When you think back on your life, what milestones stand out as moments when you “pivoted” and deliberately chose to move in a new or unexpected direction? Maybe your pivot was inspired by something personal -- you got married, had a baby, moved to a new city, lost a loved one. Maybe your pivot was based on a professional experience -- you got (or, perhaps, didn’t get) a promotion, your beloved boss retired, you were laid off, the company you worked for relocated.
Whatever the milestone, we know people who work for themselves embraced the opportunity to reset a traditional career path and strike out alone. In fact, we’re constantly wowed by the “can-do” attitude of our inspiring QB Community members. That’s why we asked you to share what persuaded you to turn your passion, hobby or side gig into a full-time job. Turns out everyone has their own reason for making the pivot!
Goodbye corporate world, hello startup
Plenty of folks consider stable, long-term, well-paying job with benefits and a steady routine the epitome of success. Others find themselves itching for “something more.” Sherrie Bainer decided it was time to scratch that itch when she left her long-term corporate career to join a fledgling business she’d fallen in love with. Now head of sales for GRACEDBYGRIT, the women’s athletic-apparel company she so admired, Sherrie explains she saw the “pivot” as an opportunity to be part of something bigger.
“The GRACEDBYGRIT co-founders, Kimberly Caccavo and Kate Nowlan, were inspired to make athletic clothing with an element of safety after a local woman named Chelsea King was killed while on a run. Every piece of apparel we sell comes with a safety whistle, and every pair of pants has a cell phone pocket in the front and the back.” The name of the company, says Sherrie, comes from the idea that we all go through “gritty” moments, and those hard times give us an opportunity to persist with grace.
Lee Weinstein, who is now head of his own firm, Weinstein PR, made his pivot thanks to a passionate conviction he needed to do something different with his life. “I’d been at Nike 15 years.I loved working there. I was literally shaving one morning, and I asked the guy in the mirror, do you want to be there 20 years? The guy in the mirror said, ‘Hell, no!’ I was surprised I felt that strongly. I didn’t know what I wanted to do if I left Nike, and that led me to a whole process of figuring it out.”
Moving for love … and then following your heart
Travis Troyer worked in accounting and IT for about ten years before he got tired of his great ideas getting lost in steering committees. So when he made a life change -- a move to San Francisco to be with his life partner -- he also made a career switch and started Basik Candle Co. “I took some classes at WorkShop SF, and during a candle-making workshop, the instructor shared her story about starting her own business. It inspired me. I spent about nine months in product development before releasing our Basik Candle Co. products to the world.”
Sadie Scheffer had a different kind of happily ever after. She moved to California for a guy and learned to bake gluten-free for him. They didn’t end up together, but Sadie did find love when she eventually opened her bread company Bread Srsly. “I found out I also had an intolerance for gluten, so I created a sourdough starter. I began selling it to my friends in order to make some money for recipe development. In the beginning, it was just a hobby while I worked at a coffee shop. But it kept growing, and I decided to launch a gluten-free bread company. In my first week I had 13 orders! People came to my house to pick up their loaves.”
Sometimes you just need more ... income
Ceramics artist Heather McCalla was teaching at a university, but she needed to supplement her income. “I thought starting my own business might be a good way to do that while still giving me the flexibility I needed to maintain my teaching schedule two days a week,” she says. That’s how Heather McCalla Studio began where she now creates not only ceramics, but also sculpture and other fine art pieces.
Hairstylist April Hall made her pivot when her cash flow was a little light. She’d moved to San Francisco and didn’t yet have a full roster of salon clients. With a little time on her hands to explore other career paths, she was introduced to metal-working by a friend. “I was completely blown away. I couldn’t believe metalwork was a ‘thing.’ I knew I wanted it to be a part of my life. I became obsessed! I watched videos, practiced my skills constantly and eventually got the hang of making jewelry.” April now sells her own line of baubles at April May Jewelry.
Birthing children -- and ideas
Erica Voges had a degree in fashion design and set out to sell her hand-sewn designs through her small business, Caustic Threads. But after having a baby, she found her current designs far too time-consuming to finish during naptime, so she knew that she needed a new product if she wanted to stay in business. “I purchased a screen-printing kit several years ago and taught myself how to use it,” she says. “When I started screen printing I didn't really have any expectations, but I'm thrilled that my business became successful enough to do it full-time.”
For Jennie Nigrosh, founder and CEO of The Green Garmento, an eco-friendly dry-cleaning bag business, her pivot happened as a result of not having kids. She explains: “I realized that there's something better in the world that I could be doing. I married later in life and we tried to have kids for quite a long time and it didn't work out. We were throwing a lot of money into that and I thought -- let's put our money into something that actually could grow. If it's not meant to be that we can procreate, maybe we can help at something and do something positive.” Ten years later, Jennie and her product are ridding the world of 300 millions pounds of plastic each year.
Figuring out what you don’t want
Artist Dan Schmitt originally intended to pursue a career in sports medicine, but it only took one semester of classes for him to realize that career wasn’t for him -- and that’s when he pivoted. “I decided that, from then on, I would just take classes that sounded interesting, and I ended up in a ceramics course,” he says. “After the first few lessons I was hooked, and I began spending all my free time in the studio. Within three weeks I switched my major to Art and have been focused on ceramics ever since!” He now runs his business as Dan Schmitt Pottery, making tableware and functional pottery.
Finally, our very own Shana Neiderman, QB Community Manager, says that she started booking freelance gigs fresh out of college. She thought, “Maybe I could do this full time” -- and the career of a media maven was born.
“As a new college grad, I'd landed a temp employee position in my field. I started looking for other opportunities and found people willing to contract with me for work they needed. As things progressed, I realized I had full control of my contract work while I had little control over my fate as a temp employee,” Shana explains. “When a big contract opportunity came up, I asked myself, ‘Why not go all in?’” She did, and she’s never looked back.
Before you go
QB Community members, tell us about your pivot. What -- or who! -- helped you decide to work for yourself?