I walked out of my house yesterday morning to take out the bins, and a 20-something girl walking past my front garden said to me, "You look lovely today". I'm terrible at taking compliments, so slightly embarrassed, mumbled 'thank you' and scurried back in, but that thought stuck with me for the morning. I thought how nice it was that someone who didn't even know me had taken a moment to say something nice, something that genuinely lifted my spirits for the morning.
In the many interviews I've now done with entrepreneurs for Masters of Many, one of the consistent themes is summoning the confidence to make the leap to do your own thing. Yes, there are entrepreneurs who seem to have been born with an innate confidence that means they feel comfortable with risk-taking, but for many, they question themselves on an almost daily basis as to their direction. Nearly every interview featured a 'moment' however, where a total stranger complimented them on their new venture, spurring them on to decide to launch their business officially, or push on to the next step.
It's scary starting something new - you're putting yourself out there, whether it's skills you have already mastered, or the steep learning curve of trying something new, but suddenly it's all about you. You are where the buck stops, it's your thinking, your product, sometimes quite literally it's you and your time. And yet, it's often strangers who are the ones who compliment us and make us realise we're doing the right thing.
Which made me question, why is it strangers who play this role? Why not our friends and families? The same interviews spoke about the importance of continued support from friends and families, but the reality is that when we first speak about new ideas (sometimes crazy, sometimes sane!), it's often our friends and families who voice the skeptical comments, the voice of 'reason'. They do it because they love us, because dropping the full-time job can seem reckless and foolish to most, and because they want us to thoroughly think through our actions. But sometimes, all we want to hear is "that sounds really interesting - is there any way I can help?".
Two of my friends held pop-ups last night pushing their new or evolving businesses and I went along. One friend, Kate Hawkins, a talented artist, runs a business called CommonRoom. The business commissions artists to design conceptual wallpapers by challenging the idea of wallpaper as merely 'background'. Her stuff is amazing, and Tenderbooks, based on Cecil Court in Covent Garden, have commissioned CommonRoom to produce a range of wrapping paper, gift tags and cards. 'Bubble Wrap' by Kate is available to purchase in the bookshop, and 'Fancy Papers', her exhibition is in the basement...please go and check it out, it's brilliant (details at the bottom of this piece).
The second friend, Laura Tovell (along with her friend Alison), has launched a collection of beautifully tailored, timeless dresses called 1947. Laura works as a manic Food PR at Sauce Communications by day, and somehow has managed to launch the new label at the same time as being merely months away from giving birth to her second child.
Last night she might have been the most impossibly glamorous mum I've met, decked out in one of her beautiful dresses. Their collection is available online now, please do take a look, the dresses are stunning (details also at the bottom of the piece).
I'd promised both of them I'd head along to check out their pop-ups last night. I left work late, was exhausted and contemplated heading to one, or none, and just reaching the comfort of my sofa. But it occurred to me how important it's been to me every time a friend has bothered to make an effort in any of my business ideas. Whether it's reading a blog post, coming to an event, or merely being interested and asking me about it, it encourages me every time that someone whose opinion I respect likes what I've created. And so I went to both, and I was so very glad that I did.
To summarise - next time a friend tells you they have an idea for that pipe-dream of a business, or that they're launching a pop-up event, they're selling their first products...or whatever it is, make that little bit of effort for them. Ask them about it, tell others about it, turn up and show your face even if it's just for 5 minutes. I promise you, it will mean the world to them, and you'll feel very happy you made the effort, and surprised it took so little effort to do so..
To check out Kate's work at CommonRoom, go to www.commonroom.co and visit the Fancy Papers Exhibition at http://tenderbooks.co.uk until 9th January (closed from 24th December-6th December for the holidays).
To check out Laura's new label, go to http://www.1947bespoke.com - the collection is available online now.
Look out for interviews with both of these amazing ladies in the coming weeks!