From Triple-Decker to ‘Open Sandwich’: the transition from corporate life to self-employment

For many women their forties are a time of upheaval. Whether it​ is​ supporting children as they​ make plans to leave home,​ ​seeking ​their first job or ​a place at ​uni – or supporting parents as they become more dependent in their twilight years​,​ or both​. It’s a time of great upheaval for​ all concerned.​ They call us the sandwich generation but ​if you ​​t​hrow into the pot a less than perfect marriage it​ can feel more​ like a triple decker!

So it’s no surprise that many women like me, at this time of their lives opt for self employment – granting them the flexibility and choices that corporate life couldn’t .

​H​ere are ​my thoughts for anyone, who as I was​, ​ is seeking to unravel their double or triple decker sandwich into something healthier and more ​m​anageable:

1. Prepare financially

Make sure you have savings to support you in the early years​, a supportive bank manager​ and a trustworthy financial adviser​ who will help you keep an eye on provision for your future.

2. Know your strengths​ and how you can add value​​

A chance conversation with a relative pointed me in the direction of The Athena ​N​etwork – which has played well to my personal strengths and allowed me to work on my weaknesses with the support of the women in the groups.​ Exploit your strengths but be prepared to delegate , outsource or collaborate to hand off those functions you find more difficult and acquire the skills you are missing.

3. Do something you love​

In the early days you may need to put in more ho​u​rs than you did in corporate life. Your business is your new baby. I am a sociable creature who enjoys meeting new people, finding out about their lives and helping others​, so network meetings are the highlights of my calendar​. Make your working day yours and delegate the things that aren’t.​

4. Network. Network. Network

​ ​I​n my corporate life I helped orchestrate a survey looking at how to encourage women to progress their careers. Having evaluated the responses​, it was clear​ that ​’​who you know​’​ is as important as ​’​what you know​’​. Added to this it was apparent that women needed to be given the time and opportunity to support each other to help them grow​ in confidence​ . You need to absolutely believe in yourself ​and your product or service,​ if you are to convince others and stand out in a potentially crowded marketplace.

5. Develop a support network

​ As a franchise​e​ I was fortunate to have a tried and tested brand and process supporting me . My business background in finance, sales and marketing gave me a head start, but I soon realised I needed social media, admin and IT support, and to delegate the functions that I found more difficult​ or tiresome​ . As for the emotional support and encouragement​, ​well that was provided by the members of ​my network ​: women experiencing the same highs and lows of ‘going it alone ‘ and juggling family and business commitments.

6. Remember why you chose self employment​:​

It’s easy to get so entrenched in your new business that you lose sight of why you ‘ jumped ship’ in the first place . Make time for your family and friends .. and yourself​. Diarise it if necessary . If you are the hub of a complex wheel of commitments then have a healthy lifestyle and take time out.

Self ​e​mpl​o​yment has been a great journey for me​, and one I would recommend​. It​ has​ allowed me the privilege of offering a ​valued ​service to many women in business. Most importantly though it’s allowed me to spend the much needed time with ailing ​p​arents and to be there when my children have come home and needed support​,​ encouragement and direction. The transition from triple decker to open sandwich has not been without its challenges but it’s been a ​very ​rewarding one.

Debbie Miles
The Athena Network, West Berkshire

About West Berkshire Athena

Debbie has run the West Berkshire Athena Network since leaving corporate employment and has groups in Newbury, Hungerford and Thatcham.  The groups meet monthly except for an August break, but will return in September with a full agenda of expert speakers on business topics.

Debbie welcomes any local business women who appreciate the support of other women and are passionate about their business products and services. The Athena brand of informative and collaborative networking can help new entrepreneurs who wish to kickstart their fledgling business, as well as established businesses that would like to move to the next level. It can be tough running a small business and apart from the business development, many members talk about the friendships they have developed.

All meetings start at midday. For more  information or to visit as a guest, please contact

September Schedule:

Newbury West Group – Thursday 12 September at the Red House in Marsh Benham where Julie Fowler Marketing will be explaining the benefits of a strategic marketing plan.

Hungerford Group – Friday 13 September at Audley Inglewood Kintbury where Charlotte Riley of Being Truly Me will be discussing the benefits of blogging to your business.

Thatcham Group – Tuesday 17 September at the Regency Park Hotel where Rachel Maunder will be offering advice on how to plan, structure and write a presentation, with key tips on delivery including ‘nerves management’.

Newbury Central – Wednesday 18 September at Arigato in Newbury where Simone Bonnett of the Social Managers will be discussing Linked In and how to develop content for this social media platform.




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