Most entrepreneurs are not afraid to take risks!
I started my first business at eighteen. There was a demand for a product which was always out of stock and decided to make my own. At the time I was not thinking about business plans or securing financing, and was clueless about manufacturing. Nevertheless, with boldness and more bravery than ever, I decided to ‘make some money’. Here is the story.
Creativity, Innovation & Recycling
Shoulder pads were the ‘in thing’. All garments especially ladies dresses, suits and shirts came with shoulder pads. I bought a ‘shoulder shaved pair of foam’ uncovered for $6 to $9 a pair. If it was covered it was upwards of $10. I liked to sew and design and made all my clothes. I was know by the owners and employees at most of the fabric stores because I was always looking for deals. My wages were small, but my desire for fashion was big! Everyday, I went to work for eight hours and returned home after collecting my newborn son from the babysitter. He needed food, clothing, and I had rent to pay. One day, while visiting a friend working at a furniture factory I noticed they were dumping large pieces of sheet foam after removing what they needed. An idea was born in that moment and I asked if I could leave with some of the dumped foam.
Using scraps of fabric in a neutral color I made a semi circle cutout and eventually got three sizes made which I thought would fit smoothly in the shoulder area. I carved a wooden mold of each size and then placed it on the foam and cut. After preparing dinner, fed my son, and started covering the foam. That first night I made 12 pairs. The next day, I stopped by a few stores on my way home and all my pads were sold between 3 stores. I had orders from one store for 12, and was asked to check the other stores the next day. For the next month I continued like this. I collected foam from the factory at no cost ( got a ride home) and bought a couple yards of fabric every few days from the discount counter. My pads were sold wholesale for $3, $4, $5 and everyone wanted them.
Eventually, I stopped getting the foam for free. I had to pay for the foam, and this reduced my profits. My sewing machine, which was very old, died, so I borrowed one. It was hard to keep doing the two jobs, and then the competition started, and I was unable to keep up. Overall this business lasted approximately six months!
Does this sound familiar? What do you do when you see an opportunity, and you’re young and willing to take a risk? That experience shared was from 1987.
Dreams and reality
Today, there are many resources available for young entrepreneurs, innovators and scientists. If you can dream it, you can ‘make it happen’. I truly believe that. But, what are you prepared to risk to develop, create, grow that idea?
I had no training at the time in developing a product from ‘idea to market’, yet I was willing to try, and fail. When I started there was not a thought about if I would ‘fail’. Something needed to be done, and this brain just used what it had available. We did not have technology and awareness of many things, and this is how many businesses started.
My business could not be sustained because it was ‘a part time hustle’ in every sense of the word. There was not a business development plan, no materials management, no machinery investment, and no one who I could turn to for advice. I was a single mom, doing what I had to do to earn a living and care for my baby. Academically, I had not done well in secondary school, and had many challenges to avoid homelessness and hunger X2. I could create and sell — those were my resources!
Now, there is so much available to entrepreneurs around the world. There is also social media and the internet. For many folks in the USA programs like Third Frontier — from Cleveland Ohio, offer capital investment, mentorship and business support to people in the area. You can access funding through ‘seed accelerators’ , which are well developed Angel networks.
There are ‘philanthropists’ who invest in organizations and individuals to promote entrepreneurship, and of course there are Venture Capital companies who will offer investment financing for equity and shareholding in your business. The list of support is endless, and many countries have their own entrepreneurial programs being developed in some way.
There are options available, but many times they are difficult to source due to a lack of awareness. We still have a long way to go when it comes to ensuring the entrepreneurs who need information can access it. Google will only work when you know what to type as you search. I recently did a program on Coursera called ‘Beyond Silicon Valley’ with Michael Goldberg of Case Western Reserve University (online), and I wish everyone with an ‘idea/ dream’ will check it out!
Sharing this story, I hope, will stimulate thoughts to advance your dream, and take a risk. Looking back I learnt from my experiences and its good sharing the risks and rewards that come from pursuing your dreams. Hey, I used garbage aka material waste recycled to advance my dream, and that’s got to mean something. For a while, I did it, and I learnt from my mistakes. Thus I gained from the ‘school of creative innovation’. Take that chance — you can do it!
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First published in Marketing & Growth Hacking Publication via Medium (May10,2017)
© Donna-Luisa Eversley and D-WORDSLAYER, 2017. All Rights Reserved