Once upon a time I had a six-figure salary and a career in corporate banking and finance, but it wasn’t long before I discovered that money didn’t light my fire.
An article on Napoleon Bonaparte and his friendship with a young Jean Remy Moët peaked my interest in Champagne and soon enough I had devoured most of the available literature on the subject.
I wrote a letter to an author who had written my favourite book on Champagne and instead of answering my questions he invited me to join him in France where he would teach me everything he knew.
Armed with the conviction that following my heart would lead to better things, I quit my job, packed my bags and bought a one-way ticket to France. Today I am glad I had the courage to take that leap of faith.
Here are a few things I learned about guts and taking a gambling on intuition.
Lose the safety net
An aversion to risk is the biggest barrier to pursuing your passion. A lot of women take the slow and careful way, but I think dipping the proverbial toe in the water may mean you never really succeed as you’re still somewhat tied to the safety net of the stability and income of your existing job.
Taking the safety net away means that you have no choice but to commit and succeed. When faced with obstacles, the lack of a safety net forces you to find a way through. By quitting my job, selling my house and buying a one-way ticket to France, I had no choice but to pursue new opportunities and throw myself at them.
On that note, even when you’ve established yourself you need to fight complacency and get uncomfortable. When you are comfortable and feel safe and secure, it means you’re plateauing and aren’t growing within your profession or business. When you’re out of your comfort zone, you’re learning. I am conscious of not staying comfortable for too long, which is why when The Champagne Dame hit a certain level of success I started working on my new venture, Emperor.
It’s not about the money
Money is a byproduct of success, not an end in itself. Focus on how you can be the best in your industry, how you can give your clients the best experience, how you can break new ground in your market. By focusing on your performance either as an individual or as a business, you will succeed and the money will follow – it doesn’t happen the other way around. Focus your attention on the outcome of your passion, not the outcome of your bank balance. Passion is never about dollar signs.
No guts, no glory
Starting your own business takes an enormous amount of guts and an even larger dose of passion. There will be days, weeks or even months that will be hard. Accept that from the beginning and acknowledge this period as part of the challenge of growing a business and part of the journey of being successful.
I don’t know any successful entrepreneur who says it was all smooth sailing. It’s how you react to the stress that will determine who fails and gives up and who persists and succeeds. Keep your spirits up by getting a regular dose of positive inspiration from wherever you can get it—your mum, you best friend, the internet, your mentor or a good book—to build a resilient mindset. It’s critical for business success.
No one achieves anything completely alone so don’t be afraid to find support. I couldn’t have achieved what I have achieved and retained any sort of normality in my life if it weren’t for my partner. My partner Kyri gave up his job and joined my business to help me succeed; he is the nurturing one while I travel for business and run the empire. I have the higher income potential, so it makes sense for me to take the breadwinner role and for Kyri to do the school runs with our daughter Arlington and take parental leave for our next baby.
In retrospect, none of my previous partners would have given me that support and I wish more men would put their egos in their pocket and let the natural roles within the relationship play out. Good support is critical. Male entrepreneurs often get invisible support from their partners and it’s presented as an individual success; female entrepreneurs shouldn’t be without it because they think it will take the shine off their individual achievement.
My career in champagne started as a gamble but I’d say any success needs to come from backing yourself. I made myself vulnerable and pulled myself through, demonstrating that I could make it. So I made it.