Today’s society has outgrown the corporate nine-to-five, with many young people now wanting to become the next Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk or Bill Gates. Like these international business tycoons, New Zealand’s own entrepreneurs Ardon England and Keely Skinner, overcame their own set of challenges on the journey to become their own bosses.
Both from Whanganui, England and Skinner now work for themselves, after founding their individual companies. England runs his own makeup company, Ardon England Artistry while Skinner runs a media company called Musings Media.
England’s journey to become his own CEO began when he lived in Auckland for six years. He originally entered the industry of makeup artistry after working in fashion and entertainment.
He started getting more work as he began to take the world of makeup more seriously, but with the constant Covid lockdowns, England’s job became harder to maintain.
“I came back to Whanganui for one of the lockdowns last year and I realised there wasn’t many makeup artists in Whanganui, so I thought, it’s probably a good time to move home and set something up here, and have more of a sustainable business,” he says.
England admits working in the city was hard as Auckland was “oversaturated” with makeup artists jumping from one job to another. The constant fight for work didn’t seem sustainable to him.
Considering the cost of living in Auckland and the years it would take to build clientele, England made the decision to move to Whanganui, saying the choice was an easy one.
“Just one of those things that just organically happened and opportunities just presented themselves really.”
On the other hand, Skinner was a videographer creating content that addressed social and environmental injustices for organisations such as the Department of Conservation.
After returning to New Zealand after some travelling and due to Covid, Skinner moved back to Whanganui and kickstarted Musings Media.
“My business and the entity of my business has to be in reciprocity. I want it to be able to feed me and me to able to feed it and to be able to feed the world so I can learn through what I do and make an impact,” she says.
The decision to be in Whanganui for both was an opportunity they couldn’t say no to. They emphasised the support they received from their community was immense and encouraged them to have that “extra push” during the tough times.
“I think that has been the biggest support for me coming back here. You can call all these people left, right and centre that have your back,” says Ardon.
“It’s a comfortable feeling that makes you feel like you can do it.”
However, the transition into working for themselves came with some initial challenges such as making a name for themselves as young entrepreneurs, especially in small town Whanganui.
Skinner also dealt with imposter syndrome when facing the pressures of working in a male dominated environment. She adds that working in a small town where there isn’t much work, meant she had to put herself out there to build a network.
“It can be scary. I understand why people work for companies, everything is laid out on a platter,” says Skinner.
Building a business from the ground up during the pandemic made England at times feel like he “lost his purpose” and made him realise “that anything can be taken away from you at any time, and the world can change just like that”.
“It is a really daunting step; you don’t know how much work goes into it until you own your own business,” says he says.
Alongside the pandemic and the pressures of their respective industries, Skinner and England were constantly battling burnout but say being their own boss helps as when they start to feel overwhelmed they can reduce the workload.
Burnout is being mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted from work.
“Burnout culture really reflects with how good you are with boundaries,” says Skinner.
Skinner says she is grateful that being in control of her own workload allows her to avoid this exhaustion meaning burnout is not something she has had to deal with heavily.
“The nine-to-five concept is so Boomer. We’re becoming a very progressive society and we need to realise that it is not sustainable.”
“We know you can’t do anything if you are burnt out. It is more important to put yourself first, know when to say no and turn your emails off when you get off work,” she adds.
England says that being in control of how many clients he takes on while making time for himself keeps him strong, otherwise he can feel the impact it has on his business.
“If you can’t really give to yourself, you can’t give back,” says England.
Wishing there was a crash course for young entrepreneurs, Skinner and England say anyone wanting to become their own boss needs to be prepared.
“Don’t be afraid but also be prepared for the work because it is a lot,” advises England.
“It’s good to understand what the vision is and that it is ok to not know everything straight away because you are constantly learning.”
Skinner says that young entrepreneurs need to be prepared for their life to be “changed drastically” but also need to get out of their comfort and be “ruthless”.
“Don’t be afraid to try things and fail.”