For Jo Eleanor, it’s all about the hands and feet. The mother of three was working as a podiatrist when she noticed her handwriting deteriorating. On a whim, she signed up for a calligraphy class. She was heavily pregnant with twins at the time and through her subsequent maternity leave, she found herself practicing calligraphy during their nap times (yes, while the rest of us were watching reality TV and deciding whether to brush our hair or eat a block of chocolate)…
Despite every intention of returning to her podiatry practice, Jo’s story was truly written in the stars – or to the stars, more accurately. With an Instagram page to share her new-found hobby, her talent was spotted and she welcomed a calligraphy client: a little brand called Chanel.
Jo now counts brands including Dior, Givenchy, and Vogue among her list of clientele, along with her thriving on-site activations and bridal work. It hasn’t been without its challenges, of course. “By far the most challenging thing is often being alone when it comes to the decision-making”, she tells us of being her own boss. “Ultimately, even with all the advice in the world, you are the one that knows your business best and you need to follow your gut with big decisions. It can be a scary prospect when the buck stops with you.” But it’s worth it. “The wins get to be all your own”, Jo explains. “Nothing feels better than landing a dream client or getting to see the joy on a customer’s face when they receive their calligraphy. My business now truly doesn’t feel like a ‘job’ 90% of the time. I get to wake up every day and create things that light me up.”
We stepped in to Jo’s beautiful world and rediscovered an art we’d nearly forgotten about. Plus, she tells us the secret to working from home with kids…
You were working as a podiatrist when you noticed your handwriting deteriorating. You decided to do a calligraphy class and the rest is history - what was that first class like?
It was so much fun! I was heavily pregnant with twins at the time and rarely got a chance to do anything for myself. I actually couldn’t believe how quick it was to pick up the mechanics of the pen, but it definitely wasn’t as free flowing and easy as I had seen on Instagram!
Did you know immediately that you wanted to do a major career pivot, or did it take time?
No, I would never in a million years have foreseen a change in career at this point in my life. I just wanted something I could do to enjoy myself, and I loved writing handwritten notes and cards, so I wanted pretty writing for that. I had no intention at the time to change careers, I just started doing calligraphy regularly while I was on maternity leave while the babies were sleeping. Then I started an Instagram account to keep me motivated, and share my work with my family and friends.
While you were working in podiatry, did you have enough flexibility to balance your career and motherhood? Or was that part of the appeal of starting your own business?
It’s funny because on the surface you would say I could set my own hours and had flexibility, however anyone that runs their own business will tell you that even if you can set your own hours or days you work, there is always so much out of ‘paid’ hourly work in the form of admin, staff and marketing. I was living 1.5 hours away from the clinic in traffic, so the travel was also taking its toll. I loved my job and the business, but it just was no longer feeling sustainable with the amount of hours I was working, and with 3 children in the mix.
Podiatry is also a difficult business model when it comes to paying other professionals. Having somebody else work in your clinic can make it difficult to see a profit when you have limited clinic availability, which also meant I still needed to be seeing at least 50% of the patient load.