Why Aussie doctors gave up $300K jobs
When Dr Suji Sanjeevan was on maternity leave, the former doctor and clinical researcher began experimenting with making her own candles.
It began as a hobby, with the accomplished medical professional dabbling with different fragrances to make candles for friends' baby showers.
But her eye for design and nose for a range of aromatic creations quickly grew into a genuine opportunity for her and her husband, Jeeva, who was also a doctor.
"It wasn't something I had actually considered but we sat back and thought, it's a small investment of around $250 and if, at the end of the Christmas period, we can turn that into ten-fold then we might be on to a business," Mrs Sanjeevan told news.com.au.
The couple, who were earning a combined income of more than $300,000, put their impressive research skills to work and examined the market.
They discovered wooden wicks were a unique concept under-utilised in the industry, so Suji went to work perfecting her specialised candle.
"We put that into motion and the business started to snowball," she said. "That's when we really thought we had to decide where we're going with this.
"Is this going to become a fully fledged business or am I going to put this back on the side and am I going to go back to work in the medical field again?"
The business grew into the garage and then into a dedicated warehouse after Light & Glo Designs developed a following for its wide range of fragrances, including cucumber and basil, Japanese honeysuckle and lemongrass and Persian lime.
Although running a small business making and selling candles was a clear separation from medicine, the couple told news.com.au they retained and applied their expertise in health and science for the new venture.
"From medics to candle makers wasn't really something we had envisaged but we thought how do we make ourselves different in such a saturated market," Mrs Sanjeevan said.
"At the end of the day, burning candles is a sensory experience and if we can put the science back into candle making and into tackling the ambience, then we can project the business differently.
"We explain to customers in terms of sense, what hormones it releases, whether it's releasing endorphins and it started to intrigue people and interest people."
Foregoing decades of education and commitment weighed heavily on the two, but starting their own business allowed them to spend more time with their three small children.
"It was an extremely hard decision - you spend 10 years at university, go through medical school, and then I had a 10 year research career as well," Mrs Sanjeevan said.
"We have three young boys who are under the age of seven, so it was hard for me but I also had to think about my family."
After a small investment of just $250 into a candle making kit, the couple have developed Light & Glo Designs into a flourishing business. In less than four years, it now has an annual revenue of about $600,000.
A recent report found barriers restricting small business operators from following through with growth plans is costing the Australian economy an estimated $93.8 billion a year.
Increased costs and overheads, cash flow restraints and the weakening Australian economy were identified as major factors hold business owners back, according to the American Express commissioned Economy of Shopping Small report.
It found 39 per cent of vendors have ideas and visions to grow their small business but are unable to follow through because of economic barriers.
"This year's research demonstrates not only the impact small businesses have on our communities and the Australian economy, but the even greater role they could play if provided with the right support and backing," American Express small merchants vice president Lisa Belcher said.
"It's a reminder to all of us to back the small business community."
For Mrs Sanjeevan, running a small business gave her and her husband the chance to dream big as opposed to her former profession in medicine where she felt she "had hit the glass ceiling".
"You determine your own destiny (in business) and you make it a failure or you make it a success, it really is in your hands," she said.
"That's one of the things that really appealed to me, to be able to craft and create your own destiny within your business."