How to make your career more sustainable and never look back

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It can feel impossible to steer yourself in a totally different direction, but Sophie Sellu did just that and shares how she did it 

We’re no longer in our parents’ generation where we get a job and stick with it for the rest of our lives. The average time to stay in a role these days is around 3-5 years, so in theory it’s easier than ever to climb the ladder.

But what if you want to change career altogether? As well as moving on to new jobs, we also want to try totally different paths and this is where it can get a bit tricky. More and more, we’re looking for roles that give us more than just a paycheque. Many of us are looking for real job satisfaction and that comes with making an impact.

For Sophie Sellu, she found meaning in building a sustainable business. She is the chief spoon carver at Grain & Knot, the sustainable homeware brand she created in 2014 when she realised working in trend forecasting wasn’t for her. She retrained and took the leap into launching her own brand. Here’s how she did it…

Start small

“Start small and do as much as you can for yourself. My biggest worries were that nobody would buy my work or that it would be too expensive. I gave myself six months to see if I could make a viable business and I was lucky that my Instagram account took off.

I was living with my parents and working from their garage. The timber I was using was free and I had a few simple tools that didn’t cost much. I made sure my start-up costs were low and didn’t take risks.”

Work with people you know

“Most of the timber I use in my designs is sourced from my uncle. He works on renovations of period properties in London, and often the timber removed from these buildings gets destroyed.

One of the best ways to have a sustainable business is to keep your focus local. By passing it onto me, it saves the timber from being burnt or ending up in a landfill.

I also have friends that are tree surgeons and builders, so there is a lot of waste timber that they don’t need, so I use that too.”

Expand your values outside of business

Sophie wears GANT’s Tech Prep™ Chambray Shirt, £110

“Like many people, I try to buy sustainable products where I can, if my budget allows. We always recycle and reuse containers when possible and are making a conscious effort to buy less plastic. I grow my own vegetables to pickle and preserve so that I have little food waste.

When it comes to clothing, I prefer to buy well-made staples that are built to last, so I’m not adding to the throwaway culture in the fashion industry. Initiatives such as GANT Beacons Project, which upcycles ocean plastic and uses it to create shirts, reassure me that even big brands are realising how important sustainability is. It’s easy to make them my go-to.”

Don’t be scared to find the support you need

“I’ve been supported by the Princes Trust in all the decisions I’ve made. I attended their enterprise scheme before I’d begun trading to get help write a business plan. 

I won their support and was awarded a low-cost loan and a business mentor for three years. Luckily, growth happened quite naturally and at a pace that I was able to keep up with.” 

Look forward in your industry

“I think there has definitely been an increased interest in sustainable brands in the last few years. People are making more conscious decisions for living more sustainably, even if it can cost more.

I think there is a huge shift to buying handmade items that have been crafted with conscious design and sustainability. The fact that the items I make use reclaimed timber is an added bonus, and adds to the story of each item.”

Find out more about GANT’s Beacons Project and shop the collection now