“‘Follow your passion’ – I used to read things like that and think they were really corny. But you can’t tell me I’m not heading in the right direction. I was on the front page of the local paper, and my ‘muse’ milliner contacted me to say she’s so inspired by what I’m doing!”
Christie Stokes founder of Christie Millinery Designs
Christie is just starting out. But her story illustrates the dilemmas for anyone contemplating starting their own business. Christie captures many of the realities and practicalities of the first steps of the process. Her life would be considerably easier if she had just stayed in her day job. It would also be a lot less rewarding and fun.
Christie is torn between a sensible job with its lure of a regular salary and a new-found passion that brings her unmitigated joy. She is cramming millinery around her day job because she doesn’t feel confident enough to make the leap and do it full-time.
Christie is a ‘work in progress’.
But sometimes you get to meet people and you sense from their drive, mindset and commitment that they are going to be successful. Indeed, Christie has already achieved much success in her short business career.
How did the change from physiotherapist to milliner begin?
“While in Canada I found myself in a hat shop and lost myself in there for an hour. I couldn’t even describe it. It was the weirdest sensation ever. At university, I used to make fascinators for the university races. I’d often thought of doing it on the side, but now I suddenly found myself engrossed in studying the hats! Then I came home for a wedding and visited the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane for a hat exhibition with my sister – and I had the exact same feeling. I just felt, ‘I’ve got to do this, it’s all-consuming – yet I’ve never really done it before!’”
I can’t do this
“I was devastated by the prospect of returning to Australia from Canada and settling down, getting married, having kids and being a physio for the rest of my life. I just thought, ‘I can’t do this.’”
Christie started looking into millinery and found a course in Melbourne.
“We were travelling, we were on the move, so packing up and relocating to a new city wasn’t a big deal. Melbourne is one of the hubs of millinery in the world and I found a course there that would allow me to fund myself through physio four days a week.
“I had been thinking, ‘Maybe I’ll do millinery part-time as a hobby.’ But that was the turning point. It’s what life’s about. We work 80 percent of our lives. So if I don’t have this kind of passion and it’s not giving me the joy that I need in 80 percent of my life, it’s not for me.” So Christie set about starting her own company.
“As a physio I’ve always worked for other people. People used to ask me if I wanted to open my own physio business. ‘Do you have that passion?’ And my answer was always, ‘No!’ But with this, it’s completely effortless. When I wake up in the morning, it’s all I think about. Pouring myself into it is all I want to do. It gives me so much joy and energy.”