Writing has never been my forte. As a kid I always preferred math / physics / chemistry / name any other nerdy science 🤓. Writing always had too much room for interpretation for my liking.
I was always quite artsy though & loved to draw – I can see how that’s a bit contradictory with how I felt about writing, but it was just different (maybe because I was better at it? potentially). Being able to bring things from my brain into the real world, with a pencil & a piece of paper was like magic! Science was showing me how real things work & drawing allowed me to make new things into “reality”.
So when it came to what I was gonna do with my life, the answer seemed pretty straightforward. Science + art = architecture… Right? Well, from my tiny bubble, it looked like it. So I decided that was probably what I should do.
I was living in a small town but had done well enough in school that I was accepted into the best high school in the big city. Then I did well enough in that high school to be accepted into a top uni in the UK. Boxes were being ticked. I was on the right track.
So I moved & I started studying architecture at a great uni, which was what I worked my whole life to be able to do (the UK part kinda just happened, but the rest was part of the plan)
But now what? I was in another country. Alone. With no clue about anything. Not even really speaking the language that well, with people struggling to understand me & me struggling to understand them. Nothing was making sense anymore. I was scared. I was alone. But I was also kinda loving it. I was free. There was so much stuff going on around me but for the first time ever, I felt like I kinda belonged. I was becoming a person (which ended up being the purpose of my uni. Did I learn some skills too? I guess. But that was secondary.)
Then after I finished my bachelors, to my parents‘ disappointment, I decided I wasn’t really into the idea of working for someone for a very long time so that when I am about 50/60 y.o. I can maybe be “successful” enough to have my name on a door. That’s a lot of years.. It didn’t really sound like how I wanted to spend my life. I was now seeing things differently. My little bubble was not that little anymore – travelling outside your comfort zone has a tendency to do that.
I didn’t know what I was gonna do, but now that I was really on my own, with zero support, I knew I first needed to make some money so I can eat.
I took the first job that I could get, which was commission only door to door sales (also known as some sort of pyramid scheme). But I needed some money & considering no one wanted to hire a foreign kid with an accent, a diploma that makes her over-qualified & no work experience in this country – it was either door to door sales or stripping. So I did door to door sales for a while.
Then when the employment world finally considered I was now worthy of them, by having all this “relevant experience”, I got a job with an actual salary (a shitty one, but an actual salary nevertheless). Obviously a natural move from sales, is indeed, more sales. So I ended up having a couple of jobs in recruitment. I fucking hated them. Hated the mentality, hated the stuck up “wolf of wall street” style people, hated how employment worked & the career ladder, hated the idea of the 9-5, hated the physical headaches it was giving me, hated it all.
But what other options dId I have? I still didn’t know what else I could do with my life and it seemed like employers didn’t like it when you took some time off, or even worse, when you switched from one type of work to another (if you are a recruitment consultant your only choices in life are now to either be a manager or a senior recruitment consultant. That’s about it.) If you decide to do anything else you will have to start from scratch again, with a shit salary & work your way up. And chances are, no one will want to hire you outside of your field anyway, when they have other candidates who have a “stable” career and know what they want from their life – you need to continuously be on the grind or else you are not valuable anymore.
So with no way out, one day I just fucking left the job. No real plan. No savings. Nothing besides some ideas.
I will never forget that day. It felt like a weight that was sat on my brain, for a long time, was lifted. I cried on the bus home. I was happy, anxious, we had no savings. It didn’t matter. My partner was supporting my decision. I was once again free.
So where do I go from here?
In the era of Uber & the likes, the internet felt like a pretty good place to move to. I always thought the recruitment industry was super backwards & I found it diabolical to have to make so many calls out of the blue, to random people, on a daily basis and carry on all these processes to determine who should do what job & who should work for who. Madness! Who were we to actually make these decisions? Can’t there be less bias? And can’t there be a more efficient way of doing everything? Why are most of those tasks not automated anyway? Why are people awarded for wasting their time with useless KPIs that only create the idea of everything running smoothly, when the reality is that this type of business is based on overcharging people & could have a big chunk of it automated.
So I started tinkering with the idea of making a platform where people would be directly matched through an algorithm with available jobs that would fit their criteria. No more middle man.
I could probably code something. How hard can it be? Ages ago I’ve done some C++ and remember liking the idea of it. So why not learn how to code for real and make this into reality? Sounded like a plan. Only problem was that I didn’t know anything about tech or starting a business & had no money for any sort of runway.
So I did what I knew how to do & started hacking away at it. Something was gonna give. On one side I started doing freelance drawings for people online (for very shitty money) and on the other side I started learning how to code by building this platform.
I was loving it. It was pretty poor php, html & css, but the feeling of making something that people would use, from nothing! Fuck, it was like drawing x1000.
But it was not going as good as I would’ve hoped. We were poor. My drawings revenue + my partner’s salary were not sufficient for us to live in a big city.
So I got a part-time job in retail for minimum wage. It was better than what I was getting for my drawings and now I could be slightly less stressed about money and focus on learning how to code. Not ideal, but it was all for an end goal.
A couple more months went by. I was getting better at this coding business, but was still quite far from making anything from it. So we decided to move – the big city wasn’t really fitting what we were doing anymore. I took another part time job and kept chipping away at my platform, learning how to code & the freelance business.
Then one day I got my first client doing some digital graphics work. Then another client for some front end work. Then some more clients doing full WordPress sites.
Things were finally coming together. I didn’t need the part time job anymore and could truly just be my own boss! Life was exciting 🤩!
The base of my platform was now functional too (it was about as MVP as MVPs get but functional nevertheless). So now was time for the next step, which from everything that I was reading, was getting investment. So I went and started pitching investors. Ran into a few issues with fitting the bill of “investable”, by being a foreign female solo founder. They didn’t like that. At all.
By everybody’s standards I was also not technical enough (“who still uses php anyway”) & needed a technical cofounder or I was ngmi.
So I went and got a technical cofounder. Potential investors started liking the sound of stuff now. But I didn’t.
I had potential B2B clients interested in trying out my platform & paying for it! But they couldn’t because we needed to re-build it from scratch before anyone could use it. My code was not up to the required standards. I thought it was good enough to test my assumptions, but if everybody was saying I was wrong.. maybe I was actually wrong. Maybe I should listen to these investors, who have worked with so many businesses. What did I know, I was just a freelancer with an idea and some shitty code..
So we went ahead and started re-writing the platform, pushing these potential clients back for months. I started getting some more but development kept taking longer & longer. I didn’t have anything for these people to try for too long and I was not believing in this solution anymore. It sat for too long without being tested and it died on me.
So I pulled the plug & went back to the drawing board.
I had a million other ideas, stuff that was actually exciting and that I could make myself, without needing anyone’s permission!
By this point (& from there onwards) I was doing freelance work for quite a few startups – which actually turned out to be super helpful in getting to see stuff outside my own little bubble (I always like to do that as much as I can nowadays) & see how everyone else is handling things, from various POVs. Spoiler alert, investment or not, no one really knows what they are doing & they are all just trying their best – all anyone can actually do, really.
Then the pandemic hit, which was terrible on so many levels but it did bring the web in a new light for a lot of people, who started being interested in getting new websites & improving the UX of their products. So I taught my brother everything I know & got him onboard to help with design services. Business was going well!
As a side effect, not only is my brother now making his own products, but it also gave me some of my time back. I was able to work on my own ideas again. Doing stuff my way. No cofounder. No investors. No bullshit. Just good old making stuff & getting users.
I’ve been productising some design services, making MVPs for some ideas that I had for a while & some that I randomly come across, get them in front of people, see what’s working & what’s not. I finally found a way of doing stuff that works for me! Can it be made better? I mean, can’t everything? But I feel like I am finally at the starting line of the marathon now!