#OHGjournal ' From friendship to business partners
Fresh outta school, we both made the decision to continue to study for our A-levels at Richmond College in South West London. It was here, whilst taking business and sociology together that we first met and instantly became friends. Having similar timetables and both living around the same area in South West London we quickly certified our friendship by travelling on the train home together, partying, shopping, getting matching tattoos and living what we thought was our best lives on the money we had from our Saturday jobs!
Fast forward a few years we were both graduating from university, (Jade from Rochester University with a 2:2 in Fashion Promotion and me from University College London with a 2:1 in Psychology) and about to begin our journey into the big bad world of career building and actually getting our shit together…..
For me, my first crisis of thought happened whilst being at university. The more I studied for my degree the more I felt disinterested in a career in psychology. Like many at that age I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. All I knew was that if I continued along the psychology route, I would have to study for longer, get more into debt and wouldn’t actually be making enough money to sustain myself for a very very long time. Coming to terms with this reality made me question a lot of things I had been taught growing up. I was constantly conflicted as I knew I didn’t want to continue with my degree but having an African father who placed extreme importance on academic achievement and a Caribbean mother who’s whole entire family had never been to university (I was the 1st), there was a lot of pressure on me to come through on this and be an example to my younger sister. So that’s what I did! I carried on even though I complained every damn opportunity I got, and graduated grumpily.
After university I had various part time jobs to make ends meet and started exploring the idea of having my own business. I started a few side hustles, the most successful of which was a hair extensions business where I would source the extensions abroad and sell them to my local beauty supply stores. It did well and I quickly gained a good reputation and started making decent money from it. I learned the basics of running a business, from set up to accounting, to dealing with customers and the importance of having a list. I guess it was during this time where I really found my passion for business but I was still unsure on how to grow a business and I wasn’t completely committed to the idea of being a business owner.
It was bloody hard work!!!!!
I was doing everything myself …. and the hardest part of it all was if I didn’t do it I didn’t make money. If I went on holiday, if I was sick, if I wanted a break…I always had to ask myself “Can you afford to NOT make this money today/this week/this month” – Answer was usually a big fat “NO”
As time went on I realised that I had to get a “proper” job. My parents were getting on to me and I knew I just wasn’t making enough money consistently from my side businesses and I didn’t have the knowledge to grow them much further. So, I decided to look for something I could do full time. Something that would help me get some more knowledge in business and could make me good money within 5 years. I decided that if I wanted to become wealthy I needed to be around the wealthy and I ended up landing a job as an assistant to two young extremely rich brothers who happened to be venture capitalists. I wasn’t happy with the money I was on, or the hours, and my family and friends couldn’t understand why I wanted to be just a “PA” to these guys but I knew this was my foot in the door to literally a whole new world.
And I was fucking right!
Within 6 months I was managing multi million pound art and property portfolios, booking private yachts, jets, chauffeurs, listening in on investment deals, mergers and acquisitions. My eyes had been completely opened on what would be possible if you actually make this business thing work. As much as I loved the job, I knew that I couldn’t stay too long in the position I was in as I wanted more pay. After just over a year with the brothers, I ended up taking a job for a high profile couple in the creative industry. In the first instance I was really excited for the new challenge, I was particularly keen to do more travel as the couple were based in the USA. However, the role quickly showed its true colours. There was no travel involved and it didn’t really have the same pace and variety of tasks that I had with the venture capitalists.
It was boring and I missed that entrepreneurial buzz.
I was also beginning to think about the long term and whether I actually wanted to work for someone else for the rest of my life. I started reading more books, mostly in the personal development niche and looking online for inspiration. It was during this time that I was first introduced to the idea of passive income. I eventually came across a property investment group which I joined and within a matter of weeks I had exchanged contracts and put 15% deposit down on my first buy to let property, in the Midlands. As far as I was concerned it was a quick win, the property was a new build which I had bought off plan. All I needed to do was have the rest of my deposit ready (the remaining 10%) and secure the mortgage once the building was complete in about 9 months time. It would be tight to raise the money but I knew If I picked up a few extra night jobs I could make it work. I worked 3 jobs in total….my full time job, an evening job working shifts at a call centre, and a night job, working in a cloakroom in a club at the weekends. As the months went by I saved all the pennies I could to make my target.
Just when I was getting into the swing of things, I was made redundant at my main job about 4 months before I was about to complete on this property. I knew I needed another job and fast in order to make sure I didn’t fall behind on my savings targets and so I could secure a mortgage for this new property I had committed to. I took on extra shifts at the call centre to bridge the gap and luckily, I managed to secure a job within 2 months with a Persian family.
I had a new job, I was back on track with my side jobs and my savings targets. Needless to say I felt pretty proud of myself for dodging a pretty major disaster!
The call came in the Spring of 2016 that my property was ready to complete and they required me to start the mortgage application and have my funds ready. I did all the necessary with a mortgage broker and waited for all the paperwork to come back with the good news
Unfortunately, because I was first time buyer and a first time landlord I had very few options when it came to mortgages and I could not secure one in order to complete the process. I lost my deposit I had put down when I exchanged contracts, plus all the money I spent in professional fees (solicitors and mortgage broker), and of course the property.
I balled so hard.
All that money gone……all those hours at the shitty call centre and the shitty cloakroom…all for nothing.
BIG FAT FAIL!
After coming to terms with the whole thing I decided that maybe I just wasn’t doing this passive income thing right. I had faith it could work I just didn’t know how, so I started looking online once again for some answers. This time I ended up on youtube and discovered a young entrepreneurial community who all seemed to be making money online.
I spent hours and hours researching and watching videos over and over and over again about creating different streams of income and how to create financial freedom and I was kind of obsessed with it.
I learnt about different ecommerce platforms, mindset training, and growing your social media profile, about social media ads and hiring freelancers abroad and again got the itch to start something new to try out what I had learned.
Coincidently, Jade had been telling me for a few months now, that she had started selling clothes on an app called Depop and she thought she may be on to something as it was starting to take off. She would occasionally ask me for tips as she knew I had a flair for business and we bounced some ideas between us. It just came to a point where I knew that I wanted to start an online business and Jade knew that what she had started on Depop had the potential to be something much bigger. We decided to join forces and start working on Oh Hey Girl as a joint venture.
I knew from an early age that I wanted to get into fashion. I was always obsessed with clothes, and going back to school days, colour co-ordination was a thiiiiiing! There used to be rules like….. you could only wear two colours at a time and they had to be neutrals, and you couldn’t wear different shades of the same colour. If you had a baby pink belt your bag had to be the exact same shade….even down to your scrunchie. These were like commandments to me! I even used to save up my lunch money just to go to Fonthill road in Finsbury Park to get some new clothes.
Thankfully this was all a phase and by the time I got through college, my style had drastically developed and it became evident that a career in fashion was the path for me. So you can imagine how gutted I was when I tried to apply for London College of Fashion (LCF) for a degree in Styling and Promotion and got rejected…. 2 years in a row!
I eventually ended up at University of Creative Arts (UCA) and studied Fashion Promotion. Although it wasn’t really where I wanted to be, I met some good friends there, so I guess I am grateful for the experience. HOWEVER, I would like to note that university had nothing to do with my current success. I felt that we were encouraged to all be versions of the same thing…it was so “textbook”. I just never understood why they encouraged people to be the same in a field where difference and diversity is what makes the art! It was like they just didn’t get me.
Weirdly, one particular incident stuck in my head, where we had a talk about life after uni from a lady who worked for a well known magazine. She later evaluated some of the students’ work and she loved mine….even stating that it was “industry ready”. I don’t know, but there was something about that comment that boosted me, so even when I got my results (a 2:2, which I was disappointed with), I knew I had what it took.
My first job interning was at Idol magazine which I got by tweeting the owner. Like all internships at the time I got paid all of 0 pounds….no lunch money, no travel money NOTHING! I worked 7 days a week and if I wasn’t working part-time to get money, I was interning to get experience. I did this for 3 years straight, working at a few different fashion publications, and with freelance stylists. I spent literally ALL my time carrying suitcases across London, picking up and returning samples…no days off.
I soon realised that if I wanted to get paid, the editorial route wasn’t for me. I’d come across Silverspoon attire, as they worked with Rihanna as her UK styling team. I hit up the owners on Instagram and landed myself a new internship. The new opportunity was exciting as I hadn’t worked with music artists before and my eyes were opened to a completely different side of the fashion industry. I quickly worked my way up and became the 1st assistant. A typical day would be, attending press appointments, doing pulls for clients, assisting in the creative direction for video shoots or award shows and doing fittings. Which could be literally anywhere and everywhere….from our studios, at their swanky hotels or even in the bathroom.
Even though my job was super demanding, I loved it. I got to do so many amazing things like, styling Kanye for the Brit Awards (which Symone was pretty happy about as I put her in charge of looking after all the male dancers), styling Rihanna at the British Fashion Awards not to mention working with literally every sick UK artist. I made new friends, made great contacts, but ultimately, the shopaholic inside of me, longed to wear the clothes and not just give them to other people to wear. I began to look for other opportunities within the music and fashion industry. Music was always a passion of mine and I had always enjoyed singing but I just didn’t know how to get my foot in the door and didn’t really have the confidence either. One of my friends forced me into the studio one night and after half a bottle of ciroc, I had recorded a hook. Feeling the buzz and a lil’ drunk, I posted a picture on Instagram of me in the studio.
The next day at work, my boss at Silverspoon was like “I didn’t know you sang” and asked me to play him some stuff.
Next thing I know, we were discussing my music career and that he wanted to manage me as an artist.
Fuck it, why not?
We made the decision that if I wanted to do this, I would have to stop working full time at Silverspoon and start working part time so I could go to studio sessions on my days off. I think it’s safe to say, we both underestimated how much work the music thing would be. After a year of trying to juggle it all, we came to a mutual agreement that I would stop working at Silverspoon all together and pursue music full time. This came at a really bad time as it was just before the Brits and Fashion week (the busiest time of the year) so I agreed to work for another couple of months until it quietened down.
Then came the biggest turning point of my life.
During London Fashion Week, I got into an altercation. After an evening of parties, the Serpantine Gallery was our last stop. Bursting for the loo I rushed to the toilets where there was a huge queue. From what started as a minor argument ended in a full blown fight and both sides injured. Next thing I knew I was being arrested.
I couldn’t believe it,
I was absolutely terrified.
I had never been in trouble with the police my entire life and at 25 years old I was being arrested.
I was taken to the station. I cried all the way. I’d been drinking, so they had to keep me overnight in order to take my statement. So here I was….. in a jail cell with a toilet in the corner. No tissue and cameras everywhere. They took all my clothes, bagged them up, and gave me a grey tracksuit and plimsoles. It was the most traumatizing thing that has ever happened to me in my entire life. I cannot tell you how distraught I was.
The next morning, I made my statement and was released on unconditional bail. I was told that they would be in touch and to get on with my life as normal. Shortly after, I left Silverspoon to focus on music full time. I’d also picked up a part-time job to help make ends meet. Everything seemed to be fine.
Then, three months later, I was told it would be going to court and I was being charged. The wait for a court date was a minimum of 9 months and within that time I was encouraged to just get on with my life.
I tried to put it behind me, but it just seemed it was one blow after another. I couldn’t hold down a job, I was struggling for money as music wasn’t moving as quickly as I’d hoped, and to top it all off my Grandma was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Feeling like I had to do something to turn things around, I started buying Asian inspired clothing from China and selling the pieces on Depop. It pretty much took off instantly, when a pink cropped puffer jacket became a huge hit. I was selling about 30 of them in a week and started gaining a following. Finally! Something was going right. I even managed to secure myself a part-time job with a high end eyewear brand.
I was given a court date
The trial went on for four days. I pleaded self-defence but was found guilty and got a suspended sentence as well as some hefty court fines.
To make things worse, it was all over the press. I lost my job and had to put music on hold, and due to the nature of my mum’s job I was no longer able to live at home. I was in a dark place and kept questioning how it had even come to this?
Staying between my sisters couch and my Grandpa’s spare room, all I had left was Depop. I knew it would be difficult for me to get another job with a criminal record and I was forced to make the side hustle the main hustle. So, I started to take things more seriously and set up social media accounts and branded it “Oh Hey Girl”. The hype continued and it was getting bigger and bigger and I knew I had to take it to the next level but just wasn’t sure how. I’d been speaking to Symone a couple times about the whole thing, but I guess initially we were both distracted by our own personal circumstances. After exchanging some ideas between us, it became obvious that the next step would be to work together.
And so it began…