1 March 2021 marks my five-year anniversary as an entrepreneur and I cannot believe it. It’s funny how time can go by so fast and so slowly at the same time. These days, in the midst of what seems to be a never-ending pandemic, the notion of time sometimes feels like an abstract concept. Still, I distinctly remember the exact moment I made the decision to face one of my biggest fears — leaving the security of a full-time gig to live my dream and start my own business. With the current state of the world (The Coco/Rona) and just being so busy generally, I literally almost forgot about this anni to be honest, but I am glad I remembered because I am super proud of myself for being where I am today.
Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart and five years later, I still have no regrets about the decision I made to start this crazy journey. When I first started my business, I had no idea where this adventure would take me. All I knew was that I was going to try my hardest to not only survive but to thrive, and proudly cherish every little milestone that I achieved along the way.
Here are a few things I’ve learned in the last five years that may help anyone thinking of taking this leap:
I feel this one with my whole chest, seriously. Year one was such a struggle that if I did not truly believe I had something of value to offer the world, man, I would not be here right now. Perseverance means not giving up, even when you think you want to. It also means asking for help, but asking the right people for the right help.
This is a huge one for me and perhaps the most important. Without an amazing family (thanks for all the advice, mum), a team of stellar collaborators (hello Ekédi, Brenda, Francette and countless others), world class partners, repeat clients and friends who have hired me over and over again (I’m looking at you Renée, Priya and Amber), there would be no Deux Creative Agency Inc. I am so thankful for each and every person that has been part of my entrepreneurial journey. My reputation and my good work have been my strengths, but without my community bigging me up, holding me down and believing in my work, I wouldn’t be here five years later. Thank you.
Pivoting is adjusting your sail and acknowledging when you need to make a change. It means keeping your finger on the pulse, understanding what the market needs and how your service/product solves an ongoing problem.
At first, my agency was very focused on offering bilingual PR services, but in year one I saw that so many agencies were doing the same, so there was nothing unique about my service. Instead of focusing on a saturated market, I realised I could create a unique agency model based on creating projects about things I was passionate about and work with partners to bring those projects alive. From there, Créateurs z was born, a unique digital camp for youth focused on experiential learning. It came to life by collaborating with industry and educational partners that were as passionate as I was about rethinking the current educational structure for young people.
This was one of the many pivots my company took and will keep taking. Focusing on impactful projects is the DNA of my business, whether they are projects we create, digital content we are hired to make, or clients we take on. Over the years, I have been more selective about my work. I’ve taken on fewer clients and have put more focus on projects where I am the talent/personality directly helping brands, whether it’s as a speaker, host, or moderator. I have to say, it’s been great. What pivoting, or relentless adaption as Amber so eloquently puts it, has taught me is that being forced to innovate is ultimately beneficial in scaling a business and adapting to change, both of which are essential as an entrepreneur. You don’t have a lot of time to feel sorry for yourself — you just have to focus on the solutions that will keep you going.
Health is still wealth
In the last five years of being an entrepreneur, focus on my health came and went in waves. A lot of my energy was geared towards physical health, which is important of course, but over the last year, the pandemic has taught me that mental health is equally as important. For me, prioritising my mental health now means choosing where I work from, whom I work with, and never forgetting to take time to rest. That part — the rest that is—I still struggle with, and may forever be a work progress, but I’m ok with that. What I realised over the years was that prioritising my mental health also made me more creative, and more often than not, being creative is what I am paid to do. Therefore, it’s a win-win!
Hustle culture is malarkey
We like to think that we should be utilising all the time we have to make money, or thinking of new ways to make money but it’s simply false. I subscribed to this culture for the first few years of my business, not because I am motivated by money — I am not— but because I was constantly thinking about my livelihood. For me, it was more about thinking, if I do not take on this project, will it change my ability to continue having my own business? What I realised is that you just do what you can —you get the help and expertise you do not possess to take on the projects that will help you scale your business, but you should always prioritise your well-being over everything. This means having healthy boundaries with your clients, colleagues, and ultimately, with yourself because without you, there is no business.
I’m not sure what the next 5 years are going to look like and that’s ok. I have an idea of where I want my business to go and it will take quite a bit of work and innovation to get there and I am so stoked to do it. I’m just thrilled to have allowed myself the opportunity to live my dream and look forward to many more milestones, lessons and growth.