“There was an eerie atmosphere in the office. A lot of people were being made redundant. That day, one of my colleagues from the engineering department got called into a ‘special’ meeting, so we anxiously waited for him to return. He walked back through the office door and before he said anything, I could tell that he had kept his job. Then another colleague, a good friend of mine, got called in. He returned, his shoulders drooped and told us that he’d been let go— that came as a bit of a shock to me.
“It was my turn next. I’d been wanting to start my own business for a while, but at that moment all I could think was, here we go! As the department manager opened the door for me he raised his eyebrows and gave me a quick, doleful, look. When I heard the actual words, it shook me—it was one week before lockdown which made it even more unexpected.
“Two years before, I had pretty much the opposite moment. I was one day away from getting my Industrial Design degree when I got a telephone call. It was a warm summer’s day and I was on my way to a shift at Sainsburys. My relationship with my partner was going well, I had made a great group of friends at University and my family were proud that I was about to graduate. Then I got a call telling me that I had gotten my first product design job. I rang my partner and just shouted ‘I got it!!’ down the line.
“Completing university after all the effort I put into my degree, and then combining that with my first proper job, was a terrific high, especially if you consider that before I was accepted I had a presentations at college where I basically fainted in front of my whole class,” says Nick trying to contain his laughter.
“I was under prepared for that presentation, but I learnt a valuable lesson that has served me well; now I never take anything lightly and prepare for everything.
“On the day I got made redundant I felt quite miserable. I packed up my desk like they do in the movies, but I had cycled to work so I had to try fit all my things into my backpack. When I finally got home and told my partner she was stunned, but incredibly positive and supportive. She said, “Whatever happens we’ll work thing out.”
“I woke up the next morning and sat in front of my computer with a mind full of dreams. I wanted to start my own company, but it all felt so overwhelming I couldn’t concentrate. My goals were so many and my dreams so big that I knew I had to break them down into chewable sized pieces— I’m still constantly working on that,” says Nick with a smile.
“It was a lot harder than I expected, a part of me believed that my skills would speak for themselves and that I would quickly find several clients and build up my freelance business; then the lockdown hit and everything went silent.”
“A couple of months in, as I started to learn how to use LinkedIn, I got a few bites. I got on a few calls with potential clients and had to prove to them that I could design products for their industry— it was really exciting but quite stressful”
“To fight the stress of lockdown and trying to build my own business my partner and I walked along the quayside. We would set off at last light chatting as we walked.
“Career wise London would be a good move, but Exeter, is such a great place; if you want Devon’s nature it’s at your doorstep and if you want the hustle and bustle of a busy Highstreet you just have to walk into town.
“Things have been improving lately. I landed a big project and hearing someone say ‘we’d like to take things further…’ was very empowering. I have also been going to the gym, getting fitter and taking my life into my own hands.
“My biggest dream is to open a small industrial design company and have an office right on the Exeter Quay. Anytime I walk by the quay I can’t help but look down at the water and then up at the at buildings and imagine what working there would feel like…. One day.”