In Italian we have a saying: “those who abandon the old path for the new one know what they are leaving behind, but they do not know what they will find.”
This is my #ialso story as when I left behind a safe and successful career, I did not know where following my heart would lead me.
In Italy, people consider talking about oneself and about one own’s achievements as unnecessarily ostentatious. Because of this deeply-rooted perspective and my own personal character, I am not used to discussing everything that I do, although it is very easy for me to relate to #ialso.
I created my confectionery business out of the adversity of losing my job. I also had to learn through experience how to create a market for luxury Italian confectionery which no one else does in England.
Once my business started, I could not only be someone who loves making sweets and chocolates anymore. I also needed to become someone who understands business plans, scaling up, projections, health and safety, complex food safety laws and contracts with suppliers. I started to learn about marketing, how to be successful at selling and how to manage people.
If you are reading this, then you may be thinking about starting your own business which sees you become both student and teacher and learn things you never knew even existed. Like learning digital marketing, coding and SEO – I just thought I was going to sell chocolates!
I have a big Italian family. My parents live in Italy, whilst my siblings and I are here in England without them. As the eldest of six, I also act as a quasi-parent with teacher’s meetings, half term holidays, and the odd call to go to the A&E…
I am also married and I manage my household. My husband offers a lot of support, being one of the few Italian men who grew up learning how to help in the house, thanks to my amazing mother-in-law. One of the fiercest women I have ever met, she told me how she attended a seminar in the eighties on the topic of Female Empowerment (I think the title was “Why Women Can Not Fly to the Moon”), and decided that she was going to raise her son making him do the same chores as his sisters, which was really unusual in Southern Italy at the time!
I also have always considered volunteering and helping others as a fundamentally important part of my life. I devote most of my Saturdays to volunteering at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Giving back to people and to the community is an important part of my Italian upbringing and I try to do as much as I can, both personally and through my business, if I can support local charities and causes by donating my confectionery or using my platforms to spread the word.
As the business grows, I also started being more focussed on efficiency and having a better work-life balance; when you are at the very beginning, it is easy to get lost in the conviction that you can do everything. I would like to become really experienced, and better, in fewer areas instead of doing it all.
I also have my hobbies. They really help me ensure that I have the time to clear my mind, to relax and to take care of my own wellbeing; I cook, I read, I play the piano and sing in a choir, and listen to Classic FM in the car while I drive, to the delight of everyone who is riding with me!
Especially as a female entrepreneur, I try to maintain a balance between my many jobs and my wellness. After all, life cannot be only salads and no sweets!
Lavinia Davolio is the founder of Lavolio.