July 13, 2024

Apparel Creations Workshop

Crafting Fashion Trends

Stuck in your Career? Insights to make the leap to being an entrepreneur.

4 min read

At some point in our lives, we will all arrive at the same place. To find meaning and joy in the work we do. And yet, quite a few people who aspire to live a purposeful work life, find themselves being dragged down a career path they really don’t want. Oh, the money might be good and the perks are always a plus. But that is not what triggers your heart rate in a good way. You are looking for more control in your decisions. You want to take qualified risks to make good things happen. But you are frustrated when managers and corporate decisions do not align with your ambitions. What to do?

In order to provide more insight into how people can change their career path, we reached out to two entrepreneurs who took different routes to creating companies. One, Luke Wilson, co-founder of Canary, after a few fits and starts, went down a more traditional career path, working with brands like Gap, Old Navy and Nixon. Fueling his entrepreneurial desire, he started a baby clothing company while in grad school. But, maybe, knowing what he did not know, he started his career path into retail fashion which is a huge market. According to Zippia, the fashion industry in the USA in 2023 was $345 billion, with global sales of $1.7 trillion.

But after years in the retail fashion industry with clear frustrations, he used the knowledge, confidence gained, and the experience to help co-found Canary, a company looking to deliver household products in a plastic free environment. Why now?

‘So, after these years of learning and growing, my heart was pushing me to try to start my own business again, and I wanted this business to have a strong focus on sustainability in order to try to make the world a better place for my kids. I wanted to be proud of what I did every day, and to establish a legacy where my kids would be proud of my efforts’, said Luke Wilson.

Here is his advice to other career executives struggling to make the leap to entrepreneurship:

– Take your industry knowledge and put it to better use

– Start a side gig sooner than later to gain experience

– Network to find potential co-founders who complement you

– Find a strong mentor in the market space you want to be in

– Instead of re-inventing the wheel, look for products you can improve

– Really understand branding and marketing to differentiate and grow

Matt Clifford took a more naïve and direct approach to becoming an entrepreneur. Graduating with a finance degree at the age of 22, he did not look forward to a corporate career. So, instead, he was introduced to a tech startup founder who needed help with some financial modeling. Through that entrepreneur, Matt met his co-founder of Barnana and made the decision to come on board and handle finance, operations and sales.

Did he know what he was doing? Maybe, maybe not. But what he did know is that the banana industry was big, upcycling wasted bananas was a good thing and the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) industry was huge. According to Adroit Market Research, CPG in 2021 in the USA was $600 billion, worldwide at $1.8 trillion. That’s a big marketplace. Following his entrepreneurial ambitions has paid off for Matt. Barnana was successful enough for him to step away from that startup and join CanDo as the CEO and grow the Keto Krisp product line exponentially. Now, he is an advisor to other food/drink brands in Southern California that are trying to crack the CPG marketplace which according to Nielsen has a 85% product failure rate.

Matt offers this perspective, ‘When launching a consumer goods brand go a mile-deep vs a mile wide. The retail landscape is massive. Where most brands hiccup is, they bite off more than they can chew. They spread their most valuable resources (time & money) too thin. Trying to launch in too many channels and too many retailers leads to distractions and putting out fires. Which leads to spending trade/marketing dollars in retailers and channels you shouldn’t be in yet.’

Here is Matt’s advice to people questioning themselves about becoming an entrepreneur either early or later in their career:

– Pick something and be laser focused on doing one thing well

– Always be positive and don’t take life too seriously

– Hang out with and hire really smart people and share the vision

– Don’t be greedy, so share the upside of the company’s growth

– If you succeed, share your learnings with others still on the journey

So, whatever it is you are doing today, if it does not make you happy, heed Luke and Matt’s advice. It’s never too early or too late to become an entrepreneur.


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