Your best lessons are the ones you learn when things are at their worst. When I was eight years old, I did not know the term entrepreneur. What I did know was how to find my way out of a desperate situation through deal making. That skill is what got me to where I am now.
I grew up in Kingston, Jamaica. My single-mother emmigrated to Canada for a better economic future. The woman my mother entrusted my care to saw me more as an indentured servant than a child to look after. In todayâ€™s lexicon I would say my title would probably have been personal assistant. Although, Gopher would probably be a more apt title. Her errands became my existence. School and food became optional and increasingly infrequent.
One of my weekly missions was a 2 hour, cross-town bus ride to purchase a Jamaican baked delicacy called Bami. She sent me with instructions to buy two dozen of the cakes. I remember the first trip was challenging as I found my way through to the busy outdoor marketplace for the first time. In the market hustle and bustle, I selected the best Bami stand. Next came the challenge: I had to work out the best price I could to buy the items and hopefully leave enough left over for my return bus fare and maybe something to eat. Remember, I was just eight years old. After promising to forsake all other Bami sellers whenever I came to the market, the Bami seller agreed to sell to me the goods at a lower price. I liked her. She was fair. And later when I told other people at competing stands how good her Bami was, she paid me a finderâ€™s fee for each customer who bought.
Soon I was spending the day at the market and coming back with pocket change. I was now financially enabled.
When I think back to that time in my life, should I be angry at Ms Swaybe for sending an eight year old child to do an adult’s job? Maybe, but I am not. I believe that she was not being cruel she was helping me discover my inner strength and ability to make do in any situation. I quickly learned to budget, negotiate and to always seek out the best quality product. But above all, use what you have to negotiate for what you want.
My First Business I eventually left Jamaica and joined my mother in Canada. My mother had always instilled in me a value for education. She firmly believed that education was the path to self development. To fund my studies at university I had a job as an office manager at a truck wash. It wasn’t glamorous, but it did set the stage for my first business. One day, someone came to the office and offered to sell 500 winter jackets for $5 each. It was June; I knew it they would be worth $40 in December I didn’t hesitate. I told him I would take all of them. That evening, the hallway to my bathroom was officially blocked off by the 500 jackets (it was the only place I had to store them). I did not know what I would do with them. I just knew that in felt like the right thing to do.
The truck wash had lots of traffic. Truckers, trash haulers, dump trucks, and all kinds of other equipment came through. As they waited, the owners would come into the office to chat and flirt with the girl in the office. I learned a lot from them. For the most part,
the owners of the equipment were small businesses. Small businesses always need to promote themselves. My jackets were looking form someone to promote. The person that sold me the jackets arranged for custom embroidery on the jackets. After two weeks of promoting my custom embroidered jackets they were all sold. The hallway to my bathroom was clear. My $500 in jackets was now $10,000 in my bank account. Jackets became coffee cups and T-shirts. It was a good summer.
The Forum – The Big Ask and the Little No I have always believed in improving myself. Anything that opens your mind or exposes you to new positive experiences has the possibility of making you a better, more effective and capable person. Women especially are taught to be a certain way. “Don’t get dirty.” “Behave like a lady.” “Good girls don’t do that.” Women are bombarded by messages to conform to an ideal woman/girl image. But that image is not CEO. It is housewife, or secretary, or stewardess, or model. Not that I have anything against any of those occupations, but for the needs of a growing business, they leave women raised on those icons, lacking the necessary critical skill set. In my 20s I realized that something was holding me back. The problem was I didn’t know what it was. This search resulted in me having a life catalyst. It was during a week long self improvement course called the Forum. It was here that I learned two of the most important skills that helped me overcome personal weaknesses that held me back from being who I could be. The first is the ability to put out the BIG ASK and the second is simply not to accept NO.
The Big Ask is the ability, the fortitude and strength to ask for everything you want. One of my strengths that I now have in business is that I frequently leap ahead. The reason is that I am fearless to ask for what I want. Within a year of starting my latest business, Q Gourmet, I was participating in top international tradeshows, shoulder to shoulder with multi billion dollar companies like Nestle. Normally small companies start out at the back of these tradeshows. But that is not what I want my business to be. I want to be the first thing people see when they come in the show so I can sell to them first. The reason why: the big ask. You can ask anything. If the answer you get back is no it just means you have to ask in a different way. And you keep asking until the answer is yes. I can and will ask for the sky, some times the response is no and we work through that, however some times the answer is the delivery of the sky to me on a silver platter and thatâ€™s when I wonder what would have happened if I had not made the ask. The second ability I developed that has helped me in business is the refusal to accept no. People are stopped by the fear of no, and what the perceived â€œconversationâ€? is in the other persons head. In their quest for yes they are defeated before they even ask. In reality our imagination is far more creative than what the reality is. I am talking about that voice inside your head that tells you not to avoid doing something that would risk you being rejected. I learned not to assume, conclude or rationalize what the other person is thinking. I let the other person speak for themselves. Whatever I ask for I know that if the answer is no, I am not being rejected. No is simply the first step to yes.
Admin@20: Business in a Bad Economy: When the Economy Changes, You Change.
I eventually lost my job at the truck wash when recession hit the economy. As the economy dropped and businesses cut back staff, I expanded in a new direction. When staff had been laid off someone had to do bookkeeping, taxes and payroll for the business that remained. I was already seeing clients on the side and acting as a Business Management Consultant to three clients. As the economy continued to deteriorate my business grew quickly. For ten years I negotiated loans on behalf of companies, and managed workers comp issues.
Antiques and Art While working as business management consultant I ventured into a home that was well out of my reach.
I thought what job could I do that could get me the resources to buy
this home quickly. I thought the household content sale business. The investment is zero only an ad placed in the local paper; I get the house sell the stuff and take my commission.
To learn the tricks of that trade I ventured to various sales to see how itâ€™s done. While doing that I learned the various china, sterling, what was hot in art, and I bought and bought. To the point that my husband said I had to get rid of the stuff as we had to move sideways to go though the house.
I only scoured one content sale which was cancelled in the ninth hour as the family decided not to sell dear moms items. With my impending disposal of the household items I had accumulate by my husband. I took a booth at a local antiques market.
I got in at 6am, set up a beautiful display and put my items from home I had collected from various sales. The dealers swarmed my little booth and most the items were sold in the first hour. I later sold an 18th century French aubussion I had purchased at a sale for 50 for 2800. I said this is it.
The antiques and art business took me all over the world travelling and buying great items at a low price I did buy some items at a high tprice that was seld at a lover price.
Eventually after 911 the market changed and I decided I wanted a change as well.
I looked in the local paper at the career section. There was a whole new lingo that eluded me. Project management, six sigma, interface, I thought what is this, in the years Iâ€™m learning about the difference between rococo and Louis xvi, and English chineoirie vs. French chinerorie, there was an entire new career field that had passed me by. Could I work in this market?
Always believing in learning, I signed up for a course on purchasing. Buying was what I knew. I interviewed with some large retailers. My professor at purchasing new a friend who had a large food disturbing company that was grossing 25m per year and was only netting 2% I was brought on board to help increase that profit line.
Lessens I learned, when you do not pick your team, itâ€™s very difficult to lead on an old regime. Two I knew I wanted to benefit from any savings or profit I would bring to the company.
My boss one day said Nadine you are not a team player, you like things done your own way. I thought well if I had a good team that would be different, and my way ahs been successful, your way has not, so why would I follow your way. Needless to say the relationship did not work and after four months I left.
I remembered when I left, I felt this sense of freedom free at last free at last.
The Gourmet Diva The decisions my life when made has been fast. I left the job in June, got to the fancy food show in New York in July and started my company in August. The food business is primarily man dominated.
Who do I have to sleep with and other struggles? The highs and lows Quing Quixotic vision is big take on a lot Relationship
Points to success.
Axiom as I truly feel until my life purpose fulfillment this will not happen, hut my definitive would be on a two week vacation with no bb, not worry about whom getting paid, structure in place. Iâ€™m a working progress.
One where I learned the most was she would send me on a long trip two hours by bus to a little town to buy special cassava bread. She sent me with enough to buy two dozen of the cakes and a one bus fare, no lunch money. The first trip was challenging as I fund my way in the market, looked for the best bami stand, and sought to work out the best price to bay for the cases and leave enough money for me to get home.
Ms Sway was not being cruel she was helping me discover the inner strength to make do in any situation. I quickly learned to budget, negioate, seek out the best product.
I learned two important lessons from my trip to the market. I had a voice, if you connected with people in an honest way you could engage them and get them to yes, and that if you found a good source keep the relationship and work though it.