Quitting corporate life for a food van
"Brave, stupid or just confident it could work?"
written by Sarah Bell, 4th May 2018
Twelve months ago today, 4th May 2017, I walked out of my office and away from a life where I was employed by someone else. This is a short story about why and how I did it.
On Monday 13th Feb 2017 I gave notice to my employer because I could no longer bare corporate life. I felt frustrated, restricted and quite frankly I was worn out. It wasn't about the company I was working for, it was about me and my feelings... "it's not you it's me". The environment I once loved and got a kick out of had now become a chore that I was beginning to hate. My creativity was choked and my eyes were rolling so often I was losing the ability to look forward. I'm not negative about corporate life, it was just no longer for me. I wasn't even good at it anymore, maybe I never was! What I did know is that I couldn't carry on, I was done.
One Friday in Feb, I'd bashed my head against a particularly hard wall at work and it hurt. When me and Dave went to the pub that evening, we sat at a table for two, each with a pint and a bag of nuts to share. I looked up at him and said "I can't do this any more." It was a statement I'd made a few times before, but this time it was different, he knew I really meant it. Dave took a big gulp of his Guinness, swallowed and said "So quit on Monday. Write your notice over the weekend and hand it in first thing on Monday". I looked at him with a 'are you serious' kind of look, to which he responded "it'll be fine babes, we'll live on beans on toast if we have to". My heart melted and my head cleared, that was the nod that I needed and it was a moment I will never forget.
Of course there's a back story to all of this. In January, a month earlier, me and Dave had set up The Wolf Hut. It was intended to be my hobby on the side to see if I liked it, and maybe if I did, it could be something I could do longer term. Our dream (me and Dave) is to have our own cafe, so a mobile food van was a way of testing the water. Despite thinking this was going to be a hobby, once we'd created The Wolf Hut, I could think of nothing else, (and so it makes sense that the more my passion grew for the new business, the more I despised my 'real job'). Within a month of promoting The Wolf Hut to events organisors, we had already secured three bookings. That was a big thing for us! So as me and Dave moved onto our second pint in the pub that night, his view was, we've already got three confirmed gigs and that's without proper focus - "Imagine what you could do if you've got time to spend on it" he said. A comment swiftly followed by "Another beer?"
And so that was that. I resigned on the Monday with just three events in The Wolf Hut diary. Brave? stupid? or just
confident it could work? I don't really know, but I did it. I then proceeded to work the longest three months of my life!
Away from work, I spent my evenings and weekends sourcing events and contacting race directors and slowly the business
began to build.
Our first event was in April... Forest Warrior in the Forest of Dean. As we pitched up in the middle of a field, I stood in the back of the van and said (out loud) to myself "what the f'ck have I done?" I was thinking: 'A few months ago The Wolf Hut was just a doodle on a page and now in one hour I've got to open the hatch and actually serve our food to people'. I shook my head, took a deep breath and to be honest the rest is a bit of a blur. I don't really remember setting up or opening the hatch, I just remember my surprise when our first customer strolled up and actually wanted to buy something!
A couple of ace friends (Nic and Katie) helped us out that day, and we really couldn't have done it without them. We were so busy, or at least it seemed it back then. It felt frantic at times and the pressure of the queue and cooking
the food quick enough was a bit overwhelming if I'm honest. But it was also such a great laugh... customers were happy, the banter was fun, the slip ups were comedic! And the most special thing of all was that people loved our food! I shouldn't be surprised because it is bloody tasty, but when people got excited by what they were about to eat it was the best feeling. And when customers made an effort to come back to the van to tell us that the food was delicious... it meant the world.
We rocked that day! And so it began... The Wolf Hut had launched.
So back to the start of this story... on Thursday 4th May I walked out of the office away from a life where I was employed by someone else. Three days later, on Sunday 7th May, my 40th Birthday, we were pitched at an event back in the Forest of Dean. We had planned to go to New York to celebrate my 40th, but knocked it on the head when I quit my job. I'd said, "If I'm serving food from the van on my 40th Birthday I'll be one happy girl!" And so I was... serving food from the van and one happy girl.
Now here we are, 12 months on and I'm still happy. I feel like me again. I'm challenged in new ways; I'm sales, marketing, purchasing, customer service, operations and finance. I'm the cook, the bagel slicer and the cleaner and I absolutely love it! I can be as creative as I like and nobody can stop me. If I try something different and it doesn't work out, then so what? I learn from it. And when our ideas do work, me and Dave feel proud. It's been an amazing 12 months!
Thanks to everyone who has helped me get through my first year of being self employed; that's the event organisors who've chosen, supported and promoted us; the people who have advised, guided and mentored me; ace mates and amazing family who we can't thank enough, and of course the wonderful Dave Smith; he's the love of my life, my partner in Wolf Hut crime and the man who helps me make my dreams come true. I am blessed.
Speaking of Mr Smith, for those of you who have managed to read this story until the end, here's a little nugget for you... Dave handed in his notice last month and worked his last day at Salesforce.com yesterday. He has walked away from a job that has given him a very nice salary and security. He has nothing lined up (other than The Wolf Hut), like me, he's just had enough. Which takes us back to an earlier question... is it brave? is it stupid? or is it the best thing he'll ever do? Who knows? What we do know is that we're having a go at breaking free and if it doesn't work out, at least we've had a go. No regrets.
So that's the end of this chapter... me and Dave are going on holiday for a few days now to charge our batteries ready
to take on the next level in this mad game they call life!
Thanks for reading!