Reflecting on Justin’s big career shift

A “lit from within” Glow

First things first, we have a super casual wardrobe here at Small Things HQ. You may notice my husband’s beloved Crocs (with socks no less) and a Duke t-shirt. This is *pretty much* his daily wardrobe except for an occasional swap with an American-themed shirt instead.

If you would have told me a few years ago that my blog, that I started as a resource for my clients when I did hair would become what it has, and that my Master’s Degree Aerospace Engineer husband would quit his job, start his own business, and join me in mine, I would have not believed you.

We never take for granted the freedoms and amazing opportunities we’ve both had with our businesses. There are challenges, like with any job in any industry, but we both absolutely love what we get to do every day.

For a bit more background, January presented me with a huge shift that prompted me to start the hiring process and during the stress of all that I was lamenting to Justin that I really wanted him to step into a more significant role with my business. It was truly perfect timing because we had a few days together in NYC to talk about what he could take off my plate, and by the time we were flying back to Raleigh I was already feeling great about the direction we were heading.

Justin took over all of the accounting-related aspects of my business. I told him I never wanted to open Quickbooks again and that has pretty much been true since he stepped into his role. It removed an enormous amount of stress from me, and freed up some mental space for the things I’m actually good at.

So, Justin is the CFO and a wonderful partner in the business! I realized that I don’t share much about the business/behind the scenes of my blog but I thought it would be fun to do a quick Q & A with Justin as an update about how things have been different since Justin’s major career change last spring.

Q: Were you nervous about quitting your Engineering Job to start something brand new?

Before answering this, let me clarify. While I do have an engineering degree, I wasn’t actively working in an engineering role at the time of my departure. I had worked in engineering before moving into a Business Development position in the same company after finishing grad school with a Masters of Engineering Management (think, MBA-lite). I worked in that role for roughly 2 years before quitting to start Raleigh UAV (originally with a partner who is no longer involved).

Was I nervous? Yes … Kind of.
It’s important to remember that everyone’s situation is different and everyone’s motivations and hesitations will be unique to their situation. The biggest motivating factor for me (to leave my job) was to spend less time traveling for work and more time home with Kate and the boys (Emily wasn’t in the picture yet). I was consistantly traveling 35% of the time and I only sort of liked what I was doing. I enjoyed continuing to be involved with the Air Force, as they were my main customer. But the pace at which the government acquires technology for their aircraft can be mind-numbingly slow. I would frequently find myself on the taxiway at RDU leaving town wondering if this was really what I wanted to be doing with my life. This was a recurrent thought for many months before we really started talking about the possibility of my leaving that job.
Around the same time, I started flying drones locally on my down-time and started to get the idea that it could turn into a full-time job. This is what started the idea of replacing my salary with this new stream of income.
No doubt, finances are the biggest driver for someone considering such a change. For us, Kate had been doing well for a long enough period of time that it seemed that we could take a risk in this way without fear of missing mortgage payments and I knew that if the worst case scenario happed, I’d be able to find a job that could pay the bills.
So very specifically, I was more nervous about “what will people think?” than I was “how will we make this work?” It’s one thing to tell yourself “I don’t care what people think about me”, it’s a whole other matter to actually do something that is a little bit outside of the box. I think most people in the corporate workforce are defined by their jobs and status at some level, and it was difficult to realize that I’d be voluntarily giving up that status and definition. Ultimately, I wanted to try to start a company doing something that I really enjoyed while still being home with Kate and the kids.

Q: What do you like most about working with Kate?

The thing I like most is having a front seat to her being successful. There is a tremendous amount of thought and work that goes into being a successful “influencer” and she works hard at it – even when she doesn’t really feel like it. It also helps me appreciate all she does as a mom and wife, knowing everything else that is on her to-do list.

Q: What would you tell someone who is considering quitting and starting their own business?

Several things:
– Go for it. If it doesn’t work out, you can always go back into the workforce and you’ll be glad you tried.
– If at all possible, try it on the side before you quit your day job to do it.
– Don’t scrutinize it toooooo much. No matter how vivid your imagination, you’ll never be able to fully prepare for what you’ll encounter. Example: I had big dreams of doing a lot of drone stuff related to agriculture. I don’t do anything related to agriculture and I’m involved in drone stuff that I never dreamed of prior to jumping in (parking lot inspections, bridge inspections, roadway damage assessment, etc).
– Either hire or make friends with an attorney and an accountant. You may not need to hire them, but you *will* have questions for both.
– Work from home… if you can (don’t rent an office unless you really need it – the lower your fixed costs, the better)


Q: What is your favorite part about working from home?

Flexibility. I played with the boys outside the morning until almost 10am before coming to the NC State Centennial Campus Library where I sit while writing this before studying for my FAA Drone Pilot Recertification test.
I’m not the kind of guy who wants to slink around the house in my pj’s until noon (partly because I’m old, and we’ve had kids for almost 5 years), but MAN is it nice to not *have* to hang around an office until the clock strikes 5:00.
From my perspective, it’s been better than I could have imagined. I wondered if we would have to adjust to being with each other more during the day since we were used to a decent amount of time apart from his work-related travel but that has been only great. It’s easy to shift things around to make sure we each accomplish what we need to in a day, and the flexibility to do that is wonderful. I love that my kids get so much quality time with their dad!
The most dramatic change for me was the mental shift to being the primary income for our family. While I still think I’m sorting through some of that stress and pressure, Justin is deeply supportive of what opportunities I say “yes” to and what I decide to pass on. It certainly feels more like we are working together, even if his contribution to my workday is spending time with the kids because don’t have childcare, versus my feeling like a solo provider.
It was a big shift for us when he quit, but it has truly been an incredible blessing to me and our family.


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Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog says · 10.25.18

Congratulations to you and Justin! I’m sure you guys make a great team! 😀

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

Laura says · 10.25.18

Love everything about this post. So glad that you both are using your passions to support your family and taking the time to make it count. You only get so many years with your little people and you will have no regrets. Congratulations on your endeavors and you will both see the success it brings. I’m sure of it!

Kate says · 10.25.18

Thank you!

Stephanie says · 10.25.18

Oh hey, you’re a rocket scientist 😉

Thanks for sharing this look into your life, Justin!

EMH says · 10.25.18

Congratulations to both of you! Justin is a talented writer. It was so easy to read his content. Nice job!

Sandra says · 10.25.18

I love hearing these success stories. My husband and I both have our own businesses and it has been amazing to have this success and flexibility while raising our two boys. Taking the risk to do something new can be so rewarding. You are both “go getters” and have such a great/proactive attitude towards work balance and family. So happy for your family!

Kate says · 10.25.18

Thank you! the flexibility is truly a dream!

Michele says · 10.25.18

SUCH a great post, Kate and Justin! My family recently experienced a similar shift and it’s definitely been an experience for our marriage to grow and see things from new perspectives. So much of what you both said is true for us. Thank you for reminding my husband and I that we are not alone in this change of life.

Melissa says · 10.25.18

A couple of years ago, we took the plunge into business ownership. My husband had been running a little side-gig from his computer in the evenings and on weekends, drop-shipping product from another supplier. When he was laid off from his IT job (for the second time in a year), he said “Maybe this is the time to give my business everything I’ve got and see what happens.” I’m happy to say the business has grown and prospered, but I’m never going to sugarcoat the things about it that weren’t easy. A couple of years in everything is in a place where my husband can breathe a little bit. We took a vacation – a real vacation! – this summer and were able to completely relax and just be a family together and I wouldn’t trade things like that for anything. My husband is also happier than he has been at any job and despite the stress of growing a young business, I would rather have a happy husband. <3

Sherry says · 10.25.18

I absolutely love this post, it is always great to see a peek into your lives on such a personal level. I have been following your blog for years (just like everyone else in the world……doesn’t everyone know who you are and follow along?……well they should if they don’t)
Congratulations on this shift to both of you working together on your business and hope it continues to go well for all of you.

Kate says · 10.25.18

Thanks Sherry!

Erin says · 10.25.18

This is one of my favorite posts! Thanks for sharing how you make it work and admitting where it wasn’t working! That’s real and I love it!

Simone says · 10.25.18

Definitely saving the business link for reference. Does he do work in Virginia or specifically Raleigh/North Carolina?

Kate says · 10.26.18

He can travel 🙂

Megan says · 10.25.18

Congratulations, you two!

Holly says · 10.26.18

I have a work at home BF who has a similar uniform, a rotation of 5 T-shirt’s and “house shorts”, which are not shorts he would/should wear in the real world. Then I come home from work and put on my “house pants”. Same concept to the shorts.

Kate says · 10.27.18

oh yes I have house pants as well!

Kileigh says · 10.27.18

I love hearing from your husband’s point of view. He’s clearly a big part of your brand and business and of course your life, and as someone who more follows your lifestyle than the beauty side of things, I appreciate hearing from him. I’d love for him to write more things! (Not that I don’t love your posts 🙂 )

Hayley says · 10.29.18

Thank you for sharing this! My husband and his friend just started a side business (they’re currently active duty Marines) flying drones because they had quite a bit of training with them and absolutely loved it. They’ll be even more motivated by reading this article!

Janice says · 10.30.18

Congrats to you both on this big decision! I also, left the big corporate world to follow my dream of opening a salon/spa! The most terrifying/rewarding thing I have done this far in my life! Fear of failure is a real thing, but failure really isn’t in the cards for either of you, so don’t worry! Excited for your family! God has exciting plans for you guys!

Alexandra says · 10.26.19

Thank you for the wonderful post. Would Justin be able to recommend a solid UAV for personal use? Or possibly post a video of UAV reviews and recommendations? Overd this post.