In my interviews with entrepreneurs a common trait that has emerged is the determination to get something done. Especially if someone says ‘no.’ “If someone tells me I can’t get a bus to Edinburgh – I’ll find another way’ says entrepreneur David Riley. The determination to solve a problem – regardless of anyone else – is key. Energy levels and stamina seem to be desirable. And passion for the project essential.
In a recent interview with a multi millionaire – I was surprised, and relieved, to discover the drive was not the making of money, but the desire to provide the best service and improvements possible. Passion, he also felt, was vital for success.
Dressed entirely in second hand clothes, I remember Wayne Hemingway from the BBC’s Clothes Show back in the 1980s. I have to say I’ve not really been aware of his existence since. He’s a runner (‘my greatest thinking time’), married with a family who he wants to spend time with and is a highly active entrepreneur with a ‘can do’ approach.
Born in Morecambe, Lancashire he started clubbing at the age of 13. As teenagers, he and his wife moved down to London. Wth rent and band rehearsals to pay for, they demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit early on – out of necessity. They went to places where rag and bone men dropped off their stuff, picked through it and bought up what they knew they could sell at Camden Market. “Every Saturday morning for eight years we were in Camden at first light. We ended up with 16 stalls.”
His wife Geraldine set up at Kensington market with a sewing machine and created eight designs. Macy’s of New York saw them and ordered 200 of each design. “How on earth are we going to deliver that? There’s only you that can make them!” Wayne rang his mum – she could sew and so could her friends. “It’s all right, I’ll give up my job and my friends too and we’ll do it” “Now hold on a minute mum,…” it all sounded a bit hasty for Wayne. But she did it. His mum gave up her job and so did her friends – some going part-time, others in worked in the evening.
For Wayne – it’s all about the relationships. “Friends and family have been crucial. People say don’t work with friends and family but for me it’s about those relationships. I don’t mean going to the pub but when I meet a new manufacturer we need to be able to have a relationship. They’re more than just a supplier to me.”
“You can redesign education, you can re-design the NHS. Clothing is about styling – which is great fun. But design is a way of thinking.”
Wayne and his team went around UK cities taking photographs of new housing developments created by Wimpey and Barratt housing. “No wonder 18% of those in prison are under 18” he says, “when we build housing developments that look just like prisons for children to grow up in. The nearest to us is Germany way down with 9% – what are we doing wrong?”
But Wimpey came to him and agreed that they didn’t like the houses they were building either. They worked together on housing projects and also playground projects which have contributed to an MBE.
Full of stories about making effective change – how a brand, he’s learnt, needs to stand for something. He boycotted the French – the home of the fashion industry – and 22% of his business at the time. And then ended up in Time magazine.
So he’s gone from Red or Dead to working with Coca-Cola and MacDonalds – made palatable presumably because it’s on environmental projects.
So what’s his secret to his multiple projects and and constant flow of ideas? “I manage my time well. I never sleep beyond 5.00am. This week it’s been 3.30am.” What stops the creativity? “Worry.”
Upto now, it’s been a list of Wayne’s successes. There’s no mention of the ‘f’ word. Failure, for every entrepreneur is a vital way to learn from mistakes and get better. There’s always something people wish they’d done differently. If you wait for everything to be perfect nothing will get done. (Even Martha Stewart’s not perfect!). Without this insight into the difficulties, Wayne makes me feel inadequate. Only with this brief allusion to ‘worry’ as we open up for questions, is it intimated that sleepless nights are a part of being in business. I am inspired by him – but I really want to hear more about when it went wrong and how he got round that. That’s the key to being a successful entrepreneur.
Wayne talks finally about his latest venture started in 2010: tired of festivals for 16 year olds to drink beer (which he says are also vital to have) – he’s working in 2012 in conjunction with BBC 6Music to bring about a Vintage Festival in a beautiful spot in Northamptonshire 13th-15th July 2012. Sounds like a dream job.
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