Time to change: Unfulfilled City slickers are escaping the office routine for the good life

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The Independent Online

Don't wish too hard for what you want or you might get it, so the saying goes. For many people reaching the top of their profession, having a secure job and a six-figure salary is pretty much all that they could wish for, in terms of their career. This seemingly enviable position is one that the former No 1-ranked City analyst, Sonia Falaschi-Ray, found herself in.

"I more or less had everything I wanted but I realised there was something missing," she says. "There was an element of pointlessness about what I was doing."

Falaschi-Ray decided that the only thing to do was jump, and jump she did – out of her big City job and into a vocation that she loves; but one that earns her absolutely nothing.

"It's a completely different life and very fulfilling," says the now non-stipendiary Church of England village priest. "I do everything; I've baptised, married and buried people and I take services. You get very real with people very quickly in this job. I've found that I'm much more at peace personally and able to be of use to people."

Up until her big leap forward, Falaschi-Ray had been focused on her City career and earning a salary well into six figures. "What was missing in my life was some sort of spiritual element," she says. Her particular soul-searching began with an Alpha course and eventually led to full ordination. "I was very argumentative on the course. However, God got me somehow or other."

Falaschi-Ray's leap of faith wasn't a financial one – she'd amassed enough money never to have to work again – no small factor and something that sets her apart from many who want to ditch the day job for something a little more edifying. Her leap of faith was just that; a dramatic vision led her to take ordination, initially rather reluctantly. "I said to the local vicar: 'Hang on, I'm not sure I want to do this', and he looked at me and said 'I'm not sure whether you want to do it is actually a very big part of it.' And that's the difference between a calling and an ambition."

Deborah and Chris Coyle wouldn't describe their transition from City slickers to biscuit makers as a calling, even if their clients do think their handmade cookies taste divine. Like Falaschi-Ray their jump from well paid, secure City jobs was prompted by a desire for greater personal fulfilment, but the Coyles didn't have a great stash of cash and, with a baby in tow, the risks were high. Chris previously worked for a top private bank. "It was a good package but it wasn't one of those City salaries," he says.

While on maternity leave from her job at an investors' rating agency Deborah began making biscuits and gave them to her husband to take into the office. "Everyone was saying 'we can't get this sort of thing in the market place'," says Deborah. "Chris started asking people: 'Would you pay for this?' And we got into farmers' markets which were an amazing source of research for us." Their new venture coincided with Chris's increasing discontent with his job. For him, rules, regulations and red tape were taking all the fun out of the job.

Buoyed by enthusiastic reviews from customers, the Coyles decided to turn their biscuit making into a serious business. "We want to become a premium supplier of all natural biscuits to businesses. It's a niche that isn't being filled," says Deborah.

But leave the day job? Chris laughs: "In hindsight I don't quite understand how we made the jump. It's a kind of fuzzy moment. It was our one time to just break away and do something completely radical."

They both left their jobs to start their own business, The Perfectly Delicious Company Ltd. Despite initially doubling their hours and halving their pay they persevered: "If we'd had a whole pot of gold, I don't think we'd have done nearly as good a job as we have," says Chris. "We needed to work and there's nothing like being desperate for your business to work to make sure you do a good job. Looking back, the City was easy." They're 18 months in now, and making a profit.

But the real pay off comes when customers rave about their products. And the good thing is they always get to meet the customers and hear about it face to face, which is different from the City, where Deborah says there was never any recognition. "The biggest reward," says Chris, "is that we've created something out of nothing and other people appreciate it."

The Coyles' tips for small businesses

* Do what you can to avoid taking on debt.

* Fund your business out of cash flow. If you have to slow your growth for a couple of years then do it.

* Make sure you do your business long enough so that you know your business better than anyone else.

* Be slow to adopt professional advice services offered.

* Be passionate; it's a good motivator.

* Common sense goes a long way: would someone pay you for your services if you're not actually doing anything different to anyone else?

* Have a realistic expectation of growth. You're in it for the long haul.

* Network – it's important.

* Be prepared to go through all the extremes of elation and exhaustion or regret, and often several times a day.

* Remember: you don't get to take the route that might be easiest but less fulfilling and come back a second time and do it differently.

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