Friday, March 28, 2014, 6:27pm – This was when I walked away from everything I knew, everything that was certain, everything that was easy, and boldly out into the unknown and uncertain. Though my journey into entrepreneurship began long before this date and time (I’ve started a myriad of hustles since age 12), this was when I made the decision and a commitment to myself to take full control of my circumstances, my results, and most importantly, myself, from now on.
In September 2013, I was offered a job with an insurance company and I was over the moon! I loved the company and always wanted to work for them, but in the midst of my excitement, I made a commitment to myself: regardless of what happens or how this new job plays out, this was it. Call it an exit strategy if you will, but this was going to be my final job before starting my own business. Do or die.
This was my first “corporate” job, and I especially loved that it was outside of my usual fields of interest and employment: sales and customer service. Insurance was new, exciting, and I was ecstatic! But after a couple weeks of work, the novelty eventually began to wear off.
Unwelcomed innuendos, advances, and flat-out disrespect from male colleagues, female colleagues who had group discussions about you instead of privately with you, office politics, blame games, and a seemingly unending hierarchy were the norm. All of this I handled in the best way I could, but the final straw for me was constantly volunteering to be trained in other departments and roles, but there was always a reason given by my supervisor to his supervisor as to why it wasn’t a good idea. I had seen my “glass ceiling” and it was apparent that I would never be allowed to outgrow what was my current role. I never had a voice and when I did speak up about something or raised a concern, it became all the more obvious that I was the problem since I was the only who ever had issues with anything.
All this eventually became a bit much for me and I mentally “checked out.” I showed up each day and ensured that my work was done, and done well, but my enthusiasm was depleted. I just didn’t feel like I was adding any real value to the company. My work environment was so toxic to me that I literally fell sick 14 times in just 6 months – flus, fevers, migraines, nasty colds, you name it. I started dreading Sunday nights because it meant Monday morning was near, and I celebrated Friday evenings because it meant a 2 day relief from the anguish.
I badly wanted out and began exploring options of starting a business, one of my ideas being to launch a virtual storefront selling fashion apparel and accessories. It was appealing because though Jamaicans were shopping online, they weren’t necessarily buying online from other Jamaicans and that didn’t make much sense to me. On February 20, 2014, I ordered a small US$6 sample of earrings from a vendor in China to get started on the idea, but outside of waiting for the earrings to arrive in Jamaica, I honestly didn’t do much else. After weeks of waiting and having not received my order, I thought I was swindled and decided to move on.
On March 11, 2014, I was informed by HR that my contract was ending in 2 weeks and would not be renewed when it did. I smiled and said, “Okay, thank you.” I sincerely meant it. Since I wasn’t brave enough to take a leap of faith on my own, I was thankful for being shoved off the ledge. My only choice now was to grow some wings on the way down if I was going to survive – and I planned to. I called a close friend to share the news and hear his thoughts, and his advice was that I should immediately send out job applications and try landing another job before my 2 weeks were up. Ha! Nope, wasn’t gonna happen.
“Just got news from HR that my contract won’t be renewed at the end of the month. But really, I haven’t lost. In fact, I think I just won my entire life back. I’m not the happiest right now, but I know and believe with everything in me that this news is one I’ll cherish for the rest of my natural life. A part of me is concerned about the fact that I’m not sad about this, but when I analyze the situation, what have I really lost? Nothing but a salary. What have I won? My time, freedom, and most importantly, control of my entire life.”
– Partial Journal Entry on March 11, 2014, at 4:58 pm.
I completed my final 2 weeks with the company and on March 28, 2014, at 6:27 pm, I walked out into a world of uncertainty and to be quite honest, I had NEVER been so scared of anything in my entire life. But even though I had no clue what my next step was going to be, I was sure of myself and I wasn’t going to break my own promise to me: This was going to be my final job before starting my own business. I walked away with no regrets, but a whole lot of lessons, the most important one being: security is an illusion; never give control of your destiny to anyone.
Instead of vigorously pursuing a path into entrepreneurship like I imagined I would, the days and weeks following March 28th, 2014 left me in a severe state of depression and anxiety. I barely managed to get out of bed most days and on the days that I did make it out, it was mostly to put on my favorite shade of lipstick and have a good cry (crying in lipstick somehow makes me feel more powerful). I wasn’t depressed because I wanted my job back, but because I couldn’t figure out what my next step was going to be. I had no clear sense of direction or purpose and it drove me crazy.
I started working on several projects to cultivate some enthusiasm and a sense of purpose, but they weren’t working on me. I eventually closed myself off from almost everyone because I didn’t want to keep hearing, “Just get another job!” It just wasn’t that simple for me. By mid-April, I had allowed myself to become so completely consumed with anxiety and depression that I literally had to be saved from myself.
My close friend, and the only person who I was always completely honest with about my feelings, offered me JM$5,000 to leave my house for a day and experience a change of scenery. All I had to do was go somewhere – anywhere! – and then call him with proof that I wasn’t home. Who refuses an offer like that?! Definitely not me; that’s free money! Having nowhere better to go, I decided to visit my cousin, which was something I had avoided doing because of how vulnerable I had been feeling. As it turned out, the earring samples I had ordered weeks prior were at her house waiting for me (I had apparently mixed up my shipping addresses). They were gorgeous and I got excited! I sold the first pair on my way home that night. That was on April 17, 2014 and this was when the stars aligned and I found a clear path into entrepreneurship I so badly needed.
I couldn’t contain my excitement! I wanted more accessories, I wanted a website to sell them, and I leaped into action. I sold the remaining earrings to friends via instant messages and used a part of my $5,000 “bribe” to order some more. The money I made from selling earrings to friends also went towards ordering even more earrings. Now I needed a website, but first I needed a business name. After going through countless name options, none of them seemed quite right until “Accessories & Essentials” connected. I registered the domain name and got started on my eCommerce website.
Here’s the problem: I had no knowledge whatsoever of eCommerce or web development and I also had no money to hire anyone. This means that I had to learn on my own and learn very quickly. That translated to weeks of long days, even longer nights, barely any sleep, crashing the website I was building almost a dozen times. Each time I crashed the site, I had to start rebuilding it again from ground zero because in addition to not knowing how to fix what went wrong, I didn’t even know what went wrong. Despite the frustration, I persisted and after many, many, many trials and errors, I launched the first version of my self-developed eCommerce website on May 28, 2014 and was finally, fully open for business and I had no plans of looking back!
Today, since making the leap into full-time entrepreneurship, the practical life lessons I have learned from the tears, losses, frustration, failures, and rejections have helped me to tremendously outgrow the person I was a year ago. In addition still learning about and running my own business, I am also blessed to work with and mentor other entrepreneurs and help them develop their businesses. This journey, though filled with steep learning curves, is one that I am appreciative of because there simply is no better reward than experience because it pays dividends many times over.There's simply no better reward than experience because it pays dividends many times over. Click To Tweet