(This is about my friend who makes shoes. His journey in entrepreneurship, as far as I’m privy to, is representative of the early stages of entrepreneurship. And I decided to write about the stages. And with an image of me wearing one of his designs).
Horny Phase: This is when an idea hits you and you start to masturbate over it. "Shoemaking. Yes, shoemaking!". Like the prospect of sex, the idea begins to sound promising, exotic, romantic and sometimes fantastical. Your brain is on overdrive. Your body twitches. It's love at first thought. But it's a delicate phase; it can extinguish quickly.
Passion Petrol Phase: "I am about to revolutionize shoemaking in Nigeria". This sustains the Horny Phase. You're now completely on steroids. Nothing in this world can stop you. You start to build biases to protect the idea. In fact, everything around you exists to confirm your biases. You associate the fervency of your passion to a divine conviction. Everyone starts to get a vibe from you. You're either weird to them or they're in awe of you. You can't stop yourself.
Quotation Phase: "Just do it!", "Just do the fucking shoes!". This is the most ridiculous stage. Familiar quotes take a new quality - "A journey of a thousand steps start with a fucking giant shoe". Same as spiritual quotes. You imagine yourself as an incarnate of a great entrepreneur. (Steve Jobs is everyone's usual suspect. Seth Godin is second. Yours will include the wealthy uncle that locks down the village during Christmas). You start saying smart and nice-sounding stuff. In order words, it's the phase of heightened psychosis. Everything motivates you. If a mere road sign says, "Speed Bump Ahead", you take it as a metaphor for your new business. You're just mad!
First Execution Phase: "We've launched a website that will change how shoes are made and sold in Nigeria". Actually, if you could, you may extend the claim to the world because, why not? This is world domination! And you'd believe your own silliness. Yes, the website is up and you've announced to friends, family, church members and exes. You won't talk about the hell you took web developers through in the making of the website. Your worry is now full-blown, and even more complicated by an anxiety over revenue. No, not anxiety. It's paranoia. How to make money becomes the bane of your existence!
OCD Phase: "Our logo must carry shoe element so it can become iconic". Actually, OCD runs through almost all the stages. But special mention to the compulsive and unnecessary drag over the choice of color, logo and the friggin' website design. (You'll contact some creative pretenders like Chris Ogunlowo via BBM, WhatsApp and everywhere and ask about their intelligent take on your logo, and he will feign intelligence simply to make you get off his back. But, deep down, he wondered if there aren't things that are more important to obsess about). You'll start googling the meanings of colours and, maybe, find spiritual connotations of logo elements and names!
Vanity Phase: "Journalists and bloggers will kill themselves to feature our shoes." This one is a curse. And you're careful. You know all those media things are at best veiled narcissism. The key currency here is to separate vanity from substance. You know well that not all media mentions are the same, some are the devil's way of distracting you from what matters. You don't chase interviews, PR, photo-ops and magazine front covers. You have things that are more important about your business to worry about. There's a wife to take care of, there's a future Harvard school fees to pay for the lil’ ones, and salaries to pay.
Lachrymal Phase: "Yaaaay, our shoes are selling. We have unique customers and we've hit our first profit." Insert tears here. Insert joy here. Insert multiple orgasms too. You’ve been waiting for this confirmation. You needed it to confirm you know what you're doing and you're doing it right. A milestone brings tears to your eyes. But, but... but your work has just begun.
Customers-Are-Kings-But-Some-Are-Fools Phase: "Don't fucking compare my shoes with roadside shoes". All along, you've been encountering customers at every point and you've been dealing with them with your church-mind. But it feels like a wayward prank when it seems like customers are behind you, scheming your downfall with unrealistic requests. You're holding yourself back from screaming on the phone or slapping the ones in front of you! But it is what it; you've got to deal with. Customers make or break businesses; you now know how to deal with them.
Customers-Breed-Customers Phase: "O'boy, I supplied shoes to my guy at that bank, now all their staff order shoes from me". Hey, you've gotta chill on the excitement. Your good work attracts more customers. Mediocrity doesn't duplicate excellence. Your Lagos domination has just begun. Keep at it. And be humble.
Bad-Customers-Pretending-To-Be-Friends Phase: "Chris, when are you going to order shoes from us, or, are you maaaad?" Some friends are in your business to ruin your business. Dealing with them requires an act of the divine. They won't order shoes. They won't invest in your business. They won't even visit your snazzy, elegant, on fleek website. But they'll write long ass Medium posts so you can give them free shoes or borrow them to rock them to owambe parties."