Five years ago, when Clayton Christopher was 25, he quit a very lucrative job to start his own all-natural bottled iced tea company, Sweet Leaf Tea, in Austin, Texas.
Christopher had been working at a medical supplies company since high school, and by the time he finished college, he was a gifted salesperson with good benefits and a wonderful salary. But he had gotten it into his head that he was going to start a bottled iced tea company-he has always loved the beverage. Christopher quit his job, sank his life savings ($25,000) into the business, and moved back in with his parents, who were supportive but thought he was a little, well, insane. Every day, he worked on his iced tea company, using large pillow cases as tea bags and swishing them around in giant pots.
Before long, Christopher spent $5,000 on a 6-year-old former milk truck with 300,000 miles on it and began traveling the state, trying to sell his tea. Today, his business has surpassed the $1 million mark in sales, and his tea is in grocery stores nationwide, including Albertson's and Kroger as well as 7-Eleven stores.
Steve Donahue, a motivational speaker, life coach and author, thinks Christopher did the right thing. "Job security is a mirage," says Donahue, who has been big on desert imagery ever since he crossed the Sahara desert and wrote about it in his book, Shifting Sands: A Guidebook for Crossing the Deserts of Change. "In fact, job security is one of the biggest mirages we follow-your company could be bought out, your security manager could imitate Enron, new technology might make your project or product irrelevant."
If you need convincing that leaving your job is the right decision, Donahue suggests some alone time. "Go somewhere quiet, turn off the TV, unplug the phone, and ask yourself what really matters and what you really want."
He also suggests a "reverse risk assessment": "Ask yourself 'What are the risks if I don't leave what I'm doing?' Fast forward, and imagine yourself embroiled in the same office politics, doing the same things. Work is such a big part of our lives. Our work shouldn't be killing us-it should be feeding us."
Indeed, every once in awhile, Christopher thinks about what his life might be like if he was still in his old job-and he shudders. "Life's just too short to waste it doing something you don't want to do, like selling medical supplies."
- Association of Small Business Development Centers: Each Small Business Development Center around the country has its own personality, but they all share one mission-to help you grow your business.
- National Association for the Self-Employed: Here you can discuss issues important to business owners, and they offer a health insurance plan, too.
- National Business Incubation Association: Incubators offer office space, telephone service and light manpower for a very small rent. They tend to help businesses that are likely to create jobs or provide some benefit to the community.
- Service Corps of Retired Executives: This is an excellent place to go for advice and to find a mentor.
- Start Your Own Business: The Only Start-Up Book You'll Ever Need, by Rieva Lesonsky and the staff of Entrepreneur magazine, available at all major bookstores and online booksellers.
Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.