All our young lives, typical career stories are highly romanticised and all about finding ‘The One’: a job that is stable and risk-free.
The ideal story goes something like this: person studies hard in high school, gets into the best university and chooses a high-pressure, low-risk degree like business or law, gets a stable job at a great firm upon graduation, and then lives happily ever after working at their 9-5.
Okay great, we’re at happily ever after.
But what if once we’re there we realise that a traditional 9-5 career path isn’t for us? What if this dream of a stable and risk-free job isn’t one that we all share? What if we get hungry for something more?
Steph Skevington, co-founder of Butter Insurance, found herself asking these same questions.
“When I was in uni doing my law degree, the idea of going into a smaller business or start-up wasn’t really spoken about or considered a preferable path.
The assumed path, which I took, was to do your clerkship, become a lawyer, and go work at a firm”, Steph reflected on her early career.
“It was a really fun time, working really hard, but after a while I started to look around at partners, leaders, and wondering what my future could be. I realised that that it wasn’t really fulfilling to me and made me start to ask the question ‘What do I really want to be doing with my life?’”
Steph’s career ennui hit alongside the COVID-19 pandemic. This triggered her to reassess what she wanted to do with her professional life. A friend of hers who had recently moved from corporate to VC recommended the Startmate’s Women Fellowship Program, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The program prepared Steph to move away from the corporate world.
She secured her first start-up role and this experience gave her a true taste of what life at a start-up was like. Steph loved the opportunities she had to apply her existing skills in new ways while also learning new things.
At the same time, Steph met her co-founder Cassie Bell at a party where they bonded over frustrations about recent breakages of personal valuables and Cassie’s difficulties in finding insurance for expensive jewellery she had purchased.
The conversation shifted to an idea about insurance for young people and purchases they really cared about and for the first time Steph started to think about the possibilities of starting a venture of their own.
“I’m a big believer in signs, and always thought it was a sign that Cassie and I came up with the idea for Butter while I was doing the Women’s Fellowship program. It felt like the stars were aligning because I had been feeling like I wanted to have a bigger impact in my career and creating something from nothing.
These were still early days though, so we weren’t sure if Butter was a good idea or just something we were excited about. Over time Butter started to gain momentum and I knew it was time to pick between my job or becoming a founder”, Steph said.
The fellowship helped Steph gain the confidence to make the jump.
“The fellowship helped be aware that there are so many paths out there, so failure became less scary” she said.
The shift from an ‘employee mindset’ to an ‘owner mindset’ came easily to Steph.
“I’ve always been quite assertive and independent in the ways I’ve worked. I’ve always asked why things were done a certain way and looked for better ways to them.
The thought of taking an idea and making it into something that people are actually interested in purchasing was so exciting to me that it outweighed any fear in transitioning from employee to owner” Steph said.
Having Cassie as a co-founder made the leap easier as well.
“I definitely would not have gone on this journey without Cassie there”, Steph said.
“We’re cut from the same cloth. We both had a legal background and a sense of how the other person would work.
We also had this great friendship and relationship, which made it easier to go all in together. We’ve cried on the phone together, we’ve celebrated jumping up and down, and everything in between.”
Their partnership has helped Butter gain traction and success.
Commenting on their experience as female founders, Steph said “Overall it’s been a really positive experience.
Both Cassie and I have come from male-dominated industries and are used to tough negotiations, so our philosophy is to just ask for what we want. We put aside all emotion or possible perceptions of a request and just ask.”
As both a Startmate Fellowship and Accelerator alumna, Steph’s advice to women looking to make the leap into start-ups or entrepreneurship is “Just apply”.
“You don’t need to know what you want from day one.
You can join the Women’s Fellowship program out of pure curiosity that leads into something more.
Having that open mindset will let you get more out of it than you expect."
The Accelerator is a really competitive program and a lot is asked from you during this program, but knowing that will allow you make the most out of the opportunity, whether that means investment, mentors, or connections”, she said.
No one job or career is guaranteed to be ‘The One’.
From lawyer, to start-up operator, to founder, Steph’s journey is a new kind of career story.
It can be scary to leave a safe job, to explore the unknown, and to start new journeys.
It can also be deeply fulfilling, purposeful, and an opportunity to change your life and those of millions of others.
If you're at happily ever after and have found yourself asking 'What now', Steph's story is a sign to take a leap of faith.