From a very young age, we are told “You can go anywhere and do anything your little heart desires.” These are teachers, principals, coaches, and parents. This attempt at creating ambition is missing a very critical directive. I believe that your environment plays a big part in your development, a balance of nature and nurture. When you come from a community that few people leave for positive reasons, you start to think, “Why should I be so lucky?” Taking the time to figure out what it would take to get me “anywhere my little heart desired” was a thought that eluded me for very long time. If the path wasn’t obvious, it wasn’t for me.
I went through many “anywhere(s),” in my years of being asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I wanted to be a doctor, then I realized that I was not a fan of open wounds. I wanted to be a dancer, but I wasn’t willing to break up with cheeseburgers. I wanted to be a lawyer, then I got the first “C” of my academic career in Political Science. And the list goes on. But never once did entrepreneurship or business ownership ever cross my mind. All the while, my creative was very decisively leading. From the sitcom, my friends and I wrote about our imaginary relationships with the members of B2K in middle school to the choreographed dances, graphite portraits, and the secret poetry journal of high school. My parents could not understand why I kept every magazine, little scrap of paper, and displaced rhinestone. It was because I had grand plans for them in my mind. Getting around to executing these plans was an entirely different story.
During my senior year of high school, I ended up in an art class. I do not recall why. I had not taken one since elementary because I always opted for dance classes (talk about neglecting your purpose!). Drawing, printmaking, painting, and collaging: I naturally excelled, but I never wanted to study art because I was convinced that a career as a starving artist was not for me.
I was convinced that a career as a starving artist was not for me.
This class, along with a stellar presentation by T3 (The Think Tank), an Austin advertising agency, given at Upward Bound, the minority college preparation program, kickstarted the process of changing my mind. I began to think: someone is making these ads, magazines, and posters. I want to be that person! Yet again, I took the obvious and expected course of action, off to college to study graphic design.
My career goals have always been corporate in nature. Get a degree. Get a job. Work my way up to Creative Director. Retire. No entrepreneurial spirit whatsoever. There were little to no Black entrepreneurs in my community, well none with a lifestyle that I would want. The spirit was present in my family, but I didn’t recognize it as a child. My Aunt Jackie is the most prominent example that I remember. She took her passion for hair and turned into a legitimate business, a salon. My family had many side hustles braiding hair, sewing, trucking, baking, shade tree mechanics, and other activities that I will not divulge. I never wanted that. My goal was to get a job and make enough money so that I would not need a side hustle. And…here I am.
The Sharp Left
Enter the devil himself. The older, atheistic, passionate, sexy, charismatic anarchist that caused a lot of heartaches but also opened my eyes to many things. Mainly to the fact that I could accomplish anything, as long as I was willing to do the work. This is was not a novel concept, but he did provide the missing link: taking the time to understand the process for what you want to do. Up until that point, all of my goals had very obvious paths to achievement. He was the driving force behind a shift in my perspective.
“If you don’t like the way you
look Keyvi, then change it.”
“No one is going to pay you, like
you pay you, Chocolate Baby.”
The results? After 23 years of wallowing in the sorrow of being the “big girl,” I dropped 25 pounds (now 35 and counting) and was researching business ownership, which was a big step up from completely avoiding the topic. I had a horrible fear of the IRS coming after me, so I started out working for free while I got an understanding of what it would mean financially. Then came the challenge of fitting a business into my lifestyle complete with a 50+ hours per week day job, partying like a college student, church, and family obligations. It did NOT fit. With that, we have reached the current leg of my journey. I have added business ownership to my life/career goals, but why? Because a manipulative man said I should? Not at all.
My reasons for working toward entrepreneurship are simple:
I have a great skill set. Why not make it work for me, instead of some corporate entity the offers minimal opportunity for advancement.
Most important. I want the flexibility that an 8 to 5 job will never give me. I want to be able to go Madrid for 2 weeks without out having to negotiate with my supervisor or worry about PTO and HR raising their eyebrows. When I decide to start a family, I want to be able to spend time with my babies and watch them grow, not just 6 weeks and back to work. I want to be at their sporting events, dance recitals, and award ceremonies and not fear a short check or having to make up hours.
When all is said and done, I want to be able to stand in front of a theatre full of young girls and boys and tell them, wholeheartedly, “You can go anywhere and do anything your little heart desires,” and I will not leave out the “do the research, ask questions, and make a plan” part.