Following on from my blog on adversity, I want to share the next part of how a dream about starting a Squash Academy became a reality.
Cynics and doubters come in many forms; it could be a toxic friend, someone who you hardly know or a bully, but in my case I have only had to deal with someone in my a inner-circle; with whom was going to help me. Sadly, they undermined me like if I was no hoper or a little kid and used past problems to destroy my self-esteem.
Hence, I cut them off like a bad blister and made the wise choice of building up my own connections – using LinkedIn. This was very brave of me – mainly as I had no idea of how to network. Fortunately, I made some excellent connections and still can call on them for advice.
As someone who is of Jamaican descent, whose grandparents on both sides came via Windrush, hence their work hard ethic and determination gave the inspiration to develop a project and never doubt myself. Other members of my family have different backgrounds in business, as well as done apprenticeships or gained degrees – hence, I decided that the Onyx Squash Academy was going to a project as a way of giving to the community.
As a black professional, I did encounter a few issues – thanks to my legal training, I was able deal them; especially when someone from my family almost destroyed the business before it was launched.
Having a degree with experience
I got my degree in 2002, but prior to that I achieved an HND in Leisure Studies (Sports and Recreation) from Solihull College & University Centre – this course taught me a lot mainly how draw up plans for business and pitch to gain investors.
With my degree, yeah found it was challenging as it was theoretical and I had to write in the third person – regardless I surrounded myself with good people and managed to graduate with honours, aligned with four summer industry experience at a mid-market health club operator, whose founder is a Squash fan.
Giving negativity the finger
This year, I managed to get a long awaited partnership with an old friend at his single site club. In fact, the plan originally was to run the business out of his club, but we agreed to do cross-national partnership.
Needless to say, I do not give up that easily unless I cannot see the end vision. I continued on with my plans for the Onyx Squash Academy and even did (still) marketing consultancy roles with other social enterprises.
So my advice for anyone looking to start up a social enterprise or business venture is:
- Write down a few ideas, even if they don’t make sense – but they soon will do
- Do extensive research – look at market reports (Mintel, Keynote, etc)
- Join as many LinkedIn Group as you can – especially industry ones and contribute to conversations
- Go networking events – do not be afraid to network with people
- Do not allow setbacks to deter you from your plans – especially family members who are toxic
- Make new friends through your hobbies – especially if you play sport
- Most importantly always keep in contact a close friend who is in business
To conclude, the Onyx Squash Academy would not be here with the great help of the current portfolio of partnerships, and if I am honest, I think I am in a better place with the brand now.