Jessica Haden Walsh didn't hate her job at all. In fact, she thought herself rather lucky getting to work on the set of The Hobbit trilogy and other productions. It's a job that most people can but dream of. Yet Haden Walsh harboured dreams of being her own boss.

The Auckland University film and television graduate worked for a decade in the film industry culminating with work on The Hobbit trilogy. Her role involved locations as well as props for the elves.

But film work is either feast or famine, which can be unsettling. What's more, the 36-year-old had always wanted to own her own business and admits to being a visionary.

That vision led to the launch two years ago of Lotus Belle - a supplier of "glamping" (glamorous camping) tents. The luxury canvas tents are the antidote to what Haden Walsh calls the traditional "nylon nightmare". They were also the ticket for the Aucklander to move on from her film industry career.


The light bulb moment that led to Lotus Belle came while working in the UK, says Haden Walsh. She worked on the festival circuit whilst on her three year OE and "saw the whole glamping phenomenon take off".

The idea of launching a glamping business appealed on many levels. She hated seeing the way that festival campers often left their tents behind in their hundreds to be dumped into landfills. Becoming a glamping entrepreneur suited Haden Walsh and it played to her keen interest in sustainability. Seeing the tents left behind in their hundreds led to the company's motto: "Tents for life, not the landfill".

She teamed up with UK-based Harriet Seddon and the two of them designed their own unique canvas glamping tent. They sell to campers, tourism operators, campsites and even people looking for an extra bedroom. Seddon runs the manufacturing side, whilst Haden Walsh is in charge of the business and marketing side. Haden Walsh was well paid working on The Hobbit and saved around $10,000, which was her start-up capital. She was able to do much of the research and planning in gaps between film industry contracts before launching in earnest in December 2012.

It meant long hours, but Haden Walsh is a high energy type of person and loved every moment of it. "I knew I was on to a good thing," she says.

The business currently operates in New Zealand, Australia, the United States, and United Kingdom and has franchisees in Korea and France.

Quitting your job to start or buy a business isn't always plain sailing. Some struggle with the lack of job security, and find they need to be more organised, and positive.

The first few months were a little hairy financially. Haden Walsh couldn't afford to import a full container load of tents.

Fortunately for her, she managed to pre-sell all of her first small shipment. When she got her first container load about 45 per cent of the tents were spoken for as well. "That really helped keep me afloat."

Haden Walsh was lucky in that she could move home and live with her parents in East Auckland while she got the business off the ground.

Not everyone who becomes self-employed sets up a traditional business. Some choose to become self-employed one-man-bands either as consultants or perhaps with a portfolio of contracts making up what is effectively fulltime work.

The difference between self-employed and business people is that the latter build up passive income. By building a business and employing others they have a company that can be sold. Self-employed people are dependent on their own labour to make a living and may be able to sell the contracts, but don't necessarily build up capital and passive income.

There is help galore available for Kiwis who want to leave their job and step into the world of business. Haden Walsh chose to approach Business Mentors New Zealand, which can be found at She was assigned Mike Andrew of the Good Use Company as her mentor around the same time as her first shipment of glamping tents arrive in New Zealand.

Having someone independent of family and friends - who all wanted to give advice - was really helpful. "He is my dad's age and has been there and done that and has a lot of stories to tell. I get advice, support and key learnings from Mike."

Other sources of help and sometimes financial assistance for nearly launched and new businesses include the Chamber of Commerce, and regional and government organisations including the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE), Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed) New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE).

The Chamber of Commerce's business advisory services are also well used by fledgling businesses. It has, for example, a library of documents covering everything from Maori in Business to legal structures for small business.

Ateed is a first port of call for many prospective business owners. It offers free 45-minute Start-up Kickstarter consultations with its business advisers and a Starting Off Right programme for people thinking of starting business. The four-hour Starting Off Right workshop is designed to help new business owners cope with some of the challenges they will face.

Its business advisers can also help businesses forge links with potential local and international customers.

Small businesses can access other services as they grow. Ateed can assist companies with a plan to develop, grow and innovate. It can help identify relevant courses, advisers and information, and determine eligibility for Government funding.

Businesses that plan to export can access even more assistance through Ateed, MBIE and NZTE.

Finally, anyone looking to start a business who has been made redundant should take advantage of any outplacement services offered by their old company. The service is meant to help redundant employees transition to new jobs. But the counselling offered by experts can be of invaluable assistance to anyone wanting to start or buy a business.