Would you have the guts to leave the financial security of a medical career to pursue a hobby? After seven years of study and 11 years working as a doctor, Dyani Evans of Little Deer Studio did just that.
At school Dyani always planned to study medicine, but after her first year of university something didn’t feel right, she had an itch to explore her creative side. She considered deferring for a year to do drama, but soon felt the pressure to continue with medicine.
“Everyone kept telling me it’ll be worth it, stick with it, it’ll get better,” Dyani says. “It had been drummed into me most of my life that it was really important to have a professional career and be financially secure.”
The creative itch kept bugging Dyani throughout her career and the long hours and responsibility of making tough decisions as a doctor were taking their toll physically and mentally. On the verge of studying for the biggest exam in anaesthesiology, she made the decision to quit.
At the time, Dyani was working as a registrar, a hospital doctor undergoing training as a specialist. The position required her to study a specialty, but after exploring her options Dyani was struggling to find something she really enjoyed. She had reached a crossroads in her career. If she didn’t take the anaesthesiology exam, she would need to apply for a different job in the hospital. The next intake of staff at the hospital wasn’t for another six months.
“It was a bit scary, but I got to the point where I knew I had to leave and as soon as I made that decision I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders,” recalls Dyani. “I have never regretted it for a second. I know it was the right decision for me.”
With no business experience, no formal arts training and no savings, she downed her scalpel and turned to a new set of tools. “I was making greeting cards as a hobby and really loved that,” she says. “I thought ‘wouldn’t it be great to do this as a business?’. Of course, everyone was telling me it wasn’t possible and it was a stupid idea. I finally made a decision, I thought: I have to do this or it’s going to kill me.”
While she may not have had business experience, Dyani was clear on her vision from the beginning. Little Deer Studio was born in 2011 from Dyani’s love of making greeting cards and quickly grew into a full range of stationery. From learning to make her own paper out of junk mail, sourcing non-toxic, fair trade materials and selecting markets and events, each decision Dyani makes is backed by her belief in ethical and environmentally friendly production.
Dyani’s ethics even extend to the profits she makes in her business. Last financial year, she donated 10 per cent of her profits to AusNep, a not-for-profit Australian organisation providing free surgical and dental procedures in Nepal. It’s a cause that has personal resonance for Dyani as a former doctor and Nepal is where she ethically sources some of her paper. Her donation equated to 54 surgical procedures for people who would otherwise not have access to health care.
Dyani feels optimistic about the future of her business and hopes to donate more to Aus Nep in the next financial year. Her generous donation is a reflection of her intrepid mindset when it comes to money. The financial risk of leaving a high-paying career was challenging, but with the support of family and some lessons in frugal living, Dyani was able to beat the odds and her business is now financially sustainable.
“It was tough but even when I was making lots of money as a doctor, I was just spending it, because I was so miserable in my job I would just take six months off and travel,” says Dyani.
There are times when she misses the security of a regular pay cheque, but turns out this is a small price to pay for living a life of happiness. Dyani works longer hours now than she ever did as a doctor, but it no longer feels like work.
When asked about her dreams for the future, Dyani is clear about one thing, inspiring others to take risks: “Life is short. You don’t have to feel trapped. You can follow your dreams and go after your goals.”
Photography by Mark Cranitch