I come from a small satellite town in Manchester. Big business vacated our little homestead a long time ago when the cotton trade, nut and bolt works. Coal mines moved away from town. Growing up we got very little exposure to big corporations around here, until we ventured to the big city. This is a story about my transition from believing I’d never make it working for myself, or that people would ever take me seriously, to being the qualified, confident, Google Certified, Trusted Digital Media Advisor that I am today.
Back in September…
Back in September last year my business partner Andi and I embarked on a journey to the Netherlands. We were on a trade mission with a number of other delegates in the homewares industry. It was a jam-packed two days. We both arrived back in Manchester late one Friday evening absolutely buzzing from the two-day mission. It’s taken me 6 months to pluck up the courage to edit this article, and have the nuts to just bang it out there. Here goes nothing (it’s been sat in my WordPress drafts since October).
We’d been on a mission with Enterprise Nation’s Go Global before, so we didn’t expect to get much rest. (Or food as has become a tradition on our missions). This is to be expected as we had a lot of ground to cover. However, we both came back absolutely thrilled and inspired to get back in the office get cracking on some new ideas.
It’s never out of your reach …
The mission was centred around the homewares market. So you’re probably wondering what the hell we were doing there?! We go on these missions as a business to network, meet people, and try to find out what’s generally going on out there. But personally … I guess I’m always seeking acceptance into a world that I felt was too far out of reach. Let me explain. I’m from a small town in Manchester. The kind of place that looks to the big city with aspirational eyes. It’s easy to forget your place in the world. Back in the day, I found it hard to ask someone for £200 to build a website. I didn’t value what I did.
How on earth could I make enough money to pay the same as a stable job at a big company? The world of business seemed like a place that was reserved for men in crisp suits, not a modest young skipper from Atherton. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you look at the big city. When I look back at what we’ve managed to get through over the last two years I really didn’t have anything to be afraid of. I just needed a push to get me to change the way I thought about work and life in general. I never felt like I belonged in a place like the city.
It always seemed out of my reach. But then when you’re sat at the top of the World Trade Centre in Amsterdam with around 30 other entrepreneurs looking to get their products into one of Amsterdam’s biggest department stores – and you find that they have the same questions as you – it kind of blows that feeling of overwhelm out of the water.
We are a part of this world
I spoke to so many business owners, professionals, government officials, and countless other legendary people. It brought home that we are a part of this world, a world that seemed a long way away from my humble upbringings in a Manchester satellite town. It made me realise that everyone is in the same boat. We are all in this together. At one point in the past, we’ve probably all been stood in front of our bosses nervously clutching at a resignation letter.
You Do Belong Here
Some of the brands and companies that we were with are award winning. We were speaking to, and rubbing shoulders with some of the big players in the homewares industry. Lead buyers from De Bijenkorf (Dutch Selfridges), and John Lewis, The UK Ambassador to the Netherlands Also the founder of Makerversity. When you look at the magnitude of their positions, and their organisations, it’s easy to lose perspective. The view that in fact, we’re all just people. They didn’t care that I was from a small town in Manchester. Or that I have a rather unusual accent, or that I use daft Wiganese slang words most the time. They wanted to learn the way of the web, and about our business, about Manchester, about us as people. There was nothing scary about any of it.
Do What You Can’t
Everyone who we spoke to was buzzing about what they did. They do what they love, and in most cases turned their hobbies into jobs. Life’s too short to spend your days staring at a keyboard, doing something you don’t want to. Slogging away at a 9 to 5. Change the norm, break the routine, escape the traditional constraints to what society tells us “work” has to be like. To quote Casey Neistat … Do what you can’t. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jG7dSXcfVqE
Links and Thanks
Thanks to Enterprise Nation and Emma Jones (@emmaljones) for their hard work and for making all of these missions possible. Shout out to Makerversity and Tom Tobia (@TomTobia) for showing us round their place, and for being just straight up legends. Same for @Iamsterdam! And an even bigger shout to all the mission delegates who were an absolute pleasure to meet and be around for a few days: @UuniHQ & @Conor_Garland(awesome pizza oven), @_repeatrepeat (sexy bone china mugs), @Goodordering (retro chic bags for all uses – should be bossing it in Amsterdam), @XLCORK (total leg-end and massive cork manufacturer), and loads of others that I’ve forgotten tags for but you can see more at: #GoGlobalAMS