Need inspiration to take that leap? Anna Stewart, who runs her own catering business Cuisine Maison, tells us how she made the leap from being stuck in a job she didn’t enjoy to running a company that really suits her personality.
What is Cuisine Maison?
It is good food cooked from home using high quality ingredients. I supply cafes and shops with cakes and bakes and also cater for parties. I love the fact it is all cooked in my kitchen and fits with my life. I am my own boss and make my schedule.
What gave you the courage to leap into the work you love?
I was doing a job in sales and marketing that I’d fallen into and had no great interest in. It paid the mortgage but I had no vocation. The final year I was there the company had financial difficulties and as a result a lot of pressure was put on staff. I began looking for other work but it’s hard to have the head-space and self-confidence when you’re under such strain. My saving grace was being made redundant. It meant I had time and a financial cushion to give myself a breather and look ahead.
I felt guilty at first setting up the business because in the beginning I was bringing in less money, but my husband said for nothing would he have gone back to how it was. He could see the benefits. Everyone was suffering when I was stressed by a job I didn’t enjoy. Within a fortnight of conceiving Cuisine Maison the children became easier and the whole family was happier.
How did you hit upon the idea for Cuisine Maison and know it would suit you so well?
Lots of little things put the idea in my head. I read somewhere look at your bookshelf; at least a quarter of my books were cookery books. Aged 10 I began to collect recipes and then write my own. For years when I cooked for friends they would say ‘you should do something with this’ but before I had the redundancy I didn’t dare think it could be a possibility.
As well as cookery books my bookshelf is full of art books. I don’t know how to say this without being corny but cooking has to be pleasing to the eyes as well as the taste buds.
Cuisine Maison suits me because there is the skill cooking, the interpersonal skills and the presentation. There is also time alone pottering which I love. When I am cooking I feel in control because I know my subject. I never felt like this in my old job. People comment on how I’m always so calm when I’m cooking for eighty people. I guess I’ve found something that really suits my personality.
What are the challenges?
I really enjoy talking with people which is partly why I knew this would suit me. It can be scary though because when you sell something you make you are putting yourself on the line, it is my personality reflected in the food. If I mess it up it is my reputation at stake so it has to be right every time.
What advice would you give others thinking of taking a leap?
I was so scared of taking that leap, you always think of the risks even if you are unhappy. I was thinking about my career change at the beginning of the financial crisis and people kept saying ‘you don’t know how lucky you are to have a job’. The idea of jacking it in seemed completely reckless. But if you do something you love you are going to be so much better at it and be so much more committed.
I’m not sure anything would have made me take that leap, at the time my confidence and self-belief were pretty low. But, my advice to others would be to try and find something that inspires you then every thing falls into place. The longer you stay at the bottom of the hole it will just keep getting deeper and deeper.
What next for you and Cuisine Maison?
As the children grow the time I have will expand. I’d like the business to expand to meet that. I am not sure where it will take me but at the moment that suits me fine.