Michelle Bungay - Founder, The Effortless Trading Co.
Describe yourself in three words ...
Practical. Self-critical. Creative.
What makes you happy?
I’m happiest when I’m outdoors with my family, preferably in the sunshine, blue skies on a north Norfolk coastal walk with a pub lunch half way round.
If you could share a bottle of wine with anyone, anywhere who would it be with and where would you be?
Well I tried to think of someone famous, but honestly I don’t think that would be very relaxing and they might not be good company! So I’d prefer to be with my husband, overlooking the ocean in camps Bay, Cape Town – that would be perfect.
A book or podcast you're currently obsessing over?
I’ve never really done podcasts I’m more of a reader, but when I start reading a book I’m very bad company until I’ve finished (I love to read a book in one sitting, 6 hours of a plane journey goes so quickly if you read one from cover to cover! - bliss)… I obsess about the book I’m currently reading and then move on - the last thing I read was ‘Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine’ I enjoyed its slow pace.
Best way to unwind?
With a glass of wine…. But I also sing in a choir which I recently joined and I love it, so now I’m singing in the car and round the house!
When did you realise you wanted to create a change or do something different in your work life? What was the trigger for this?
I created my first change 11 years ago, when I left the corporate world to start a jewellery business (which I still run on the side). I then tried to set up another venture with a friend for 18 months which didn’t work out… it left me quit low for a while, trying to think of what to do next and I didn’t want to go back to solely making jewellery again. It took me 6 months of applying for jobs I didn’t really want (and not even getting responses – I’ve perhaps been self employed for too long!) and then a chance find of a really beautiful beach product whilst on holiday in France and some investigation into wholesale opportunities, a few days of just writing ideas down in a notebook – and I’d dreamt up a new direction to try.
Thinking back to then, how were you feeling?
A bit low, because I felt unemployable and without a clear goal, which doesn’t suit me at all. Once I’d given myself a talking to and started to focus on what I like to do with my time, it eventually fell into place. I also had to go through a period of being happy to work alone again, going to a coffee shop with the laptop a couple of times a week for a change of scenery and some background noise really helped.
What first steps did you take?
I decided what product lines I wanted, I thought about branding, designed a logo, and read Brand Brilliance by Fiona Humberstone – several times! I worked out a budget for stock, I found the place that seemed right for me to go in India and I booked a flight! (I almost put impulsive as the third word to describe me?!)
I also tried to start building up some interest on Instagram, ahead of my buying trip and for a long time I felt like I was talking to myself with just a couple of people following me.
How did you figure out what you wanted to do?
I researched what was available in terms of products on-line, I never like to do things by halves – I felt it would be cheating to go to a UK trade fair and select pieces that anyone could access. Instead, I decided to go directly to India, to the the source of the pieces that attracted me. It helps that it’s also a country I’ve visited and really like and once I’d made that decision I turned to the internet (and sought advice from a friend who was previously a buyer for a big retailer and had experience working with Indian suppliers)
How did you (and how do you now) overcome any self-limiting beliefs? Can you give us an example?
I find it helps to speak to friends who support me, working on your own is great in many ways and gives you lots of freedom, but when you’re filled with self doubt at times, it’s good to know that there are people to chat to and often by voicing things out loud, I can come up with a solution or realise that actually what I’m doing is ok, without them having to really point it out.
Looking back with the knowledge and experience you have now, what advice would you have given to yourself?
To have spent any amount of time applying for jobs and worrying about how I was coming across on a cv was a complete waste of time and really drained me. With hindsight I shouldn’t have gone through that – but perhaps I wasn’t ready to come up with a new idea and I needed that period of time to focus me, but I won’t be doing it again any time soon.
How do you maintain your Creative Confidence (your ability to have ideas, think creatively and do things differently)?
I think creative problem solving is one of my main strengths, being creative is something that has always been my ‘thing’, in the classic sense (I have a theatre design degree) but also just in my everyday life, I’m not overly confident at many things but have never lacked creative confidence. Corporate life was so frustrating in that way and one of the reasons I escaped! And I have real trouble thinking theoretically or engaging in that kind of approach.
What advice would you give to another women who's considering making a change in her working life?
Don’t overthink it, if something feels right – it probably is. Life is definitely too short to spend your day doing something unfulfilling.
Best piece of advice for looking after yourself physically and mentally?
Go outside everyday. I’ve been lucky to have a dog which has meant daily walks in all weathers, not always feeling like going but always feeling better for it afterwards.
Having pivoted (created a change in your work life), what are you most proud of?
Turning this round so quickly! I initially had the idea in October 2017, by February 2018 I was in India and by May 2018 I’d launched a website with stock arriving daily. Seeing the logo I’d designed sewn into the products was also very exciting!
An intention for 2018?
To have sold enough of this year’s stock to mean I need to go back to India in 2019.