Many of us dream of a new career. Jane’s inspirational story explains how menopause helped her kickstart an exciting new venture…
Have you ever sat at work and thought “This feels like Groundhog Day I wish I could find a new career, something I enjoy”?
You have, I know you have. We all do it but how many of us actually get off our arse and do something about it?
Not many. And for a long time I didn’t. But a series of changes in my life spurred me into action. I hope my story inspires you to make changes, perhaps a lifestyle overhaul or a new career.
Catalysts for me were: the death of my husband; managing yet another change management process at work (my Groundhog Day); a breakdown; kitchen floor collapsing; menopause; and most importantly, continuing to be a role model for my daughter.
Symptoms, cravings and big changes
Originally I believed that my breakdown was delayed grief. But with hindsight and significantly more knowledge I realise my anxiety and depression was a symptom of the menopause. I had gone off coffee for a year, something that happened during the other hormonal chaos in my life, pregnancy. I’d started craving baked salmon and mackerel. This turned into cravings for meat which as a 25 years plus vegetarian was a shock!
My eyes were dry, I was suffering narcoleptic episodes of fatigue, including falling asleep briefly in the afternoon at work. It was only when I started to experience night-sweats that I realised I had reached menopause.
I found waking cold and damp and moving around the bed to find a dry spot combined with insomnia to be completely debilitating. No wonder I had fatigue! Changing into a toweling robe or sleeping on towels proved uncomfortable and wasn’t wholly effective either.
During one of my bouts of insomnia and keeping dry from a night sweat I thought “enough is enough” and Googled menopausal clothing. And immediately lost the will to live. What I saw was old fashioned and shapeless and completely at odds with my collection of Agent Provocateur lingerie. I knew that a technical performance fabric would be required in any clothing that could effectively address the discomfort of night sweats.
Becoming dissatisfied with my job, suffering from fatigue and other menopausal symptoms, I thought life is too short not to make a go of something. I knew if I didn’t set up a business making clothing that was both effective in addressing night sweats and stylish to wear I would kick myself.
So with a background in Higher Education management and not fashion I decided to start a clothing business! Slight moment of madness. I took voluntary severance from my full-time job and used my skills in strategic planning and financial forecasting to develop a business plan.
I met the woman who is now my accountant by chance through a mutual friend. A male friend who is an agent for work-wear put me in contact with a couple of women who worked in the clothing industry. One of whom said “does she really think there is a market for this type of clothing?”.
This was a women in her early 40s. The other lady was in her mid-50s and fully understood what I was trying to achieve and was completely on board. Together, we developed the prototypes of designs and explored fabrics until we identified the right one. I then worked with a freelance pattern cutter, who was also a tutor at Manchester Fashion Institute.
Identifying the right manufacturer took some time. The highlight of working with my original manufacturer was seeing my patterns on the wall adjacent to those of Agent Provocateur. The down side was when they unexpectedly went into liquidation in October last year.
At present I’m working with a new British manufacturer and seeking another in Europe as a backup and to ensure that my new range of knickers are affordable for customers. In collaboration with my 20 year old daughter Hattie I have designed a couple of pairs of knickers for a Curve range as well as an adaptation of the Vest.
During her summer holiday Hattie will be developing more designs for the Esteem – Curve collection. As a Curve-sized individual with sweat-related issues she is best placed to do this. And as she is an art student I will be commissioning her to create a bespoke print for Esteem. The Esteem – Man range is in its early stages, in development with a male friend whose eczema is aggravated by sweat. I have already had positive comments from male cancer patients (sweating is a side effect of some cancer treatment) on how our Male T-shirt has improved their lives.
Now I also write articles on coping with aspects of life during menopause for magazines, newspapers and websites like Huffington Post. I talk on topics such as menopause. entrepreneurship, and manufacturing to a variety of different groups including menopause cafés, fashion students, growth hubs and women in business.
My learning curve into a new industry has been rapid and challenging. But it has given me a new lease of life and interest in work. Contacts in my various networks have been amazing with advice and guidance. The most rewarding part of my business is when I receive messages from customers telling me how my clothing has made a significant and positive difference to their lives. I am doing what I set out to do.