When people at work asked me what I was up to at the weekend I told them I was going to an event for small business start-ups. They looked at me quizzically and asked ‘erm, why?’, but the real question should have been ‘why not??’. Many of you may have made New Year’s resolutions, that a mere three weeks in you are barely sticking to (I decided to indulge in dry-white-wine January, I’m doing great by the way!) so this is the perfect opportunity to propose a resolution that might stick, to do something different, and make this year special.In answer to your query, no I am not imminently starting a business, but I’d certainly like to at some point. In order to make this dream a reality though, I am under no illusions I will need help, inspiration, knowledge and support; which is why I am jaunting to London at 6am on a Saturday to arm myself with just that.
The event I’m attending is taking place at the KPMG building, and is organised by Enterprise Nation- a company that helps people start and grow their own businesses through on-line advice and events such as this one. They’ve organised a chock-a-block itinerary of guest speakers including those in the know on how to secure investment funding, panels of journalists, those who will show you how to build websites and brand authenticity; as well as the tech gods from Facebook and Instagram who will maximise your social media profile.
I arrive early and am shuffled in with my information pack to hear the keynote speaker. Once the welcome address is over, and coffee procured, I hot-foot it intermittently between the ground and 13th floors, dipping into various sessions, and furiously scribbling down notes. I head back down to hear a CBE speak and she’s magnificently inspiring, and reminds the audience that the average age for starting a business is 38. I breathe a huge sigh of relief; I may have missed the boat on being Zuckerberg then, but there’s hope for me yet! A talk from a Community Development Consultant lets me know I’m somewhat on track with my thinking around creating dynamic and engaging content; and that starting a business is really about integrity and clarity: knowing who you are, what you stand for, and doing that damn well.
I feel motivated and electrified. I look around me and lock eyes with a young girl who smiles meekly out at me from under her headscarf. Everyone in this room is different, and here because they took a chance, or are building the courage to make that first leap. I speak to people who are starting well-being and nutrition companies, ethical clothing lines, and those who have made some super cool gadgets. I’m surrounded by 2000 other people who had that ‘lightbulb’ moment but want to do more than just dream. They want to work hard, plan carefully, and grow something successful.
It’s an exhausting but invigorating afternoon and 7 hours later I pop out into the dusky, cool evening of Canary Wharf and my mind is a whirl of hash-tags, brand clarity and funding streams. I walk with a bounce in my step to the DLR. I know not if my tiny seedling of an idea can flourish into anything, but certainly today has given me a strong foundation for thinking how I might achieve it. There’s nothing standing in my way except my own self-doubt. I remind myself about my trip to America in that moment, how I said yes! And took all those chances, and I wonder if I can get back there once more.
There’s no time to be lost in reflection though, as I have a hot date this evening with one of my best friends. Thrown together many moons ago, we formed a somewhat unlikely friendship, but I really couldn’t have asked for more from a partner in crime. Her and her kin were my little London family when I lived here, and I fiercely adore every one of them. I switch lines and head north, excited for our first proper catch up of 2016.
40 minutes later, after being jostled about on the tube (seriously, I forgot the lack of train etiquette down here!) I arrive and am beyond happy to be greeted by her smiling face. Wine flows as we catch up on all the new year’s gossip, and I tell her about my inspiring day. We change outfits and head to Dalston for yummy Vietnamese food. Its freezing outside but spicy sweet pho, prawns, squid and vegetables soon warm us up.
We hit up a few bars, and I am somehow drawn into a dance-off with some Irish fellows (which I feel I definitely won), and I can’t stop laughing and bopping the night away. We move on to another bar where old school garage hits the spot, and when they finally kick us out, it’s snowing. We walk, shivering, in the early morning quiet as the light powdery flakes fall gently around us like a scene from a film.
It’s not home time yet though, and an after-the-party, after party keeps me warm where chaka demus and pliers licks out of the stereo, and I chat to some new people. My eye-lids are drooping though, as I’ve now been up for a straight 24+ hours, and I beg my friend to order us a taxi.
We crawl into bed at 7am and I fall into a sleep worthy of the dead. An alarm sounds what feels like five minutes later, and lamenting this turn of events, we realise it is in fact 1pm and we were due at Sunday dinner an hour ago… We jump out of bed like the scene from Home Alone, and somehow manage to get our protesting bodies into clothes and shoes.
We drive, doing carpool karaoke, and arrive 30 minutes later to be greeted by hugs and kisses from the fam. A hearty meal has been prepared in my honour, and it more than hits the spot. I drink more wine, catch up with the fam, and watch movies-feeling eternally grateful for these beautiful people in my life. Far too soon, it’s time for my train back to Manchester, and I reluctantly say goodbye to my home-away-from-home.
Congratulating myself for having the foresight to book a first class ticket, I settle into my seat and fall asleep for the entire journey.
I turn the key to my flat many hours later and I’m beat, but happy. It’s been a fantastic weekend full of family, inspiration, and new resolve for the future. Pretty perfect I’d say.