Eight years ago, when I started with the idea of being independent, I was lost. I didn't know what to do to get it. This lack of clarity caused me great frustration and made me feel like the most stagnant person in the world. To lift my spirits, I read stories of other entrepreneurs who had achieved their dreams.
Among them was Robert Rodriguez (the film director), who sold himself as a guinea pig to a laboratory and with the proceeds financed his first film. I also loved Coco Chanel, who despite being an orphan and having no education revolutionized the fashion industry. Thanks to her, women started wearing pants.
Their stories inspired me, gave me the courage and helped me to believe in myself. Most importantly, when I felt like giving up on my goal of being an independent woman, I was pushed to continue. Today, things have changed. If you were to show up at my house right now, you'd find me sitting at the dining room table, listening to jazz, drinking chai, working my own business and being the happiest.
You'd probably think I'm lucky (and I am, I'm not saying I'm not) but this situation didn't just magically happen. Rather, there is a long history behind it. Today I want to tell you about the path I travelled to get here. I hope my story gives you a more realistic perspective of what it costs to build a business, I also want it to inspire you and guide you to move forward with your dreams.
Chapter 1 - You Get Excited, You Start and Suddenly Everything Ends
I don't remember exactly when the idea of entrepreneurship came up. The first thing I remember is being 17 years old and spending the afternoons wondering why people would rather get a job than invent one. That being 8 hours locked in an office never seemed viable to me.
I had a coloured notebook where I jotted down business ideas that came to mind - a hot dog cart, baking and selling cookies, making necklaces, setting up a tour agency. I would think of the name of each business and draw pictures explaining how it was going to work.
He was studying at the time and didn't plan to put any of his ideas into practice, but he kept the notebook because he knew he would need it one day. On a summer vacation, my brother and I baked cornbread and went to sell it in an office. At first, people bought us, but later, I don't know if they got bored with bread or it started to seem expensive. The point is, they stopped buying. The holidays were over and we never went back again.
Another season we make necklaces. The first batch was sold among the family. We were smart and invested the profits in new material. We put together a second batch, but it was no longer sold. The necklaces were left in a box that I no longer touched.
While studying for a degree in Textile Design, it occurred to me that I could print t-shirts, blog about street style, sell vintage clothing, or create merchandise for my favourite bands. The most I got was to make some wallets for a school project. My classmates said they were beautiful. I gave them the samples and encouraged by their comments, I made ten more wallets. I took them to a craft store where they were left on consignment. Two months passed and no one bought. I got discouraged and didn't want to continue.
Again I spent all my savings on fabrics because I was supposed to start a clothing brand. I bought a labelling machine, sketched a collection, sewed two skirts, and then… absolutely nothing happened. The fabrics were stored for years in the closet, until one day I gave them away. The skirts, I ended up wearing them.
Chapter 2 - Break Your Mental Chains
I spent the last semester of college anxious about my future. I did not want a normal job, where every day I had to contact and report to an office. Nor did I see myself climbing positions, negotiating vacations, or begging for pay increases.
I didn't want to become lazy. On the contrary, I was willing to kill myself working, as long as I knew that my effort was worth it, that I was not only working because I needed a salary but that I was contributing a grain of sand to society.
In addition, I needed the freedom to manage my schedules and for my work to be integrated with other aspects of my life. I knew the solution was to have my own business, but the matter seemed as complicated as taking a trip to China - by boat and without a lifeguard.
That's what I was doing when a friend invited me to visit San Cristóbal, a town where she was doing her social service. They say that San Cristóbal is a magical place and for me, it was indeed.
A World of Possibility
During the trip, I met several people who opened my head to a world of possibility. Among them was a couple who had two young children and wanted to see them grow up. They worked for several years to buy a house in Mexico City. They put it up for rent and moved to San Cristóbal (where life is cheaper). The money they received for their house was enough for a modest life without having to work. This gave them time to be the best dads.
I also became friends with Majo. This girl had studied at a prestigious university. In her spare time, she liked to design jewellery. When he finished school, he began to sell his creations among friends. He planned to do it as something temporary while he got a job, but it went so well that he gave up the search and turned to his passion.
Another person who marked me was Justin, a Frenchman. In his country, he had been an engineer. One day, he got fed up with always being stuck in a room with machines. He surrendered his resignation and went to travel the world. He visited various places until he reached San Cristóbal.
Within a few days of being there, he fell in love: with a girl and the place. He bought a bicycle and learned how to bake bread. To her surprise, she found that kneading bread was a genuine pleasure. One day he had so much bread at home that he no longer knew what to do with it.
It occurred to him to put it in his bicycle basket and go out and sell it. He had so much fun that from that day on he kept going out in the afternoons to offer his bread. Later he set up a bakery.
These people were of different ages, cultures, and social backgrounds, but they had something in common - they had been stuck in a dilemma similar to mine. They felt fear, insecurity and anguish, but instead of complaining (like the rest of the adults they knew), they took action; g hanks to his bravery were enjoying a life they worshipped.
When my trip ended, I packed my bags, said goodbye to my friend, and took a taxi to the bus terminal. While waiting for the truck to leave, a great epiphany emerged. There were three months left to finish school. In that time, I would get any job, raise money and once I finished the graduation procedures I would move to San Cristóbal. He was not sure what he was going to do but being there, something interesting had to happen.
I shared the plan with my best friends. They thought it was great and they decided to join. Our parents thought we were crazy. We were willing to do WHATEVER IT WAS NECESSARY so as not to end up like our colleagues who had already graduated: MOORED for a mediocre salary to a job in a textile factory.
Chapter 3 - From Zero to $ 1: How I Earned My First Dollar and Became a Real Entrepreneur
We finished school, packed our things, and moved to the town forgotten by civilization. In San Cristóbal, there are a large number of indigenous populations living in marginalized conditions. International aid organizations have established themselves in the area, with the intention of supporting these communities and improving their living conditions.
The first few months I was in San Cristóbal, I visited twenty of them trying to get a job. What I never considered, is that they operate under volunteer schemes and rarely hire employees. Although I loved the idea of collaborating with them altruistically, I did not want to continue to be financially dependent on my parents.
Before my savings ran out, I got a job as a waitress in a bar. I only worked from Thursday to Saturday, but sleepless nights made the rest of the week exhausted. Looking for a change, I ended up serving ice cream and cappuccinos in a coffee shop. I finally got a job as an assistant to a photographer; he earned the same as at the cafe and worked half the hours.
Every time I picked up an empty beer bottle, made a cappuccino, or edited a photo, I envisioned taking off as a textile designer and participating in Paris Fashion Week. Other times I would imagine walking along the Great Wall of China, swimming on the beaches of Thailand and exploring the jungles of Bali.
Although I was clear about what my dreams were, I did not know what to do to achieve them.
Wasting Time on Google Turned Out Productive
When I was working with the photographer, I had a computer with internet access and a few tasks to do. At the end of the day, I took advantage of the idle hours to do some research on Google, waiting for the search engine to answer my existential dilemmas.
On one of those searches, I came across Steve Pavlina's "10 Reasons Not to Have a Job". His writing made me feel accompanied and not as crazy as I thought I was. When I finished reading it, I was certain about what I was going to do: I would start my own business. With the proceeds, I would finance projects in indigenous communities and pay for my travels around the world. Having my business would also give me the freedom to vacation without haggling permits.
If you were interested, you should visit a page where they explained the details. In it, they told the story of a father of a family, who is just six months began to earn the same as in his normal job. There was another story of a teenage girl who, thanks to her business, earned more than her father's compadres.