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From corporate world to sole trader: Why Melina Walton made the move

Tuesday, 3 December 2013 | By Gavin Lower

Melina Walton had worked for 10 years in the corporate world as a communications professional when she started to feel something was missing.


“I think I have a creative side that wasn’t being nourished,” the 31-year-old behind Letters from Letty, a subscription gift service that sends boxes of goods from a different Australian designer each month, told SmartSolo.


She’d been considering moving into managerial roles but started to think whether that was really what she wanted to do.


“The main thing I wanted was to have a job and life where I really wanted to go to work every day,” she says.


“I wanted to have the lifestyle that made me happy every day. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy my corporate role but something was missing.”


It was when she turned 30 and received a surprise gift in the mail from a friend that the idea for Letters from Letty was born.


“I just remember this tremendous excitement and joy,” she says of receiving the parcel, and of wanting to capture that feeling.


Walton says while there are other gift subscription services available online, Letters from Letty targets emerging Australian designers and quality products.


She started the business a year ago with five customers and has grown organically since without the need for investment or partnerships.


A month ago Walton took the step to leave the security of her job in the corporate world but continues to do public relations work on a freelance basis.


She says leaving a job with a regular pay cheque was scary.


“It’s really quite daunting but it’s outweighed by the fact I can’t wait to get to my office in my spare room,” she says.


Walton says one of the biggest lessons for her starting up a business on her own was to get a mentor because “I had no idea of running a business”.


A mentor can provide direction and act as a sounding board for ideas.


“Otherwise you could be spending a lot of energy in areas that don’t grow your business,” she says.


Walton also recommends aspiring sole traders trust their instincts and “celebrate little wins” by, for example, going for a walk or out to dinner.


“The other day I got my printer to work, which was a massive thing,” she says. Another win was recently speaking at the Melbourne League of Extraordinary Women.


She also advises investigating if there’s any competition to your business and working out a point of difference.


Walton says her ambition for Letters from Letty is for it to be a recognised brand and continue to promote Australian designers.