Alistair Birrell is the ‘Chief Linen Crafter’ at Melbourne-based business Mr Draper, which he established in 2014, after a career in the Royal Australian Air Force!
In fact, Alistair is no stranger to small business – he started his own fledgling fashion label while studying, then moved on to a role in a big logistics company, before joining the Air Force. We definitely heed his well-informed caution: ‘moving careers is hard work… but that it can also be very rewarding!’
Making a considerably sharper tack than Annie, the former airman found that a complete change or reset is sometimes exactly what you need in order to gain perspective. ‘I’m glad I did it, it’s given me energy in a lot of ways, and it taught me a lot about self-discipline, something self-employed folks can never have enough of.’
‘Understand that you’re going to be starting from the bottom and that nobody will take you seriously at the beginning,’ Alistair advises. ‘It takes a lot of grit to get through the initial 18 months but if you survive it will make you stronger’. However, the main takeaway he imparts is have a plan.
So what then does a solid strategy look like? ‘You need to be ready to earn your place. Seek help and mentors, be humble and work really hard,’ he advises. Of course, it’s about discovering your passion and committing, but it’s also vital to have a clear, pragmatic understanding of where you want things to go. ‘If you want this to be your job, then do the hard stuff first and sell whatever your project is – feedback from a paying customer is the best product/brand development.’
Alistair has diligently jotted down some other lessons he’s learned along the way on his blog here. ‘My strength is that I could outwork everybody else,’ he concludes. ‘You don’t need to be the smartest or most talented person in a field, just the most the committed!’