Thursday, June 29, 2006


In the past five years I have learned there are two ways to build a business - to make everything about you and your ideas, your way, your name, your micro-managing behaviour so everything goes exactly as you want OR, to empower others to build and create a business that works for many people in many ways and you just get to go along for the ride. The point is for it to work - it doesn't matter how - just that it works so who cares what it looks like?

During a rather restless night of sleep I happened to catch the guy on tv who wrote the book RICH DAD POOR DAD and he said something that I started to realize a few years ago. As I watched myself not succeed very well in a business and culture that values the individual over the group I woke up one day and realized I would never succeed at the level I wanted to if my work was about me. I'm not like that, I work best working on behalf of others. But I wanted to build wealth for myself and so it seemed confusing - like I should try and become a CEO and earn a big salary and master all these business things so I could win, when I'm not built like that in fact that kind of stuff embarrases me.

I work in teams, I love interdependancy, I'm always asking people what they're good at so we can find ways for them to thrive and I think this is the most powerful tool to have in business. The RICH DAD guy says you have to get yourself into the environment where you will thrive, where your own personal genius will blossom because we are all geniuses in some way but certain conditions have to be in place for this to take hold.

So I started going to Africa and now I am back here in Canada working on behalf of the 12 people who work as a group with the business back in Nairobi. They know, like I know that for now in some ways I am better used outside of Kenya - to promote the business and meet people and get orders which is what I do best and what pays the bills. And when I go online to shoot over digital photos of new designs or ideas it makes me giggle really with how beautiful the whole thing is. I built a business for Africans and there they are running the show with little need from me! If I died today (surrounded by fabric and threads and scissors) I will rest peacefully knowing I succeeded somehow in someway to create opportunity for my Kenyan friends.

SHINDA is a Swahili word that means 'to win' or 'to conquer' and it is a special word in our design history because it was the first word ever chosen for a t-shirt by a very talented designer named Sophie Rimmel. I still have the shirt she designed for us two years ago when we had nothing besides some photos and a dream. She chose that word to represent what she saw in these kids, what she believed was possible for orphans in Kenya. Maybe even what she felt was possible for herself.

Am trying to help a small group of Vancouverites from the Sauder School of Business find a place to stay in Nairobi while they launch micro-finance projects in Kenya. What a treat that will be to have 6 people show up and share in the doing of what my own goals are. If only we had a guesthouse ready to go now. I have always imagined that somehow the gallery will provide accomodation for small groups of visitors who come to Kenya to invest in children. Living as a group, together.

I saw on some news report that the future of living means we will all be co-habitating together intergenerationally sharing energy and space in a harmonious Noah's ark kind a way. And I think we are already there, this is how I live amidst and amongst the people I love. If there is food in the fridge why not share it? If you have a need why not ask for help? Living in Shaughnessy it baffles me really how so many people would want to live in such big houses with so few people in them. It's beautiful but it's lonely and it's only for a few.

When I was kid we used to have sleepovers all the time and it was always my favourite thing to fall asleep in a room full of people laughing and squished on top of each other, accepting and bickering their way to sleep.

Book on the Shelf - 'The Road Less Travelled' by Scott M Peck, and it has made all the difference.


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