Am I too old to make a career change? My Vivo Bodywear journey

Am I too old to make a career change? Tamsin Somerville

E-commerce is a cut-throat world and now with the pandemic continuing, it feels like a mission every day to just get one sale. I am constantly hustling, and I can see why 96% of small NZ businesses fail within the first two years.

I started my business as a result of having two ginormous babies that came out the size of toddlers and demolished my pelvic floor muscles. Over time I’d developed a nasty habit of wearing disposable liners/pads every day to catch those pesky bladder leaks that occurred when I exercised, laughed or sneezed. But I hated throwing away money on single-use sanitary products that would remain in landfills for way longer than my lifetime. And so began my journey to create Vivo Bodywear, a reusable absorbent leakproof underwear for periods and bladder leaks. 

Unfortunately, my timing couldn’t have been worse! I found a manufacturer that was committed to eco-friendly practices in India. I excitedly sent through my designs and outlaid a huge sum of money for products in late 2020. The shipping company told me to expect them to arrive in late April 2021. I was a bundle of excited jellybeans. But then April turned to May and then July. Still my products had not arrived. The longer they took to ship the more I started to develop doubts.

Had I made the wrong decision to establish a new business during a pandemic? Should I go back to my government job? Prior to my career change, I was earning a great wage. I had two happy children, a relaxed home life and we took wonderful family holidays each year. Life was easy. But it was also quite predictable. My work wasn’t challenging me anymore. The kids were settled. My husband and I had a good routine. All was fine… FINE.

I could have left it like that. But deep down I knew, I needed some more sparkle.

When I reached my 40’s, I had gained more perspective on life. I had less concerns about the little things and greater awareness about what I needed to make my life more complete. I think many of us reach an age where you know you have a solid foundation of skills and confidence within yourself to be capable of doing many things.

I reached a tipping point just prior to Covid lockdown. It’s like the stars aligned. I was ready for a change, I knew what I was passionate about (due to a wee issue), and lockdown provided a timely pause in my life, which set the wheels in motion.

However, I was not prepared for the ups and downs I would face. While I had confidence in my ability to overcome obstacles, I was oblivious to the level of learning that I would be required to undertake. The set-up stage alone required all my problem solving, planning and strategic skills to be on overdrive. I loved the creativity of it all and stimulating my brain and challenging myself again was fantastic, but some days I found that my mental capacity wasn’t as agile as it once was. I needed to be so much more diligent and organised in going about my work. And I needed to be prepared to work hard again. I had given my previous career 20 years and for some reason I thought that I would be competent enough to take on a new profession and master it straight away. I instantly gained a new appreciation for all those people running a small business.

When my products finally arrived, I felt joy mixed with an overwhelming feeling of ineptitude. This made me wonder if I was too old to start a new business. What did I know about social media and digital marketing for goodness sake! I had to Google what the difference was between an Instagram Story and a Reel! I still thought that I was young at age 46. But clearly, to my devastation, this is not the case.

Yet even though I’ve faced challenges and it’s certainly not for everyone, it’s hard not to appreciate the benefits of owning a small business. I’m home when my kids finish school. I don’t have to waste 2hrs commuting each day. I’m being creative again and using a range of old skills and new talents in harmony. It’s glorious! Sure, it’s hard work and I’m unlikely to make a profit for many years, but I also don’t need as much as I use to. I don’t need a designer wardrobe or expensive make-up. I don’t need to eat out in fancy restaurants, and I don’t need a monthly massage (although – I do miss that the most!)

What I have found is that I’m doing something for me. And that feels worthwhile. I’m no longer living predictably through the days as I head towards retirement. I am showing my children and myself that personal happiness and fulfilment matters.

For me, living sustainably matters too. Sanitary products and nappies make up roughly 12 per cent of all New Zealand’s domestic waste. This figure continues to grow as it takes over 500 years for a single-use sanitary pad to decompose. And unfortunately, the first sanitary pad ever used is still in existence.  Vivo Bodywear provides an affordable and sustainable solution to pads, liners and tampons.

If you need a little waste-free protection down below, then check out Vivo Bodywear.  Because our bodies deserve elegant comfy protection that you can genuinely rely on.

If you’d like to read more about the things I did and didn’t do well when I made my career change, then check out this article Key tips on how to survive a mid-life career change.

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