Ditching the Big City for your Big Idea

For Londoners who nurture a disruptive business idea

If you are a mid-career employee in a cushy corporate job who is secretly nurturing a business idea but is too scared to quit thinking ‘what if’, then stop everything and read this.

Don’t be afraid- Take the plunge:

Taking the leap of faith and embarking on an entrepreneurial journey can seem daunting at first. Apart from the fear of failure, things can get especially tricky if you work in one of the dazzling offices located in the Square Mile and cannot imagine giving away the monthly pay-checks and other perquisites, which are part and parcel of having a job.

However, the transition was every bit worth it for Mark Holdsworth, founder of HALF HITCH Gin & micro-distillery who spent 15 years working for different bosses before calling it quits and finally pursuing his dream of creating his own gin.

Talking about his successful journey, Holdsworth says: “My time with Bacardi and Bombay Sapphire were fantastic and taught me so much. But then I felt the need to realise my dream of creating my own gin and setting up a business in the part of London where I was born and raised.”

Natasha Blakemore also took the big leap when she launched her own line of luxury, hand-poured fragrant candles which culminated into her brand­, Tussie Mussie.

Talking about how empowering it is to be your own boss, Blakemore says: “I think if you have a hankering to branch out on your own then you owe it to yourself to give it a try.  Life is short and you don’t want to think “what if”.  Being your own boss, making your own decisions and deciding your own working hours is incredibly empowering, motivating and worth leaving the corporate world for.”

Transition phase:

Blakemore has an interesting point to make when she says: “I always had a passion for fragrance and, as a brand specialist, I have always wanted to create my own brand, so the idea for Tussie Mussie was born out of these two things.

“I went on courses to learn about the production side of candle making and perfume courses to learn about fragrance and blending and combined that with my marketing knowledge to create Tussie Mussie. It took lots of time, research, ideas, brainstorming, making, testing and patience.”  This shows us that in-spite of having a certain clarity of thought, it took Blakemore much more than that.  It entailed research, testing and, a substantial investment of time, for her business to grow and develop.

On his business trajectory and its gradual international transition, to quote Holdsworth: “I founded HALF HITCH Gin & micro-distillery in 2014. Now you can find my product in most London gastro pubs, Majestic and Wine Rack. They are also available online. But there’s a gin gold rush at present so [the market is] very competitive and as with any startup, there’s little short-term profit but we’re now exporting as far afield as USA & China.”

Common thread:

One thing that is common to both the entrepreneurs is their choice of domain name. As we have seen, digital marketing is a major tool of generating revenue, and both Natasha and Mark have opted for a Dot London web address, as opposed to a ‘.com’ or ‘.co.uk’.

Talking about the benefits of having a city-based web address, Dan Hill, Head of Dot London, says: “A number of brands refer to their place of origin as part of their identity, to show a sense of pride in where they’re from, especially if it’s a globally recognised city such as London. Using a Dot London web address can give small and emerging businesses an extra boost of confidence when entering the market by highlighting their strong association with the capital and be seen as a part of the city’s thriving business landscape.”

Marketing and how:

While their ‘gin school’ in Camden is a key way of driving awareness for their brand for HALF HITCH Gin & micro-distillery founder Holdsworth, Tussie Mussie’s Blakemore has a different marketing strategy.

“I sell my products face-to-face at markets and fairs such as Christmas fairs. Last year I took a space for the first time at Spirit of Christmas in Olympia.  I have also created my own website. I pitched my brand and products to ‘Not On The High Street’ at one of their Pitch Up events and was accepted, my products are now on their site as well,” Blakemore adds.

Learning lessons:

Perhaps taking a leaf from Adam Grant’s - Originals, Holdsworth sounds a cautious tone when he says: “Know your industry inside out and don’t give up the day-job until you actually start selling – it’s a long road before that.”

Blakemore adds that an entrepreneur must research well and get to know their market and competitor landscape before taking the final plunge. “My main advice to other entrepreneurs would be to make sure you do your research.  Get to know your market and competitor landscape really well before you launch a start-up.” 

She goes on to add, “It definitely helps to have a plan, but review it regularly as new opportunities arise.  You should also make your vocation a vacation — really love what you do, be passionate about it because your customers will feel this from you.”

So, what are you waiting for? Listen to your heart and follow your big dream.

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