Ep 20 | Leaving The Corporate World to Follow Your Passion with Natalie Idhe
Thinking about leaving your job for your side-hustle? This podcast episode is for you!
It was wonderful chatting with Natalie on this episode. We talked about our experiences in leaving corporate jobs and starting on our own, as well as how she helps mammas develop their side hustle and do the same.
Host, Working Mom Mindset Podcast
Natalie is a wife, mom, dog mom and the host of The Working Mom Mindset podcast. She's also a former corporate ladder climber who had big dreams of the corner office, six figures, and running the regional facility she'd been working for, for more than 10 years.
After a lot of corporate drama, sleepless nights, and ugly crying, Natalie decided she needed something else, and that something else wasn't going to be another corporate job. She wanted to help other working moms somehow. So, she took to Pinterest and Google and absorbed all the information she could about starting her own business, which is how her blog was born.
She created her exit plan – a one year deadline – to leave the corporate world by August 2019, and she left six months sooner. Running her business has been a rollercoaster of emotions, but she wouldn't go back to the corporate world for anything.
Natalie dedicates her time to helping moms who are finding they are no longer a good fit for the corporate world to develop an exit plan, create their own profitable online business, so they can continue to be the provider, be present for their kids, and enjoy life on their terms.
Sami: Welcome Natalie!
A lot of people are super frustrated with their jobs, don't know what they want to do, how they can make it into a business and go off on their own. What was the catalyst for you to decide to jump into your business and leave your corporate job?
Natalie: I never thought I would leave corporate. Life happend and I just jumped into the office worker type role and it evolved from there into a corporate career. I literally thought I would retire there. At the time I left, I was 3 years away from a corner office and a six-figure salary. What led me to make the decision that I just couldn't do it anymore was a culmination of things that just led to the straw that broke the camel's back. It was ugly.
It started with increased stress, little by little. I'm a recovering Type A. I've always been a Type A personality, in control, I'll fix all the problems. I can do anything! All these little stressors and things that kept building up I'd say, “I got it, I got it.” But in doing that I actually started turning into somebody that I didn't recognize anymore. I would come home and lost it on my kids. Not in a need to call child services kind of way!
Sami: I can completely agree with that. When I got home the stress got unleashed on my family. I was not patient, I was angry, I was stressed out and I wasn't present.
Natalie: One of my memories that sticks out the most is when my daughter was in preschool. She was in the Park District room so just down the hall from her preschool. I had to grab her before I grabbed my son.
Her backpack and everything from her backpack was all scattered all over the room. She was probably 4 years old at the time. I walked in and said, “Let's go!” There were only 4 other kids waiting to be picked up and other counselors in the room. The counselors were probably in their late teens – early 20s. She was running around and I said we needed to go and I was tired. She brings me her bag and it's empty. Her stuff was everywhere and I lost my mind in front of these kids and counselors.
She's 4 years old and doesn't know what she did wrong. I grabbed her stuff and threw it in the bag. I grabber her. I cried the whole way out. I cried the whole way in the car to pick up my son. I couldn't believe I just did that. And that was the beginning of the end for me. She's 4 years old. She can't tell time. She wouldn't have known I was on the way. She just knows she plays till she sees me and then we go.
And the stress just kept increasing from there. Part of that was they brought in a new boss from outside the company, which isn't typical for that position. I didn't know how to handle this person. I didn't know how to handle someone that didn't trust me. She didn't know that I had double-digit years of experience there and actually did part of her job while they were looking to fill that position. I allowed that to fester and that made it miserable for everybody.
I was stressed out, trying to control as much as I could, and in doing that made everything worse.
Sami: That's a big lesson! It's like the sand analogy. The tighter you hold on to sand the faster it slips through your fingers. If you can losen your grip and let it sit there you can hold on to more of it. But when you lose control, you want to control the things you know.
I see this all the time with clients in marketing. There is no control because things change so fast.
Did you start your business on the side or did you leave your business and start from scratch?
Natalie: Here's how the end happened. It was August of 2017. I had been coming home ugly crying for quite a long time, months. The kids went to bed and I sat on the couch with my husband and I said, “I need to do something. I can't be here anymore. And I know I can't go to another corporate position because all the companies are operating the same way.”
The companies that are successful like Facebook, Google, the Silicon Valley-type companies, are doing these amazing things. They are taking care of their employees first. And they have no problem providing the right kind of service to their customers. The companies that aren't at that level, whether $$ or status, they're trying to control their employees to a point. They're not making the money they want to make. It's this vicious cycle.
I said to my husband:
I can't do this anymore.
I'm not going to go on medication.
I'm not going to have an ulcer.
I'm not going to do this anymore.
He said, “Ok, well what do you want to do?”
I said, “I have no idea, but by August 2018, I need to leave there.”
That was the beginning of the exit plan. I had no idea how it was going to work but that was the plan. And he agreed. He saw the effect it was having on me.
Once he'd get home from work, I would go upstairs and go to bed. It was depression and anxiety and stress from the day. I couldn't handle my kids and I didn't want to be that person anymore.
He asked me what did I want to do and I didn't know. So I went to Google and Pinterest and searched, “how to make money from home.” And all these things came up. I knew I didn't want to do an MLM. I'd done them in the past but didn't want to do it again.
So I thought about what I was good at. I'm a writer and have published a book and had one written so I decided I wanted to help people with my writing.
I saw a bunch of things talking about how to make money blogging. So I thought I'd jump in there and see what it feels like.
I took someone's 5-challenge. It wasn't very supportive. I asked a question and the answer was the read the paper. I did but I still had a question.
Sami: The good and bad experiences help you determine what you do in the future and how to do it better.
Natalie: I jumped in and was confused by WordPress so I looked into Weebly. I decided I'm going to help working moms because I'm struggling and that's who I wanted to help.
I started writing about things my husband and I were going through. It had to be vague because of the things going on at my office. We don't have a lot of family support so it's just us and the kids. My husbands family lives 100 miles away and mine aren't in the picture. So it's just him and I and 2 kids. And when we started out it was him and I, 2 kids, 4 dogs and a cat! I was really close to losing my mind.
Writing this blog helped me. Even though I hadn't monetized it yet. It helped me better handle situations at work. It was therapy for me! It made me question myself with how I handled situations because anytime something would come up I would ask myself, “if I'm going to write about this then how am I going to handle this so I can tell people this is what I did and how it might work for you.” I can't even believe I made that connection. But it really helped me manage the discontentment I had with my corporate job.
During this whole time we were trying to figure out the finances with everything. How would we do it on one salary because I made almost double what he was making. We knew we were both making bonuses. We knew there was 401(k) money available. And what ended up happening was I left 6 months sooner than I had planned. Part of it was that the stress became worse. And while I was handling it ok, I didn't want to be witness of what it could do to me.
Sami: I want to touch on 2 things you said. The first is that you didn't know exactly what you wanted to do so you just kept learning and googled it! I love that so much because you didn't worry too much about the HOW. You just said, I know how to do this so I'm going to do that. Instead of taking in all the things and feeling frustrated. It's such a good lesson because if you just get started and don't worry about all things you'll get started. If you do nothing you'll get no results.
Natalie: And that wasn't normal for me. I'm typically an overthinker. I always question everything. Is this really the right thing? It took me 2 years to leave my ex-husband because I overthought it that much. But this stuff started happening and it was boom, I'm not living like this. I'm not going to take 2 years to make this decision.
Sami: So that brings me back to the 2nd thing I wanted to mention. You left your job 6 months earlier than you anticipated. When that happened, finances aside, did you feel you'd done enough 6 months prior to launch the business you wanted or did you feel you weren't quite ready but didn't have a choice?
It was one of those things where we knew it was earlier than we planned. But if I didn't have to spend 40-50 hours a week on this job, but could put that into my business I could make it profitable before the money ran out. Finances aside, even though it wasn't profitable that first 6 months I knew if I took the time I'll be profitable in no time.
The problem came in when my son finished preschool 2 weeks sooner than my daughter finished kindergarten. I didn't know the struggle of working at home with a kid that wants your attention all the time.
Sami: But now what you do is help working moms that have a full-time work from home gig or working moms that are trying to transition out of corporate and do their side hustle full time. What's the biggest excuse you hear from moms on why they haven't left their job yet?
Natalie: Money! Not just the paycheck but the benefits. Insurance and retirement. The thing that a lot of people don't realize is that working for someone else gives you a false sense of security. They can let you go at any time. You can make the decision at any time and leave. It's not guaranteed. They can hire new management that makes your life miserable and you want out.
Sami: It's also controlling your income. At a certain point, you hit that ceiling where you can't earn any more. And if you run your own business and you work hard at it there isn't a limit to what you can create for yourself.
Natalie: EXACTLY! And that's such a hard concept for people to embrace when you've been in the corporate world for so long. I go to work from 8-5 (or whatever) and I get paid on these days and bills are due on these days and this is what we do with the kids on the weekend. And when you're stuck in that, to me it felt very monotonous. Although from a third-party perspective it looks great, it was killing me. I know that feeling and I know the feeling of being talked down to after you've been told that you're the golden child. Natalie has moved up this much, this fast, she's the go-to for everything. She can train anyone. She's going to have this position when this next person retires. Then it flips 180 to my knowledge, passion, and values no longer mattered and I needed to keep my mouth shut if I wanted my next promotion!
I know there are a lot of women that are dealing with that. Maybe not in those exact words. But feeling forgotten, unheard, like you're just a number. It's my purpose. Right now I feel like I'm glowing about it. I have this excited feeling inside me. If I can talk to 1 million women and tell them they have so much knowledge and potential and they can do whatever they want with anything they love doing and they didn't have to go in and report to someone and be talked down to. If I can talk to that many women all the time, my life would be so full.
Sami: We often hear these Cinderella stories of people that leave their corporate jobs. For example, I left my job and I love to make blankets so I made a few and now I have a million-dollar business selling blankets. That's not your story. I think it's super impactful for people to hear you didn't necessarily know what the next thing was but you knew you needed more. So you created something successful but it wasn't a perfectly laid out path.
Natalie: Yes, and it has evolved so much over time. It started out with me publishing the book I wrote 5 years prior. I self-published and promoted it. Not that I did it right, but I did it. Then moved on to blogging. In addition to blogging and helping working moms, I love clean eating. I think there's a stigma around it. But I'm always eating cookies and cake. My kids' teachers joke that they're the only kids that can come with “junk food” because I probably made it out of zucchini.
So I thought, I'm going to do a cooking blog. I love to use other people's recipes but sometimes the healthy ones taste like crap and I wanted to make my own! And then I had people tell me that cooking blogs are overdone and I'm too late and it's too saturated and I needed to do something else. And I'm dumb and I didn't listen.
So I moved on to continue to help working moms deal with work. And people said, well if you leave your job and aren't working why would anyone listen to you. And again I listened. I gotta stop listening to people.
STOP LISTENING TO EVERYONE ELSE AND DO WHAT YOU WANT TO DO.
Sami: I have an abundance perspective. There are plenty of people out there and enough work from everyone. I live in a small town with a ton of marketing agencies. But I know I'm unique and have a customer I want. And not all of those agencies have the same ideal client. I feel comfortable in the situation I've created with myself and where I'm going with the courses and memberships I've created and how I want to serve people. The people that are a good fit for me are going to get to me eventually and my business is growing. You just have to be a bit more vulnerable and let your personality shine and let people see who you are. That's how people are gravitating. I know people in the online space selling all sorts of things making millions of dollars and you would never know their names because they aren't at the top!
Natalie: Exactly, I'm emphatically nodding my head yes! When I first started, I didn't understand abundance. I was listening to podcasts and that's the other thing that helped me through a lot of the corporate BS. I started with a couple that didn't really speak to me but they were interviews. So I listestend to the podcasts of the interviewees and it just sort of snowballed. I think I have 100 podcasts in my queue and I can't keep up with them all but I love them. I had created this virtual support system of people I didn't even know.
They were telling me:
You can do this.
You can deal with the shitty job.
You can deal with a job you're not in love with anymore.
You can deal with starting a business from the ground up.
I was still looking for people's approval at the beginning. I was looking for people to say, “Yea Nat, you can do that!” But no one was saying that.
Sami: Your business is online. My business shas 1:1 consulting but largely it's online. I feel that even though it's such a big industry, and we shop online all the time, this whole explosion of online coaching and learning online after you've gotten your degree is different. I don't have a marketing degree. I became a hungry learner in order to grow in the positions I was in prior to starting my own company. But people don't understand how to make money.
Are you blogging? Do you have a YouTube channel? People don't understand how you can monetize it if you aren't working 1:1. And that goes back to the challenge you did early on that wasn't the experience you wanted. But if you do it right, you can create a tight-night community that makes people feel the same way.
Natalie: I did a poll on my Facebook and Instagram and asked, “When you hear the phrase ‘online business' what do you think” And I gave them 2 options.
1. You can create something of your own doing something you love
2. You're getting roped into some kind of pyramid scheme.
Overwhelmingly, people thought they were getting roped into some sort of scheme. Overall, the MLM world isn't a bad thing. There may be some companies that gave it a bad name. But everyone has this stigma about it. If you want to do a MLM go ahead! There's an MLM for everything. Just do it the right way. If you have a passion, if you have something you've always wanted to do, do it!
REACH THE PEOPLE YOU WANT TO HELP!
DO THE THINGS YOU'VE ALWAYS WANTED TO DO!
DON'T BE CONCERNED ABOUT THE HOW!
There are people out there who can help you with the how.
Sami: There are people out there that are making tons of money teaching people how to do the things they already do on a regular basis. It's incredible how you can create what you want and serve an audience, because of the internet and online communities, that's in a specific niche.
What is the #1 concern or issue you hear from moms working from home?
Natalie: What if it doesn't work.
What if I put all this time into it and I fail?
I'm glad I did fail in a million different ways for what I'm going now. Because it gives me the experience to tell them, so what if you do fail?
Failure is a bogus concept. The way our school system and business are run, everything is done with a hard yes and a hard no. Aside from math and a little bit of science, life, in general, is a whole bunch of gray. It's a lot of, it depends.
Sami: My clients love when I say that to them. Because in marketing there's a whole lot you can't control. You can't control what your competitors do. You can have a wildly successful business and then all of the sudden things shift and change. An algorithm changes. A new competitor hits the market. You have to hold true to your path and keep refining. It's all about testing.
Natalie: A mentor of mine asked our class, “Is $1,000 a lot of money?” Some said yes, some said no. I said it depends. If you're spending $1,000 on a phone then that's a lot of money. If someone is selling you a brand new Ferrari for $1,000 that's a great deal.
Sami: And I look at it from the perspective of what did you spend to get that $1,000? If you're in business and you spent $10 in ads to generate $1,000 in sales. If you spent $900 to generate that same amount then not so great.
Natalie: Exactly! So what if you do fail. It doesn't work and people aren't digging it then tweak it and try something else. Humans are very complicated creatures. We all like to do a whole lot of different things. I have never once, in my 40 years on this planet, met someone who only liked to do 1 thing.
My grandfather was a union pipefitter. He worked on heating and cooling systems. Do you know what else he did? He was a florist. And then he wanted a farm. We're not single-minded, single-interest, single-focused!
So what if you didn't work out. You have 2 choices.
1. Change your message.
2. Do something else you're interested in.
Sami: I know you work with moms. But my husband was a stay at home dad at one point and would love to do it again. The other piece is the support factor. Do you find that a lot of the women you work with struggle with the “selfish” feeling? As a mom, we're supposed to nurture and take care of everyone. And doing your own thing can feel selfish. It did for me for a while. I'm home and my kids are here but I'm shutting them out of my office, especially in the summer. What are your thoughts there?
Natalie: Yes that definitely comes in. Selfish has a really bad connotation. Selfish isn't always a bad thing. We teach our kids to share and that's a really good thing.
When it comes to you as a mom, let's be honest, as much as we love our spouses, we both have this leadership role in our family. So when we're doing things that are just me and say we don't want the other people in our family around us for it, because of what society says, it feels selfish or wrong.
If your child came to you in their mid 20s-30s and said, “I am miserable. I come home every day crying. I sleep all the time. I'm getting migranes. I know it's job related.”
Would you tell them to stick it out? Or would you offer help and try and get them out?
You're going to want to help your kid. And if you're having those problems, what example are you setting for them.
Sami: It doesn't always have to be that extreme as well. You might just not be happy doing what you do. Maybe you're bored. We all need to give ourselves some grace. We work in our life more than we do anything else. Making money is great. But imagine if you could wake up every day doing something you love. Opening that space in your mind, heart and family is huge. I don't think we give ourselves that freedom.
What might you achieve and how many people could you impact if you didn't worry about failure.
Natalie: If you wouldn't do now what you're doing for a living for free, then you're not doing what you're supposed to be doing.
Working in manufacturing and controlling inventory and purchasing, I would never do that for free. That's what I was doing.
Helping women realize that they aren't stuck. Helping women continually provide financially doing something they love instead of going to a job every day that's totally frustrating and unfulfilling, that's what lights me up. I would do it for free. In fact, I did for a few months.
Sami: I remember when I first started my business and was networking I got yelled at by a mentor of mine that I wasn't charging people and doing too much for free. But I just loved it so much. when people asked me questions I just wanted to give them everything. It still is a struggle for me to charge people.
Natalie: I was talking with a guy I used to work with. He has a family. I was helping him through some stuff. My husband is looking at me and saying I need to charge him! He had the same boss I had and I wanted him to leave now! I'm sure his wife is thinking I'm crazy. I'm sending him links and voice memos and all the things. But I was so excited. I want other people to feel that joy and freedom. I feel it right now when I'm talking and I hope you do too. I'm excited when I talk to people about doing something that's not traditional, lights them up and showing them the potential of how they can monetize and support their family. If you're doing it and loving it you're going to make money doing it. And you don't have to worry about the insurance and your 401(k).
It doesn't happen quickly. It doesn't happen overnight. It's either a fluke or they're lying.
Sami: It also depends on your network. Maybe you started this blanket company. Your job before that was creating this high-quality yarn that already had a following. We forget about understanding who the audience was before they launched their business. I started with 0. So if I expect to get to a million-dollar business right away that's not realistic.
I really challenge people to go back to their goals. What's the minimum amount of money you need to be making to pay the bills and start the thing. Where would you like to be? Do your thing and don't compare yourself to others. You might have a $10,000 goal and the people you're comparing yourself to have a $10 million goal. You don't have the ad spend and staff they have so you can't compete – so don't try emotionally.
Natalie: One thing I implement in my goal setting is this. You should have a stretch goal. But to have a goal that you know how having that money feels is key. If you make $5,000 a month, maybe your goal for your business is $6,000. Because you know how $5,000 feels. If you set your goal to $15,000 a month you're going to stress yourself out, doubt yourself, and think that it might be time to go back to corporate. Keep your reach goals realistic.