negatively impacted me for the past 12 years. I wanted to try and make a difference to somehow empower women to feel more confident in living their best life without limitations. I want to encourage others to share their stories and hopefully we can create a more open dialogue where we share information about the wide range of support and treatment available. Whilst also reducing some of the sensitivity around the subject.

The light-bulb moment that caused the passion project

One day I was on an overnight tramp with friends. We were sleeping in a Dept. of Conservation hut at the top of a gorgeous mountain, in a dorm room with single mattresses covered in thick durable plastic. The kids got to sleep fine after a long day of hiking, but I lay awake all night feeling uncomfortable, hot and with a mind full of thoughts. It was that night that I had a bit of a light bulb moment.

I had not been open with my girlfriends about my personal problem – and yet we are really close friends. I guess its because no one really wants to talk about bodily fluids – because that’s nasty!

But here I was, lying awake, thinking about how annoying it was that my backpack waist-strap had dug into my bladder all day during our hike and that I wish I had better pelvic floor muscles. Because not only had I leaked through the pad in my undies that day – but I was also dreading having to put another pad in the next day, as the only private place to do that was in the outdoor long-drop toilet, which was a haven for mosquitoes. 

As I lay awake that night there were three key fields of thought that just kept swirling around my head.

Firstly, I wanted to understand why I wasn’t being more open about my bladder leakage issue. I remembered some data that I’d read once that said only 1/3 of people with incontinence issues seek help. This felt wrong to me and I vowed then and there to be more open about my issues. But i thought – why not also see what I could do to foster a more open conversation about female incontinence in general.

Secondly, I was annoyed that I hadn’t been able to buy any leak-proof underwear in New Zealand prior to our overnight tramp. I had found some online providers overseas, but the cost of the product was out of my price range, particularly when I added shipping. So I decided then and there – I needed to do something about this too!

Lastly, I was annoyed with my husband. We’d had a disagreement prior to the hike and my inner self was telling me that something had to change. The thing is – I am a naturally positive and optimistic person. My husband on the other hand, is more of a realist, or a pessimist some may say. For the past 24 years that we have been together my constant level of happiness outweighed any negativity that he could bring to the table. But over the past year something had changed. I was becoming resentful and less happy.

Initially I blamed him – and that was what our disagreement was about. But then I realised – it was me that I could change. Not him. And that was the start of my much better life. And also the start of my passion project!