Being a sole trader isn’t without its challenges, especially after the year that’s been. But for many, bravely going it alone is a chance to live their passion, be their own boss, and work towards financial independence. In this series, the Xero team uncover the inspiration behind what tipped sole traders to turn their dream into reality.
Climate change is a heavy burden, and many of us take small steps every day to limit our carbon footprint. Then there are those, like business owner Anna Anagno, who go above and beyond – making it their life’s mission to tread more lightly on the earth while inspiring others to do the same.
Anna grew up in Perth, Australia, spending her days exploring local bushland. At university, she pursued her ecological curiosity, studying environmental health and biology before falling into a government career. But she found herself becoming increasingly disheartened by the corporate world, explaining, “There wasn’t much creativity in my role, and I was becoming more stressed and restricted.”
To wind down after her workdays, Anna drew back to her childhood – connecting with nature by creating eco-friendly bamboo jewellery. “At first, it was a hobby, then gradually it grew to the point where I was working full-time, spending my evenings making jewellery and my weekends selling it at markets,” she shares. After three years, Anna’s passion project had become a fully-fledged business, One Happy Leaf, with a range of unique pieces in organic materials and with native-inspired themes.
According to Xero’s Tipping point research – a new report uncovering what makes sole traders decide to start something of their own – like Anna, 23 percent have followed a childhood dream of doing what they love. To commit to reducing her environmental impact, Anna partners with Trees for the Future, a global organisation that plants fast-growing trees in degraded lands. For every piece of jewellery she sells, a tree is planted on a customer’s behalf, creating a legacy that will live on.
When corporate skills and creativity combine
For Anna, going it alone was driven by a combination of factors, one of which was a desire to regain control in her life. According to Tipping Point, she’s not alone in that aspiration: nearly half (47 percent) of sole traders want the freedom to make their own decisions, while 43 percent have always dreamt of being their own boss.
She explains, “Working in government agencies left me feeling drained. Time was flashing past me. This motivated me to work on my business, carving out freedom in my lifestyle so that I could be my own boss and choose my hours.”
Although Anna left her corporate life behind, she used her skills learned over nearly a decade to set her business up for success. She says, “There’s a lot of strategy behind being a sole trader, which I don’t think many people initially realise. When I told friends, for example, they were surprised because my old job was quite technical whereas jewellery-making is more creative. After the realisation that those two things could combine, everyone close to me has been supportive.”
Beyond close friends, almost 30 percent of sole traders look to a romantic partner for moral support, including Anna, who’s husband has been one of her biggest champions. “He held me when there were tears and celebrated when I reached milestones – he’s my number one person,” she explains.
The power of numbers in setting growth goals
From tax to cash flow, building a business from the ground up (and on your own) is a steep financial learning curve. That’s why two-thirds of existing sole traders, and nearly 90 percent of aspiring ones consider technology important for staying on top of the numbers.
For Anna, cloud accounting software is something she uses daily. “Tracking how I’m going month-to-month and then segmenting the results to get useful reports, particularly at tax time, has been so helpful. Xero’s turned something quite stressful into business as usual for me,” she explains.
The power of knowing her numbers is what helps Anna track her trajectory. “It makes business decisions simple. Having my historical data all in one place, and in an easy-to-read format is motivating, and it determines what I’m going to work on for the next 12 months,” she says.
“Being self-employed, my time is limited, so I need to spend it on the things that matter most, like growing my business and nurturing customers. Technology gives me the freedom to do that,” adds Anna.
Backed by a strong digital know-how, Anna’s living the eco-conscious, creative lifestyle she was destined for since childhood – planting one tree at a time.
For more insights, download the tipping point report.