Have I always wanted to be an entrepreneur? Have I always wanted to run my own business?
I can answer no to both questions above. However, if you assess my past working history, personality, environment, academic life and passions, it would not come as a shock, that I love business; I like to make money. I have a good eye for seeing opportunities and attacking them, I’m not phased by the impossible and the fast, paced exciting environment suits me just fine. Each stage of my life, even if seemingless pointless or treading water at the time, has now become the essential building blocks to who I am today and what I’m good at.
But what were my aspirations growing up? I remember feeling gripped with fear as a teenager, for not having a life career plan and looking round at jobs, thinking I don’t have a clue which one. More over, school taught me, life is about working and getting a job, it isn’t about getting the job you enjoy and want. Obviously, I fell foul to the usual parent pressure and difficulties in deciding what I’d like to do. School would have you believe we are on a belt within a factory, being churned out, one by one into a specific profession. It isn’t until you get into the world that the tunnel vision is removed and suddenly you realise, “I could do anything”. By which point it is too late, you have commitments and it is easier just to carry onwards.
When I was growing up, I was always a deep thinker, introverted. I was very happy on my own, just thinking about the world. I always seeked out the reason in everything, in my head, nothing could just be. Everything had a purpose, including myself. I believed from a very small age, I was a resource, one that could be exploited within the right framework. My parents’ promoted me to not only develop opinions but to challenge others. Hence, I was one for breaking down boundaries and questioning routines.
My Father was a problem solver, a project manager, an innovator. For all his faults and strange ways within his personal life, he was a fantastically brilliant business man. However, it was only this morning, whilst I was sat convincing my Mother for the trillionth time, why I wanted to set up my own business – (“you’re so clever…it is just such a waste…you could have been a barrister”,) she let slip a shocking fact. “You’re Father always wanted to set up his own business, he always wanted to work for himself, it was his biggest regret”.
At 27 years old, I never knew that. I’d also like to believe, I knew my Father rather well too but when she said it, a penny dropped within me. He never expressed to me his passion within entrepreneurship and he surely could have done it. However, there is one thing my Father managed to convinced me when growing up, is that to never feel trapped or constrained. He felt isolated and stuck for most of his life due to practical situations. He never took the leap because he would be fearful of the unknown. My Father craves stability and he doesn’t thrive in the impossible. He is “sensible” and is not a big risk taker. His decisions are rational and pragmatic. Whilst I mirror my Father to some extent (I undersell this, I am the female version of my Father in many aspects), I’ve led a life that didn’t follow the rules. I’ve experienced a long battle with anorexia, I’ve travelled, I’ve been a variety of versions of myself, I’ve had huge achievements and fantasic failures; I’ve lived. Within my 20s, I’ve never felt compelled to fit in, I’ve always been different and I’ve always known, that whatevever I want in life, I’m not waiting for it, I go out there and make it happen. I put down my anorexia for the most part, to my deep seated dissatisfaction with life and my lack of control. Once I realised, that I had the power when I was 21, everything took a turn for the better. Even within my anorexia, something I lost a lot of my teenage years to, I’d label as possibly my proudest achievement. It was a journey of self discovery and i got to see all my bad points laid out on a table. Very few people have that opportunity. If I hadn’t been anorexic, I wouldn’t be half as happy or anywhere near as successful or as good in business, as I am today. I’d be endlessly, hopelessly, keep my head just above water somewhere.
This leads onto my aspiration as a child. I used to be asked almost on repeat by relatives and teachers – “Rachel, what do you want to do when you grow up?”. As someone who has always been academic and been involved in a lot of activities, driven by the need to achieve, people had high expectations of me. I went to private school and I remember my teacher saying “well…you could be a lawyer or a doctor and you should apply for Oxford”. Even when I was 14, the idea filled me with absolute dread, the lack of creativity and being forced into a uniform, both in dress and personality, is exhausting and suffocating, even just contemplating it. But as child, a very happy one at that, I always had a consistant, unfaltering answer; “I want to make a difference, I want to be remembered”. Business provides a forum, where my aspiration no longer is just some childish, idealism. Within business I can and have made a difference and with some projects I’ve completed and been a part of, we created a legacy. Within business all bets are off and anything is possible, if you have the drive, motivation and fearlessness to leap.
My Father preached, “don’t make the same mistakes I did, don’t live your life for someone or something else”. This is why, I don’t want a normal life, a normal job, a family in the suburbs and I don’t want to follow the path of my elders. I want to do it my way (right or wrong). I believe, on reflection, my mother and father have been moulding me into what they wish they could have been, or a version of that. Consequently, my actions, my self belief and perceptions can be so alien to them. I don’t feel trapped full of regret, I feel free with endless possibilities ahead.
Therefore, I still want to make a difference, I still want to be remembered. I want to run my own business.