Outside of the box; inside a small island (Part 1)

Posted on 01/04/2011


Another Barbados pic - South Coast

So, here I am again.  After last night’s fanfare cherry-popping event, today found me all warm and fuzzy, as I saw the visits to my inaugural blog climbing steadily throughout the day.  Thank you, each and everyone.   So much:).

When I decided to start blogging about my journey from employee with an idea to entrepreneur with a business, as always happens when I plan to write, at least two dozen themes flashed through my mind about what I absolutely had to share about the experience.  Since then (all two whole days), as I’ve kept up with my tweeting, so many additional topics have caught my interest, most of which I’d also quite like to start blogging about.  Please indulge me for a moment.   I won’t take long.

…One particular tweet about bullying comes immediately to mind. I abhor bullying, especially in schools, and have deliberately raised my daughter to be an active anti-bully.  It’s as MLK (Dr. the Rev. Martin Luther King) said, “if we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem.”  So, all well and good to not be a bully.  But what do you do when you witness an incident in progress; or learn of someone being bullied or a bullying another?

An active anti-bully knows just what to do.  He or she helps defend the victim and/or correct the perpetrator…in a safe and appropriate manner – as the situation dictates.  My daughter continues to demonstrate her active anti-bullying disposition, and nothing makes me more proud despite the many many things that she is, and has achieved, that are worthy of a mother’s eternal pride.

Olivia at school last year

No one should ever do nothing (sic) on the basis that he or she “cannot save the world”.  Because of course, we all can.  As long as we embark upon it united – together as one.  So let us all either join or continue to fight bullying in schools in a peaceful, effective, and sustainable manner.  Every bullied child’s suicide, self-harm, depression, anxiety, fear, shame, and missed education is a testament to society’s failure to speak up on his or her behalf.

What if that child were you?  Maybe it was….

Today’s topic is “outside of the box, inside a small island.”  For those who don’t know, I wasn’t born in Barbados, but in England, to Barbadian (colloquially called ‘Bajan‘) parents.  I also grew up in England, went to school in England, also university (the first time) in England, and consider myself 100% British.  I moved to Barbados in my very early twenties and here I remain…not forever, but indefinitely, which may or may not turn out to be forever. I have dual nationality, dual citizenship.  But if push came to shove (cricket; WWIII), I know where my loyalties lie.  Except, I should add, in a hijacking…keep meaning to get a Barbados passport to have on hand just in case.

The ‘outside of the box’ refers to my startup; and the ‘small island’ refers not to geographical size – though that too would be accurate – but to smallness of mind, lack of vision, and I suppose also to a climate in which people who do everything within their power to fulfill their socio-economic dreams are often squeezed, pushed, and prodded back into the ‘small’ hole from whence they came.  Nevertheless, that brief reference aside, I will not speak of ‘people’, but of my own firsthand experience as a Barbadian entrepreneur.

Our story begins back in January – the 1st day of 2011 – with what was intended to be the mother of all NY resolutions.  At first, my list looked somewhat like this:

Y2011 Resolutions – (that probably won’t see me past the 3rd, but it’s tradition, so who am I to mess..)

1. Find better job paying job

2.  Re. #1, resign from civil service for private sector post – naturally.

3.  Re. #2, or better yet, practice my research consultancy/applied psychology full-time – genius!

4.  Don’t shout when teenage defiance, surliness, backchat get on my absolute last nerve (Olivia) Can raise voice if I like.

So basically, the general idea was to work for myself, but with a gradual plan in mind…a sort of gentle easing into self-employment (picture old person easing into slippery-bottom bath and you’ve got it…that was me).  Effectively, a plan suspiciously similar to what I’d already been doing for the past four years.  So therefore, not very impressive at all as plans go.  However, quite comfortable. And I’d be fibbing if I said I wasn’t quite pleased with myself, as I most certainly was.

Now anyone who read yesterday’s blog and came back for more (anyone????), already knows that I am prone to steady resolve one moment and before anyone can say “stubborn beast of burden, you!”, seemingly ‘just like that’  I have changed my mind.  I know of one ex in particular who, if he is reading this, will probably still (many years on – shake my head) be squirming in frustration at this quirky little trait of mine.  But only because he never took the trouble to get to the bottom of it.  Remember, I did say “ex”….

…I don’t have a personality disorder (that I know of – amateur opinions on that are semi-welcome…).  Rather, I am a researcher at heart as well as by profession.  Therefore, if I believe all cows to be blue and Mr.-Let-Me-Think-For-You comes along and insists that they are in fact all green, I will not agree unless (a) upon that proclamation, all cows do indeed suddenly appear to be green – to me; or (b) I have gathered enough evidence – of my own – to support what Mr. Rush-Rush is trying to tell me, and to refute what I previously believed to be true.

…During the evidence-gathering process, I will not run back and forth with varying shades of opinion from day to day until deciding one way or another.  Rather, Rush-Rush and all others like him will believe that I am blissful in my ignorance when in fact I am challenging myself about everything – all of the time.  And if I find myself to be wrong in my prior thinking, I will appear to “all o’sudden” declare my error and allow you to make of that whatever you will…..

Now all of that leads right into the fact that by January 2nd – not even the 3rd – an idea overcame me…a vivid, practical, cant-believe-no-one’s-doing-this-yet idea, for a web site for teens.  100% based on tried and tested psychological principles of what teens want, what they need, where and how they can best get these things, and how the web…a medium they trust and rely on like no other…miserably, inexcusably, fails them in this regard.

And then I did my research.  Very long days of going to work, coming home, cooking dinner, spending ‘valuable time’ (“quality time” comes from the mouth of no self-respecting Brit – so USA) with daughter and dog-daughter (Lucky is not my ‘pet’…she chose me as I chose her – my beautiful rescue dog), and then finally sitting down to read read read, evaluate, assess, read read read…and then finally start drafting a viable business plan.  Sleep became unimportant:  I knew what I had to do and only one road led to Success.

My poor baby the morning after the night I found her (her 1st bath) - 2006

With the hours I was putting in, I had a first draft business plan prepared and ready to go by the end of that first month.  The market was ready, large, and potentially lucrative.  My revenue model was sound and I had the figures to support my projections.  Importantly, the ROI (return on investment) for a potential investor was handsome indeed.

Lucky and me on beach walk - 2009!:)

I ran the plan by a few friends and lastly, thankfully, gratefully, my whiz-kid (grown man, but doesn’t have the same ring) cousin in Canada, Andrew.  Drew’s a senior business analyst, software developer, and moonlight (trained but not ‘practising’) programmer – and loving, generous, hero-type cousin.  With a couple of tweaks, Drew was fully on  board as my unofficial business advisor cum techie.

By this point, those of you with any web business experience might be questioning the need for an investment.  Understandable. With the exception of mega virtual worlds of the Second Life genre, a pre-teen could probably stretch a week’s allowance and have a site up in two days. Or maybe not.  But almost, and that’s the main point.  Without speaking too much of the specific features of the site – Gleeg – suffice to say that those mysterious “specific features” (indeed, Gleeg’s unique selling points and the very essence of its competitive advantage), are such that a company must first be established, the site must be moderated on a consistent basis, and we stand to take off much faster and scale up more effectively if we are an invested-in company….

Tomorrow (Part 2):  the funding fun challenge journey begins.