I think I was born to be an entrepreneur. When I used to get my students to fill out Cosmo-like questionnaires about their innate personality traits for successful business start-up, I would score myself too. Every time, I would score as high as possible. But there I was, teaching the class, not out exercising my passion for building and creating.
A few years ago, I started Vulnerable Children Society with a few other women, to help kids and families in Ethiopia. I’m proud of how far we’ve come, and how many people we help… especially the teen girls in our Teenage Sex Trade Worker Retraining Program. But the other kick I get from it, is the building. Just to be clear, I don’t earn a cent from running this charity – I get the perks of a yearly trip to Ethiopia to supervise our work, and the gratification of doing something. You really are able to help when you put the effort in, and I love seeing projects come together out of our dreams and hard work.
Really, running Vulnerable Children gave meaning to my work life, when I often searched for my impact as a professor. I have to thank my friends, supporters and partners over and over, for enabling me to conjure up projects, fund them, execute them, and see our work come to fruition.
Last year, I significantly expanded our small family business, Africa Sleeps. I added a whole haircare and bodycare line, and have quadrupled my business since last fall.
It’s so terribly satisfying – creating labels and mixing scents, dreaming up products and experimenting with my daughters’ hair, dreaming up marketing approaches and forming satisfying partnerships with others in the natural hair world, and beyond. I’m so glad that I was able to expand our business with products that my values can really stand behind – that means a lot to me, and honestly, helps me sell them.
It’s certainly not as glamorous as saying “Hi! I’m a professor specializing in sustainable business and non-profit management.” But it is pretty fun doing the work that goes along with “Hi! I have a natural hair and bodycare line for children of African heritage.”
In other words, I’m living a doing what I used to be researching and teaching. How bout them apples?
And now, our big baby. For the last four years, Jason and I have been working on opening our own vet clinic Pandosy Village Veterinary Hospital and pet shop, Pounce and Hound Fine Pet Goods. Our dream has evolved over the years, waiting for two developments to be built (long story,) but I love where we have ended up.
As of next month, we’ll be opening the first integrative veterinary hospital in Kelowna, and an incredibly special store. We work as a team, but in essence, the store is mine. What fun work, even through the frsutrations: designing our clinic (twice!) and overseeing the construction. Figuring out our ethics, manifesto, and all the other choices that follow. Jason’s been studying herbal medicine, and I’ve been using my powers of lotion making and packaging to help him design natural medicines for the shop. I’ve come up with fashion concepts for various seasons, contracted artisans to make products for our shop, selected the most environmentally and socially responsible products I can find, and am now training our staff to take care of it all.
Jason, who scored “medium” on all those entrepreneurship quizzes, enjoys exactly the same thing as me: doing our own thing. We love that we are not following what everyone else is doing (I can’t tell you how many times the architects, conventional vets and others have kindly told us we are crazy for having a 1000 sq ft store in a vet clinic.) But we are united, excited, and so proud of what we have created together. There will be a wedding-like kiss the day we open the doors. (Pucker up, honey. Just two weeks away!)
The downside of having all these enterprises on the go is that I don’t sleep enough, and sometimes have to trade time on one project for another. This past two months, I have lived and breathed the hospital.
But I was born an entrepreneur – passion, creativity and innovation are my fuel. I wouldn’t work any other way.