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

Architecture

A Timeless New Home In Ballarat, With Lake Views + Mid-Century Vibes

With American ‘Brady Bunch’ house vibes (!) this new home in Ballarat by Kennedy Nolan channels mid century design, with a sleek, contem...

Architecture

This Clever + Compact Bondi Home Feels Like A Never-Ending Holiday!

Fox Johnston architects managed to expand the footprint of this small and narrow Sydney site to create a generous, private haven!

Interiors

A Crash Course In Renovating Your Own Home From Top To Bottom, With BuildHer Collective

Rebeka Morgan and Kribashini Hannon of BuildHer Collective bring us a new book containing all the info you need to embark on building or ren...
Rebeka Morgan and Kribashini Hannon

A Day In The Life

A Day In The Life Of Chrissy Lafian, Founder And Creative Director Of Suku

With teams in both Melbourne and Bali, Chrissy lets us in on how she runs the lifestyle brand she's built from scratch!

News

The Magic And Art Of Beekeeping With Honey Fingers

Mud Australia is hosting an exhibition and in conversation event with legendary urban beekeepers Honey Fingers, moderated by artist Stanisla...
Sally Tabart

Gardens

A Slice Of Primeval Paradise In Bronte

Situated on a steep site in a sometimes blustery coastal location, the planting palette for this stunning garden in Sydney is both soft, and...

On The Market

A Corner Store Turned Architectural Home Hits The Market In Brunswick

An 1883 shopfront turned architectural home with a pool and sauna is for sale in Brunswick!

Studio Visit

Experimental Designer Jessie French Is Shaping A Seaweed-Centric Future

The Melbourne artist shares her process of creating seaweed-based bioplastics, the beautiful resin-like homewares she makes from it + what t...

Food

Julia's Autumnal Weeknight Rocket and Hazelnut Pesto Linguine

Julia Busuttil Nishimura's linguine with a herby rocket and hazelnut pesto is a riff on the classic weeknight family meal by adding earthy,
Julia Busuttil Nishimura
  11 hours ago

News

An Extensive Art And Design Festival Taking Over Brisbane!

Brisbane Art Design (BAD) is a public art program bringing the Sunshine State’s exemplary creative scene to the fore throughout the month
Sponsored

News

Shop The Megan Park Archive Of More Than 10,000 Pieces!

Legendary fashion designer Megan Park has kept one of every piece she has designed over the last 22 years – and now, she’s opening h...

Homes

A Magical Alistair Knox-Designed Rental In Eltham!

The seriously dreamy 1970s rental home of Pop and Scott trade manager Lucienne Van Sebille, and her partner Sebastian.

Interiors

How To Nail The Bathroom Basics, According To Reece

A crash course in very excellent bathroom design, courtesy of bathrooms + kitchens merchandising leader at Reece Bathrooms, Daniella Santill...
Sasha Gattermayr
  3 hours ago

Stays

Northern NSW’s Newest Holiday House, Made From Recycled Materials

Book your stay at Rockhaven at Booyong – a new holiday house made from recycled materials located 40 minutes from Byron Bay.

Architecture

A Surprise Garden Brings This 'Pop-Up' Home To Life

Figr creates a unique language between architectural and landscaped spaces to truly maximise this small footprint home for a family of three...

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.