How My Locs Forced Me To Become An Entrepreneur: 3 Essential Lessons To Learn For “Woke” People
Our Co-Founder and CRO Regis shares his experience on becoming an entrepreneur against the odds after being turned down in a job interview for wearing his locs.
Have you ever wanted to start a business without knowing exactly what your passion was? There are loads of challenges down the road for sure, but at the end of the day attitude is everything. Hi I’m Regis, I’m the co-founder of Afrocks, and I’m going to share with you three essential lessons that I’ve learnt (that you can use too) on my entrepreneurial journey.
Trial and errors, accepting who I am and questioning myself led me to precious answers and inevitably to AFROCKS.
I am among my people, I should definitely thrive
After some amazing years spent in diverse London, I moved to French Guiana in quest of new adventures and challenges. In this land as large as Portugal but with the total population equalling that of Hackney’s borough, I felt confident and full of potential, capable of achieving anything I wanted. After all, I was educated, had 7 years of work experience in London, and above all, I was among my own people. What could possibly go wrong? I knew I would definitely thrive.
“I remember the embarrassment of having to wrap them in the manliest silk scarf I could find, the first night I spent with my then new girlfriend […] I remember the money I spent buying products, the time and energy shampooing, moisturising, and styling them. They were my babies, a very important extension of myself, part of my identity.”
I like your profile, but you’ll have to cut your hair
At the top of my game and very performant in my field, I was very soon sitting in a job interview. The job was not that interesting and the pay way under what my expectations but there were benefits such as company car, laptop and mobile phone. I went through the first round, then a second one and another one. I was quite surprised. Had I apply to a MI6 position?
The questions were basic. My employers seemed to be more interested in my stay in London than in my set of skills. They also showed a peculiar interest in my hair. I should have noticed the red flag, but I did not pay much attention to this. Maybe they were trying to get to know me. I was not proven wrong as I was invited to a final meeting and was offered the position! (Pat on my own shoulder). I had a “proper” job, my mother would be proud and start to brag about me to her friends! I felt good, the horizon was clear, all the pieces of the puzzle were in place.
Wrapped in my day dream and elation about this success, I did not understand what the employer was saying. It was only the second time that I heard: “The position is yours, but you’ll have to cut the locs… you understand”.
In a fraction of a second, I saw my locs life flashed in front of my eyes. Sharon started them in 2008 at Adornment365, then I pretended to be unable to swim in order to keep them dry. I remember the embarrassment of having to wrap them in the manliest silk scarf I could find, the first night I spent with my then new girlfriend (now my wife). I remember the money I spent buying products, the time and energy shampooing, moisturising, and styling them. They were my babies, a very important extension of myself, part of my identity. Why had I to cut them by the way? Here’s what they said:
- It is a respectable job.
- I needed to look the part.
- It’s a permanent job.
- Clients may be reluctant to do business with me.
I had to regroup. For a chance at getting a trial period for this “respectable” job, with a little pay, that was boring but provided a company car, phone and laptop I was supposed to erase a part of myself? I could -not believe it. I remained polite, but chose to show them the length of my locks down my back, and that was the last thing they saw of me.
If you let negativity cloud your mind, you end up boozing
Surely that one did hit me hard and got me to question myself. Was it fair or not? Was there a justification behind the fact that black people discriminate against other black people because of their natural hair? Was this archaic manifestation of self-hate relevant in the 21st century? It was not for me to judge, but I quickly learned that if you let negativity cloud your mind during times like these, you might surely end up boozing. Thankfully, this triggered in me a clear vision of what I wanted to do and three valuable lessons:
Knowing yourself isn’t just staring at a mirror dazzled by your reflection, but it is recognising your limit, be acquainted with your deepest aspirations, how far you are willing to go to get to where you want to be.
1- Every experience is a good one.
One of the top quality of an entrepreneur is to be able to wear many hats at once. I’ve worked in many different fields, I won’t lie, I hated some of them. It didn’t make sense for me back in the days, but the curse became a blessing. I was able to go into business because I had a well-rounded knowledge of myself, of what I can or cannot do. Think about it, even if you are in a mediocre position, you still gain valuable expertise, may it be in potato slicing, tolerance to rudeness or ability to highly perform in spite of severe sleep deprivation. Don’t stay in these jobs as they will kill you, but do not underestimate the value of your skills acquired, they will serve you and your own vision.
2- Know yourself
Was it foolish to turn down such a job offer? I would definitely take the same decision if I had to do it all over again. It might have been a matter of appearance to them but to me it was an offence to my true nature, my integrity, my values, things that no one should want to take away from me. Knowing yourself isn’t just staring at a mirror dazzled by your reflection, but it is recognising your limit, be acquainted with your deepest aspirations, how far you are willing to go to get to where you want to be. This gives you strength and confidence that cannot be taught.
3- Your contribution matter
The media often highlight those one in a million idea-market disruptive-high value companies. Yet most of businesses are based on profession people have been doing for centuries, such as builders, bakers or hairdressers for instance. Don’t get caught in inferiority complex paralysis. You can perform, you are able, may it be in your local community, nationally or worldwide. Work at your level, expand if you can, when you can. Stay grounded. Others may do what you do, but they can never be you.
Adversity is often a blessing in disguise. It can force you to become a better version of yourself.
The entrepreneurial journey isn’t a straight line and can be tough but most of us have what it takes to start up, start anew. When I decided to wear my natural hair in locs, I never thought that so many doors would close, yet, little did I know that these closed doors would allow me to open different doors, whole new paths to avoid the humiliation and the struggles I went through. There are and will be other struggles and discriminations, but with this one, Afrocks’s got you covered. Together, we rise, we shine.
Hey I’m Regis, cofounder and CRO at Afrocks. It’s not just hair, it’s a revolution. I’d love to hear from you. Reach me on email@example.com