Walking away from a 9-to-5 job with a steady paycheck and health benefits to start your own business isn’t easy. To help you to take the plunge, we launched our editorial series The Case for Quitting where we ask self-employed women all about how they successfully struck out on their own, from how they balanced their side-hustle with their full-time job to how much money they saved before handing in their two-week notice. In this edition, we chat with Victoria Adesanmi, founder and creative director of Aesthetics Studios. Here, she shares how she switched industries from fashion to interior design, why recommends setting aside funds before taking the leap, and what it was about a Jay-Z concert that inspired her to pursue her dream career.
What was your major in college and what did you want to do when you graduated?
I studied industrial design with a minor in textile technology at North Carolina State University. I knew that upon graduation I wanted to work as a designer in the fashion industry. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to design specifically, but I knew I was going to figure it out.
What did you actually do after you graduated? What types of jobs did you apply to and what industry were you looking to break into?
After graduating, I made the move to NYC. I was offered an internship at Henri Bendel where I was designing accessories. Unfortunately, I was informed during my internship that I wouldn’t be converted into a full-time role due to budget cuts, so I began to apply to every accessory design position that I came across. Thankfully, NYC is the mecca of high-fashion, so I knew I just needed one “yes” to break into this industry, which I eventually received.
How did you get into design and the fashion industry more broadly?
My first full-time role was nothing I imagined. I wasn’t doing the type of work that I was hired to do. I was frustrated and wanted to make the most out of my time in NYC, so I decided to take an evening accessory and footwear design class at the Fashion Institute of Technology. It was here where I met a classmate who introduced me to Pensole Design Academy. At the time, Pensole was hosting a footwear design competition. I had to submit a footwear sketch by hand to be considered to attend the 5-week program. I got in, quit my full-time job, moved to Portland, Oregon to attend the program, and that was the start of a new chapter in my life.
What sparked your interest in designing spaces and your desire to shift industries?
Ironically, I debated between studying industrial design and architecture in college. I’ve always had a passion for interiors. Growing up, my mother would always decorate our family home and my father was quite handy himself. I knew I wanted to pursue interior design for real though in 2017 after attending a Jay-Z 4:44 concert in Portland. I had attended the concert with my homegirl and gave her an entire dissertation regarding the stage design. She looked at me so crazy, “Like girl, it’s not that deep.” [Laughs]. However, an article came out in Architectural Digest the following week and it was everything I had mentioned. And for me, that was a wink from God to shift industries and pursue these desires.
Image: Bri Akakpo, Courtesy of Victoria Adesanmi
How did you know when it was time to quit your full-time job and strike out on your own? What was your strategy for making the transition?
Whew. This is a loaded question. I’ll be honest, I had seven different managers in the span of 12 months, and I think that is quite telling of the type of work environment that I was in. The most I’ve ever worked was during the height of the pandemic in 2020. While I was grateful to be employed during this time, I was burnt out and didn’t even realize my body was under an immense amount of stress until it was too late. I was quite unhappy for some time and wrote my resignation letter in 2019. However, as a woman of faith, I also wanted to ensure that I was in alignment with God’s timing, so I waited until I got the go-ahead from Him.
In March of this year, I decided to enter a period of prayer and fasting to receive clarity on what the next steps would be in my career. Within five days, I had received a prophetic word of what my next steps would be and that served as confirmation that it was time to quit my full-time job. During that time I also received a call from my doctor that I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, mainly due to stress. I decided to take a medical leave of absence for six months to make this transition before quitting my full-time job in October.
How did you prepare for the transition before quitting your full-time job? What, if anything, do you wish you’d done differently?
Since I knew that I eventually wanted to have my very own multidisciplinary design studio, I began to take steps to ensure the foundation of Aesthetics Studios would be laid out correctly. I actually spent more time preparing for the success of Aesthetics Studios by filing my LLC, opening up a bank account, and filing a trademark for my business name. I had even invested in an interior design business coach as well to guarantee the success of my business.
I also spent time learning how to trade thanks to Modern Blk Girl. While I’m still learning, I did want to take the time to understand how I can build generational wealth and create multiple streams of income.
I’m not sure if I would’ve done anything differently, but I will say you can’t fully prepare for entrepreneurship. Yes, there are things you can do to set yourself up for success, but every day comes with new challenges and an opportunity to learn.
Were you worried about money? What advice can you share for people who are worried about leaving a steady paycheck to start a new career?
Yes, and low-key I still am if I’m being honest. However, it’s forced me to lean even more into my faith by trusting God as my provider and having a mindset of abundance. As an entrepreneur who is just starting out, it’s easy to want to say yes to every project that comes your way out of survival. But I’ve learned that moving in abundance also means saying no to an opportunity that may not be a project fit and having faith that God will provide something better, instead of doing something simply for a check. After working at a company where I felt like I was devalued and underpaid, I have to constantly remind myself that my gifts and talents will make room for me and I’ll be more than fine.
Fortunately, I do have savings that I can tap into. I would encourage anyone who is worried about leaving a steady paycheck to start making sacrifices now to reduce any unnecessary expenses, so you can have additional money saved up.
Did you save up first or did you just jump in headfirst?
I definitely saved up before the jump. I set aside approximately 20% of my salary as a cushion for this transition. I’m a diligent saver overall, so I tend to put most of my savings in places that aren’t easily accessible such as my 401k plan or my brokerage accounts which I’m hoping I don’t have to touch.
Image: Tim Hirschmann, Courtesy of Victoria Adesanmi
What is the most important thing you have learned from making a big change in your career life?
After making this big change in my career, I realized I struggle with unfamiliarity. As a former full-time employee, I worked in a somewhat controlled environment. I knew my hourly input, counted down to the weekend, only to find myself discontent when I thought about doing it all over again.
However, as a full-time entrepreneur, there’s so much uncertainty. Every day comes with a set of new challenges and you don’t know where your next check may come from. However, I know that personal growth takes place in seasons when you’re most uncomfortable. While this transition has illuminated my distaste for discomfort and releasing control, I’m excited to build resilience, new possibilities and heighten my creativity and purpose in this new season.
When you look back and reflect on your previous career do you have any regrets or are you still really happy with your decision?
I’m hella happy with my decision. There’s nothing better than waking up with peace of mind every day and owning your time. #noregrets
What is the biggest lesson you took away from your previous career?
There are a few lessons I’ve taken away from my previous career. It’s hard to choose only one, but I’d say first and foremost, sometimes the jobs that look the sexiest on paper aren’t always what they seem. While I’m grateful to have worked on some of the dopest product collaborations to date, at the end of the day, those things really don’t matter. What matters is your character. What matters is how you treat people. What matters is doing good work regardless of who you’re partnering with. What matters is being valued. Those things will always stand the test of time.
The second biggest lesson I took from my previous career is the power of choice. Most of us at some point in our careers have felt stuck and may feel like this is the end all be all. It’s not, I promise. We each have the power to make a decision to either walk away from a career that no longer serves us or to make any necessary adjustments to protect our peace in that environment. I remember at a point in time during my previous career, I was working around the clock (10-12 hour days, weekends, and even during my paid time off). I had asked for a raise and the answer was simply no and that I should be grateful. In turn, I quickly decided to adjust my availability and create boundaries in my work schedule. Ultimately, this led to me fully choosing myself and quitting my job.
While we may not have control over what’s next, we do have the power to make the first step by choosing ourselves and it’s up to us to determine what that looks like.
What advice can you share for someone who is thinking about leaving their current gig to pursue their side-hustle or passion?
There will never be a perfect time to quit your full-time job, but you’ll know when the time is right for you. I don’t think you’ll ever have enough money saved up or can mentally prepare for the emotions you’ll encounter during this transition. However, I guarantee once you bet on yourself, someone else will bet on you. For me, I do believe this transition and the decision to pursue Aesthetics Studios is bigger than myself. We’re all someone’s personification of possibility, so I know that my “yes” has the power to help those around me see what’s possible. Moving in faith and not allowing fear to dictate my decisions can not only change the trajectory of my life, but the trajectory of others. I’d encourage anyone reading this to also think about how much impact they can make by simply choosing themselves.
Featured image: Jasmine Durhal, Courtesy of Victoria Adesanmi