Abby’s career change story
from Digital Music
to Yoga & Pilates
My name is Abby, and I live in Walthamstow with my son, Raffy, age 6, and our 6-month-old rescue dog named Gizmo.
I own East of Eden, yoga and Pilates studios in E17, with over 100 classes a week, employing 50 teachers, 15 reception staff and with 1400 customers a week attending classes.
When I became unexpectedly pregnant with Raffy, I’d been working in digital music and media for well over 10 years, but had quit to freelance as a step towards changing my career. I’d worked for big companies like ITV, BBC, Yahoo!, MySpace and Warner Music, in senior roles, but I’d been feeling unhappy and unfulfilled for a while, and I’d settled on International Development as a more meaningful career than music - I think I just wanted to get out of music really.
Finding out I was pregnant, and my baby’s dad deciding not to be involved changed all that though, as when I was meant to be starting my MSc in International Development in October 2012, I was having a baby. I went back to freelancing in music when he was tiny, however I knew flexible working isn’t the norm for that industry so I needed to figure out a new way to earn a living if I wanted to be around for my son. I loved Yoga and Pilates, and had dreamed of opening a studio (which I’d mentally already called East of Eden) in Walthamstow, where I lived, so when I met a yoga teacher at the end of 2013 who wanted to do the same thing, it seemed like it was worth a shot.
We wrote a business plan and found a space which we opened as a small community studio in March 2015. It was very tough starting as we were both single mums, so I needed to help with childcare, do my day job (consulting for Napster), as well as all the work required to start and run a business. I knew that we needed to expand beyond the single studio we started with quickly, in order to be able to make a living from it, so within 6 months of opening, I raised investment via Seedrs, took over a space next door, completed a 100k build and a year after the initial opening, launched a new yoga studio with showers and changing rooms, turning the first space into a dedicated reformer Pilates studio. My business partner decided to move on, and for the last 2.5 years, I’ve been running it single-handedly.
I’ve now qualified as a reformer Pilates teacher, launched a retreats business, and collaborated with the Natural History Museum to offer yoga there. I’m looking at expanding both in Walthamstow and further afield.
The first 2 years were probably the toughest 2 years of my life, professionally and personally.
Mainly because the business was so dominating of my whole life that I didn’t HAVE a personal life. For the first 6 months, I worked every waking hour, either at my day job, on studio admin and marketing, reception work, and childminding my business partner’s child (as well we my own!). Then once we expanded, the pressure of running a business with massive costs and revenues that were slow to catch up was very demanding. The financial stress was huge too. I went from earning a good salary as a director in the music industry, to being a single mother earning less than minimum wage. Added to that was the challenging transition from being a partnership to being the sole Director. Through it all, I had to just grit my teeth, work hard, and move forwards, as once you are committed financially, you have to just let it play out. I believed in what I was building, and I also believed that at some point, it would be a business I could earn a living from.
Now, 4 years on, I absolutely love what I do.
I feel proud that I have created something that people value, but most of all, I get to work around my son, so I see him grow up, in a job that I love. That’s worth all the blood, sweat and tears.
What have you learnt in the process of finding your new career?
I've learned to trust myself, and that it is always worth giving things a go, as by putting yourself out there, even if your original plan doesn't work out, you end up in a different place from where you started. I've learned everything about how to run a small business on the job - I've made various mistakes, but that's the best way of figuring stuff out. I've learned how important it is to get the right people on board, and to ask for help when you need it - though I could definitely get better at that!
What has changed in yourself and your environment since you’ve changed careers?
I'm around for my son, I love what I do and am constantly challenged and excited by it and I'm proud of what I have built. I love the flexibility, and while sometimes I work weekends or evenings, other days I go for a walk in the forest with the dog after school drop off, and I feel very grateful for that freedom.
What advice would you give someone considering a career change?
Do your research, have faith in yourself and go for it!