What's the point?

You. You’re probably a little annoying. One of those people who wants to do it all their own way. Opinionated. Difficult. Maybe you’re only thinking about working for yourself. Maybe you’ve started. I can tell you this – the more personality you have, the more Marmite you are, the more you will be hated. Or loved. The less suited you are to spending your days trying to tango to someone else’s drum’n’bass.

You’re probably used to failing too. I’d love to write a cv full of my academic successes, or work achievements, to impress you with all the fancy things I’ve done. But the truth is, I’m really hard on myself. I also know I’ve tried (and failed) at plenty of things most people would have just written off as insane, right from the very start. And that’s perfect. Because every time I failed I learnt something. And sometimes those things I learned were wrong.

I had my first business at 16. By accident. I’d applied for a job at the British Library doing bookbinding and manuscript conservation. (Don’t ask why, even I can’t remember the reason). For the interview I had to take something to show I was “manually dexterous” (cue: smutty comment). I made some jewellery. I’d always enjoyed that. And while I didn’t get the job, I did find out that people wanted to buy my jewellery. So I delighted my parents by announcing I wouldn’t do my A-levels, but would instead have a stall in Camden market. What I found out from running the stall, was that people really liked to buy the particular tiny earrings that looked like little planets with an orbiting moon. The very same earrings I hated making. So, for 10 hours each week I made those earrings. Despising every tiny evil earring.

The jewellery stall didn’t last long, but it taught me many things.

1) you need to sell a lot of tiny earrings to get into profit.

2) It’s cheaper if you share a stall.

3) If you do share a stall, don’t share a stall with someone mad, especially not Dominica the hat-lady.

4) In Camden market there are a gazillion stalls, lots of tourists, and not a lot of money being spent. There is a huge amount of browsing by skint students however.

5) Less is more. I always sold more from a narrow selection. And selling earrings in the pub (when the clientele is merry) is very profitable: Upsides: no overheads. Downsides: you’ll be barred from lots of pubs.

Later in life, when I'd discovered the world of social psychology, I was reading "The Art of Choosing” by Sheena Iyengar and it instantly chimed with me. Yes! People bought more with restricted choice! Yes, if I narrowed the choices (e.g. “two for £10”) I made decisions more binary and they bought more.

So as well as narrowing choice, what has this got to do with you? Do something you love. Factor in a decent profit. Try to sell something that makes drunk people part with their cash. What else? The internet is full of people who want to buy the (metaphorically) huge earrings. Don’t worry about making the small ones. Do what you love and do the dance of fun.

Hannah LewisComment