This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

Advice on Changing Tack

Quoted

This afternoon we take some time with Annie Abbott of footwear phenomenon Habbot, and Mr Draper’s Alistair Birrell to talk about changing tack… or rather plotting a new course for yourself, as might be more in-line with Alistair’s former Australian Air Force Officer lingo!

This trailblazing pair share some wonderful tips, which are sure to resonate with those looking to change careers, whether considering a slight reroute, or a completely new direction.

14th August, 2017

Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

Annie Abbott is the founder and director of Melbourne-based footwear label Habbot. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

Annie Abbott is the founder and director of Melbourne-based footwear label Habbot. Annie quit her ‘real job’ to launch her business back in 2011.  She had previously worked in the fashion industry – for the likes of Sarah-Jane Clarke and Heidi Middleton at Sass & Bide, and Natalie Massenet and Megan Quinn at Net-a-porter.com – where she witnessed the success that could grow from ‘big passion and hard work!’

In tackling her own personal business goals, Annie drew from her family’s experience in bricks-and-mortar retailing. She recalls deciding on a physical store presence as being one of the biggest decisions she had to make along the way. ‘It was difficult weighing up the “emotional” side of what I thought would be the “perfect” first site, versus the potential “commercial” outcomes on my own,’ says Annie. ‘I overcame this by testing different areas with “pop-up” spaces first, and also sought advice from friends in real estate, when it came to negotiating the lease terms.’

Annie advises business owners to know their own strengths, and when to seek expert advice. ‘Be positive, have faith in your own creativity and put most of your energy into the things you’re great at, and get help for the weaker areas, not the reverse,’ she tells.  Also, expect a frugal first year. ‘Save more money than you will think you need before you start, to give you the freedom to implement unexpected opportunities along the way… or just to pay the bills!’

Alistair Birrell is the man behind Melbourne-based business Mr Draper. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

‘You don’t need to be the smartest or most talented person in a field, just the most the committed!’

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!’

View Comments

Similar Stories

Quoted

Achieving Work/Life Balance

This afternoon we explore the ideal of ‘work/life balance’. Is it ACTUALLY attainable? Tamara Maynes of The Establishment Studios and ...
Elle Murrell

Quoted

Ideas on Productivity

A new short and snappy series of inspiring quotes from our fave local creatives.
The Design Files

Quoted

Tips on Motivating Teams

We take two minutes with two incredibly accomplished creative professionals: Amanda Henderson of Gloss Creative, and Berry Liberman of Small...
Elle Murrell

This Week

51:47

Podcast

Country Road’s Managing Director On The Stickiness Of Sustainable Fashion, On TDF Talks

In this podcast conversation, Elle Roseby talks leading one of the country’s most iconic brands through a new age in the fashion industry....

Architecture

Everything You Need To Know About Working With An Architect

Four of Australia's best architects answer your frequently asked questions, from what an architect does, to how much they cost!

Architecture

A Modernist-Inspired Seaside Home

This adaptable, Victorian seaside home designed by Nest Architects and Placement blurs the line between modernism and contemporary design. ...

Interiors

11 Mirrors That Are Having A Moment!

Lauren Li's edit of her favourite mirrors out there right now, to take your space to the next level!
Lauren Li
  22 hours ago

News

Delicious New Bed Linen From A Local Fave

Melbourne-based bed linen stars, The Sheet Society, launches a moody new winter range ripe for mixing + matching.
Sponsored

Interiors

A Glam ’60s-Inspired Makeover For A Drab Suburban Home

Kaiko Design transform a forgettable suburban space into a ritzy family residence, with big personality!

Gardens

A WOW-Factor 'Secret Garden' In Blairgowrie

Ian Barker Gardens creates a private outdoor sanctuary on the Mornington Peninsula.

News

Get Luxe Designer Furniture For Up To 15% Off!

Designer furniture retailer DOMO is discounting in-stock and custom items from HC28 + HC28 Cosmopolitan.
Sponsored

TDF Design Awards

The Most Fabulous New Furniture Designs In The TDF + Laminex Design Awards 2021

There is no shortage of innovation and inspiration from the Furniture Design finalists In The TDF + Laminex Design Awards this year!
Lucy Feagins
  14 hours ago

Architecture

A New Zealand Villa Built For Hosting

Architecture firm Maud creates a home for a family of hospitality professionals, built around a generous kitchen, outdoor room + pétanque g...

Interiors

A Joyful Home, Full Of Whimsy + Glamour

Scalloped edges and vibrant colours have elevated this Sydney terrace by Arent&Pyke.

News

An Online Super Store + Subscription Service For All-Natural Goodies

GoodnessMe carries over 3,000 products from snacks to ready-made meals – with samples delivered to your door every month!
Sponsored

Homes

A Remarkable Family Home Transformation

Maddie and Mike Witter transformed a mould-ridden, dilapidated house into a bright and breezy family home for six!

Interiors

A Before-And-After Interior Renovation That’ll Knock Your Socks Off!

AMA Studio Interiors transforms a rustic, wood-panelled cottage on the NSW Central Coast into dreamy family retreat.

On The Market

A Light + Bright Beachside Home Hits The Market

This property in Sunrise Beach, Noosa is a full time home that feels like a holiday home - and it’s ready for new inhabitants!

Similar Stories

Quoted

Achieving Work/Life Balance

This afternoon we explore the ideal of ‘work/life balance’. Is it ACTUALLY attainable? Tamara Maynes of The Establishment Studios and ...
Elle Murrell

Quoted

Ideas on Productivity

A new short and snappy series of inspiring quotes from our fave local creatives.
The Design Files

Quoted

Tips on Motivating Teams

We take two minutes with two incredibly accomplished creative professionals: Amanda Henderson of Gloss Creative, and Berry Liberman of Small...
Elle Murrell

The Design Files acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files – we would love to hear from you.

Please email us here.