I Failed My A-Levels And 10 Years Later I Am Running My Own Biz

I failed my a-levels and 10 years later I am running my own business

Four years ago I wrote this post about A-Level results and I share it every year on A-Level results day to try and give you a flip-side to getting bad or unexpected results. Today I decided it was about time for an update.

If you haven’t read the post above, I didn’t get the A-Levels that I wanted, I failed pretty badly in art. It’s laughable really. I know right now you feel like today will carve out your future forever… and it will, but not because of those results – because of the decisions you make based on today.

So I messed up my A-Levels, I messed up my college diploma (OK, I scraped a pass) and I royally messed up getting into university. I have no qualifications, you guys!

I worked my way to where I am, running my own business full time at 29. I don’t mean I worked great jobs for huge companies, no way! I worked in retail for the first 4 years, but instead of just putting in my hours for minimum wage I pushed as far as I could. I asked what I could get involved in and my manager trained me to work on Visual Merchandising (setting out the store and displays). I didn’t get a pay rise for any extra responsibility, but the value of learning is priceless. I worked some night shifts, I grappled mannequins in shop windows on busy high streets, I worked away in other cities setting out new stores. It wasn’t easy, working in a supermarket chain they had very old-fashioned ideas and I pushed so hard to get us to wear the clothes we sold instead of polyester uniforms, only to inevitably fail.

I failed my a-levels and 10 years later I am running my own business

When I moved on I worked in admin for a clothing manufacturing company. It was a bad move, so I went back to retail, getting my next job as a Christmas temp in a high fashion store. When the Christmas period wrapped up I got a permanent position working in the stockroom as an assistant and I was so reliable and hardworking that when my manager got fired I instantly took his job as stockroom manager. I became very passionate about that stockroom so I pushed hard to get my pay increased. I won employee of the month for dressing so well in the clothes we sold, despite not working on the shop floor.

My next move was a big one – I started a business with my family and it was literally the worst 5 years of my life, BUT the value was still in learning and while I learned some business skills, mostly I learned how not to run a business!

During these years I started making jewellery and selling it on Etsy for a bit of a creative outlet. It was hard at first and the amount of times I almost gave up… well again, it’s laughable. Now it’s 5 years since I started making jewellery as a hobby and I run my business full time at 29 years old. I make a full time wage, I offer a whole package of freelance work and I have just bought a house. You guys… I failed my a-levels and 10 years later I am running my own business and have just bought a house. And that, my friends, is where I drop the mic.

Let’s face it, your parents are going to be mad – mine were! Your friends are going to move away to university and you might feel pretty alone, but my advice to you is: Work hard, then work harder. Learn as much as you can. Fill a book with what you’re learning. Blog about it. Stay with your friends at university, see different cities, find out where you belong. Make coffee for fat cats in huge offices, make a video CV of how awesome and passionate you are, find another way in. Come and hang out on social media when you’re feeling lonely – it’s a ball.

But whatever you do, never, ever give up on your dreams. They’re still out there. A-levels mean shit, just keep learning.

Loves x xx

posted by onetenzeroseven in Business and have Comments (2)

All Hope Is Not Lost on A-Level Results Day

If you’re getting your A-Level results today, good luck!! I hope with all my heart you get what you need to follow your dreams.

However, in a lot of cases I know there will be far too many tears. Big hugs to you guys, but all hope is not lost! I am one of you, while some of my results were much better than expected, the one that mattered was really bad. And it wasn’t my fault.

Greetings Card by PapersaurusCreative

Funnily enough, it was my Art A-Level result that was appalling… though I’d never been naturally talented in drawing (my tutor actually advised me against taking the course) I made up for it in passion and determination. When my results came through I was shocked and upset, but I guess I just assumed my tutor had been right until tears started to flood from my course mates; real and genuinely talented artists that challenged themselves and surprised me with their talent every day on that course.

Upon investigation at a later date we, as a class, discovered that our tutor had been going through a rough patch and it obviously had affected his job, much to our dismay. He had ‘mock’ marked our work against the wrong mark scheme and told us we would all get A’s so we put the work away as a job well done. I guess I’ll never know why we didn’t take this incident any further.

For me, it was OK because on the flip side I got into my chosen art college because of my tutor who had close ties with the staff, but some of my classmates weren’t so lucky and to this day I’m convinced that this incident changed their paths forever.

My problems came later when I tried to get into University – a story I am still not OK with telling, but we’ll get there someday :) In short, I never went to uni, I don’t have a degree. I only studied to college level before settling on a four-year period of working in retail. The dark years.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not hating on people who live a life working in retail, I met some excellent people during my dark years. It just wasn’t my dream.

But. This part of my story I dedicate to you, A-Level results day folk who don’t quite get the results you hope for.

I’ve sold hundreds of my handmade products on Etsy alone in the past 18 months (ETA: It’s now 2014 and I’ve sold 800+ on Etsy, thousands on and have been stocked in shops up and down the UK.)

I did it anyway. I followed my dreams, I said to hell with needing a degree. Find your way in somewhere else.
I’m not saying it’s easy, I’m not saying I’m even in the same place now that I would have been had I got my degree, but at least I’m doing it. Volunteer, get a job as an apprentice, hell, get a job making coffee. If someone won’t give you a job… create your own! Start a business!!

I no longer work in retail, I no longer feel like a failure. I believe in myself. I worked hard. I scoured the Internet for tutorials and information. I bought books. I watched videos. I went out into the world and every job I did I learned something. Every place I visited I learned something. Every person I spoke to I learned something and from every job interview I went to, where I didn’t get the job, I learned something.

And in some ways I’m much prouder of myself for doing it the way I did. When I make it big (when, not if) it will make a fantastic story.

Parents are going to be mad, upset, disappointed. A lot of your friends will leave and go to university. You might feel alone. You might have to suffer through those dark years like I did, but don’t you ever, ever give up on your dreams. They’re out there waiting for you! And maybe it won’t be like you imagined when you played ‘grown ups’, but life rarely turns out the way you planned.

One Sheepish Girl inspires me to follow my dreams

If you feel lost and alone, come and hang out here or stop by A Beautiful Mess or One Sheepish Girl both of which have inspired me to keep pushing.

You will have to become hardened, you will have to become a warrior, I’m still ploughing my way through, but I’m living proof that it’s possible :)) Good luck!

Loves x xx

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posted by onetenzeroseven in Etsy,My Etsy and have Comments (9)