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Entrepreneur Diaries: Why I gave up my day job to build my company


By Shant Oknayan, co-founder of GlamBox Middle East.

October 14, 2013 6:05 by

Leaving your day job to start your own business is literally a life-changing decision with major consequences.  You need to be absolutely sure you are prepared for it.

What does ‘prepared’ mean? Well, it’s obviously going to be long hours, hard work, ups and downs and overall nerve-racking times like you never experienced before.

When you start your own company, there’s always a mixture of excitement and anxiety. You are very eager to start doing your thing, but at the same time you are anxious about the future, because when you’re a start-up, things are really getting tough and there’s no safety net.

The gist of it is that you’re leaving a stable career with steady pay for a future that surely holds many possibilities, but is uncertain.  So how do you know when you’re ready to make this giant leap of faith?

The reality is that there’s no way to guarantee the success of a new start-up and you need to invest money to start your business and keep it up and running before any revenue starts coming in.

If you have savings and you can pay out at least two years of living expenses, you may be able to commit yourself to your new venture without putting yourself under financial pressure. If you, however, do not have the resources to last, then you should delay your decision of quitting your job. Hold on to your day job until you have everything figured out for a smooth transition.

That’s what I did.

Until a few months ago, I had a great job at the largest start-up in the world, Google, heading its operations for the Arab world. I can say I had it all – great responsibilities, wonderful colleagues, excellent salary and perks, and a fantastic work environment.

However, I have always wanted something more. I wanted to do something in my life that meant more than being just another employee (albeit for a great company). I wanted to build something of my own.

I had always talked the talk – prior to my role at Google, I worked as a management consultant and have advised dozens of companies. But could I walk the walk?

From my point of view, this question had a lot less to do with determination or commitment and a lot more with financial security.

Many entrepreneurs will say things like ‘take a leap of faith’ or ‘if you don’t commit, it will never take off’. There’s certainly bravery in leaving everything behind and committing entirely to a new venture to make your dream come true.

I, on the other hand, am a little more risk averse (blame it on my consultant DNA), plus my personal circumstances were changing and my responsibilities to my family became very real with a child on the way. So I decided rationally on a phased approach before quitting my lucrative full-time job for good.

I founded GlamBox (with a couple of friends) while I was working. I hired a core team of talented people to test the waters: Was there a place in the market for it? Do consumers and suppliers (brands and marketers) see a need for it? Could GlamBox become an integral part of every woman’s beauty universe?

The business was launched in January 2012 and was well received by the market. Women loved the idea, brands supported this innovative marketing and sales channel, and investors expressed interest to hear more about our plans.

I realised that the proof of concept was indeed working, but to really grow GlamBox and fulfill our ambitions, we would need two things: More funding, a dedicated management and strong execution.

Things with GlamBox were on the right track, but they were not moving fast enough. In reality, it takes months to get funding from a venture capital (VC). You need to outlast your waiting period and that means one thing: Money.

Holding on to my day job provided me with a steady source of income and flexibility to grow the start-up.

I don’t mean to oversimplify the decision I made, because starting this new venture while still working was no picnic. It led to the most demanding and stressful years of my professional life, but, for me, it was a tradeoff, given the liquidity it provided the business.

The time it took to build the start-up was nothing short of an emotional roller coaster, but it was addictive and I thoroughly enjoyed the excitement of running my business. In a short span of 18 months, we managed to secure $1.36 million funding from three VCs.

Finally, the day came when I could quit my day job and not have any second thoughts about it.

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