…a wannabe entrepreneur

My friend wrote a blog recently that was a statement of the realisation of adulthood — where those in our class, the ones we grew up with and pondered with on who we would marry and what we would grow up to be actually started doing those things and answering those then hypothetical questions.

Cute, really really cute!

But I don’t really find myself having knee jerk reactions when people get engaged or have babies. I don’t feel as though it is a nudge in the marital, familial direction for me. Yes, I sometimes think, NO, STOP, what are you doing, you don’t have your crap together yet or you hardly know him but mostly I think, to each their own…

You see I’ve noticed that as we grow up, the things we wished for when we were young don’t always turn into the things we want the most. But the things we really really want grow up in us into indelible forces that end up being the very things that keep us alive.

I usually know what my deepest desires are by what in others’ lives makes me jealous. I hate the word jealousy but I must admit that I get strong feelings that I want what others have and in an effort to prove that it is some kind of dream I try to pinch them, not myself, but them — by looking for the fault lines in their goings on.

And, tellingly, this happens every time I see that a friend has started a business, opened a restaurant or had the balls to start a venture of any sort outside the conventional job sphere. I just want to kick a rock and say, ‘No, this is not supposed to happen so early.’

You see, society prepares us, or at least it prepared me, to expect that around 25 our friends would be married or making tonnes of money. But no one ever told me I’d have friends running awesome businesses around my age.

No, can’t be. It is like wearing low cut jeans at 13; that’s just too young to show all that skin.

Wait a while, won’t you?

No, they won’t.

I’ve had the itches to start a business since I was about 18. I came up with all sorts of business ideas over the years, talked to people about it, calculated the numbers, and based my entire MA dissertation on a business plan for an online short story subscription service. Back in university I applied to get funding to start a jeans line with the brand name Much Love and Affection which would give away one pair of jeans for every pair bought, along with a personalised card, handwritten by the purchaser. I even sourced quotes from China. This was before I knew anything about TOMS (which has the same business model). It was before TOMS even got big!!!!!

Well, it is pretty obvious that ML&A never happened. I was afraid to source from China because of the notoriously poor labour conditions that I wouldn’t necessarily be able to control, and manufacturing jeans in the US is just mad expensive. My university didn’t want to fund a business that would be private in the future so I didn’t have any money — I was also was a poor poor student at the time.

I also approached a well-known historian and editor of Vanity Fair who lectured at my university to ask his advice about starting a magazine on campus. I was well eager — but he said, ‘If you want to be a writer then you don’t need to start a magazine. You just need to write write write. Start by going to a zoo and describing a monkey.’ I took his golden words and smashed my idea to pieces. Although what I should have told him is that I wanted to be a writer AND, just as much, an entrepreneur.

One of my cards from Christmas 2012
One of my cards from Christmas 2012

I finally got my hands dirty in some (clean) business when I decided to design, write and sell cards under the brand name Striped Hammock. I actually got that off the ground, printing them at a local printer and selling them at an awesome market in the beautiful Greenwich aka the centre of the world (GMT) — that’s how I knew the world revolved around the selling of my cards. That was great experience but this blog was supposed to be about how I am jealous that I DON’T have a business…

Well, similar to what happened when I was younger — I was the youngest of my friends to be kissed (10) but then had a gap in between where they caught up and went full speed ahead, leaving me with my peck and little bit of tongue feeling majorly inadequate. Well the card business was like that first kiss, sweet and subtle and risk-less and I was mostly the youngest of my friends to start a business. But since then my friends have caught up and many have very much surpassed me.

How about I hail out some of these awesome people who are the reason I am strapping on some hardcore spikes so that I could sprint to catch up with them.

My best friend is now running an NGO called Volunteer Center of Trinidad and Tobago which allocates volunteers to projects around the country. It is in its second year and going from strength to strength.

My high school classmates have started an online magazine called The New Local, which is only in its first few months, but their professionalism in getting it together really amazed me.

My MA colleagues leave me with too many examples — our year was a particularly entrepreneurial year — but to name two: one started an online faith-based magazine, Flat8 Magazine, of all things wonderful and launched it in November and two others joined together to start a fiction publishing company called River Ram Press that is very ambitiously seeking its first books to publish.

A childhood friend who has been an NYC promoter for years now is opening his first RESTAURANT (I have no link to this)!!!

Coolness at the Corner Coffee House

And many more examples… some of close friends or family being co-founders or involved in the starting of a business like my cousin who is now helping to run an everything-you-ever-dreamed-of-cafe — I’m talking film nights, live music, clubs, cakes, classes, the works — called the Corner Coffee House in North East London. That one REALLY got my knees jerking. And my sister is co-founder of an ambitious contemporary dance company in Trinidad.

Now this blog is getting a bit long but I want to congratule everyone in their 20s who has managed to start a business and keep it running. HATS OFF TO YOU — I’ve been trying to do it and stalling for 7 years now. Truly truly, best of luck — you are an inspiration.

And I want to say that, yes, at first I am like ‘ARGGG you are doing exactly what I wanted to and your design is just like what I pictured so now I have to think of something completely new’ and *kick a rock*. But then I think of something I read recently on Forbes called 13 Things Mentally Strong People Avoid (and they begin by saying entrepreneurs MUST be mentally strong and that these traits are found in most entrepreneurs)…

Mentally strong people aka entrepreneurs don’t resent other people’s success — instead they take close notes on what that person did well and are willing to work hard for their own chances.

Mental strength is everything!!
Mental strength is everything!!

Well seeing my friends’ successes or at least starts on successes has given me great insight into what sort of ventures I most want to get into, namely — book and/or magazine publishing and cafe and micro-community managing. So I’m going to do what I can to bring those two things together and make something wonderful. In the mean time I’m looking, learning, reading and heeding.

PEACE. Really though…

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