“Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination” Drake
In the final months of 2008, I started my own textile business called Edge. It wasn’t something I planned nor was it something I envisaged as part of my Shanghai future—But what I can say is, it was something that taught me a lot about myself.
I think it was in June 2008 that my boss—I’ll call her Alesa for the purpose of this post, called me into her office to inform me about the restructuring going on in the company—I was then working for Next Sourcing Shanghai, the Chinese arm of Next UK. I was the fabric-sourcing manager with a team of 4 sourcers working with me.
She said that in the restructuring one of the three fabric-sourcing managers in Leicester, Hong Kong and of course in Shanghai would lose their job. The decision concerning which one of us it would be would come in September.
As my boss shared this information, I instinctively knew she was, in fact, telling me that I was going to lose my job—when I weighed up the facts and reviewed my position, I realised that I was the most likely to get the chop.
It intuitively felt like Alesa was pre-warning me. Maybe it was her attempt to prepare me for the inevitable.
As Alesa spoke, I simultaneously asked my inner guidance if my intuition was correct about my pending situation. I asked silently
“ Will I be the one to lose my job?” My inner voice came back with an emphatic
“Yes, YOU will lose your job”
Immediately the answer came, a surge of fear and panic shot through my body, with the question “Oh my god, am I going to lose my job again?”
And although I had grown to trust my intuition, it was still a huge shock to hear this truth.
But as the fear raced through and out of my body, I decided that if I did lose my job, I would branch out on my own and become my own boss.
So when my Alesa asked, “Jacqueline what will you do if you lose your job?” I confidently replied, “I will start on my own!”
Although certain of my decision, I still felt quite shaky after my meeting, so didn’t venture to say anything to my team. Instead, I started planning to find out all I could about starting my own business in Shanghai.
At that point, I had been living and working in Shanghai for over 3 years and had made enough good friends and contacts both within and outside the fashion industry to get the support I would need.
I also had many good contacts and potential customers in the UK after many years of working as a fabric-sourcing manager there.
I trusted that with my experience and contacts in China and the UK, I could confidently start my own successful textile business.
I remember something Kallum had said when I lost my job at Velmore back in 2006. He’d said “ Jacqueline do you want to be reliant on someone else giving and taking away your livelihood the rest of your life? Don’t you want to be your own boss, working for yourself?”
Kallum’s words had made me think…but not to any great extent to make me take action—it was just too early for me. But it’s clear Kallum’s comments sowed the seeds for my future business.
So fast-forward two years—This time I was ready to take the leap into being my own boss.
In the three months that followed, while I waited for news about my job, I continued working as usual. Then after work, I made enquiries and calls, searching the internet for companies who could help me with the start-up process.
I met with friends who had their own businesses and picked their brains about doing business in China.
I researched and eventually found a company that wasn’t going to charge me an extortionate rate to help set up my company. I decided to opt for a wholly owned trading company, an option that would give me complete control.
So even though I had been a total party animal and had enjoyed splashing out on clothes, handbags, shoes and other accessories, I had also been smart. Over my 3 years in Shanghai, I had saved more than enough money to cover the 500,000RMB (about £50,000) investment needed for a wholly owned enterprise.
Next, I searched for an office.
In 2008 I lived in Hongkou district, in an airy, spacious and I must admit somewhat luxurious 3 bed, two bath-roomed apartment in the famous 1930’s Embankment Building. It was 180sq/m of huge windows and high ceilings—a dream space, full of light and beautifully bright.
My 25ft balcony overlooked the Huangpu River and my views included the Pudong skyline, the Pearl tower and many of Shanghai’s other impressive skyscrapers.
I paid 15,000RMB, equivalent to about £1500/month for this amazing space. I loved coming home to this sanctuary every day and believe me it was worth every penny.
Now it broke my heart to know that I would soon have to give it up and move out when I lost my job—I simply wouldn’t be able to afford the rent anymore. As in losing my job, I would also forfeit the living allowance that paid for this dream apartment.
Putting my trust in my inner voice, I said out loud one day, “When I lose my job, I want to live in this building and I want to have the same views…I want to pay the same amount I do now for an apartment and an office”
And you know what? I got exactly what I asked for.
About a week or two after speaking my wish, I found an office within walking distance of my house. It was perfect…. it needed work but it would be perfect for what I wanted to do and guess what? the rent was 7,500RMB/Month, exactly half what I was paying for my apartment.
But although I knew I had found the perfect office—I was also terrified. Terrified that my business idea wouldn’t work, terrified that I wouldn’t make enough money to pay the rent and terrified that I was making a big mistake.
So with these thoughts frightening me, it’s no wonder that I went to view the office 5 times—And each time the agent tried to make me sign the contract, I would stall, making silly excuses why I couldn’t sign.
Finally, on the 5th viewing the landlady threatened that if I didn’t agree to take it immediately, she would give it to someone else.
Her threat worked, so reluctantly I agreed to sign the contract.
It was with bubbling trepidation and a shaky hand, that I took the pen. But you know…the moment I signed my name on the dotted line all the fear and trepidation miraculously melted away and I suddenly felt calm and serene.
I knew then and there that I had made the right decision.
Very soon after finding my office, something equally amazing happened. My flat was number 405 on the 4th floor. I had friends who had lived on the 6th floor in flat 604. They were a couple, who had been together many years…unfortunately they had broken up about 4 months earlier and had moved out of their apartment.
Since their move, I hadn’t seen or heard from either of them.
Out of the blue one day, I met one of the couple who I will call Ralph. Ralph and I chatted on the street and caught up, then he invited me to his new apartment for dinner.
Whilst at dinner I explained my situation, telling him of my belief that I would soon lose my job, which would mean I would also have to move out of my apartment.
Ralph said, “Well you know our old apartment is still free don’t you— it hasn’t been rented yet?”
I was shocked but excited “Really?” I questioned. “But it’s been months since you moved out” I added
“Yea, I know” Said Ralph.
“I don’t know why it hasn’t rented yet, but I have the agents number if you like I can give it to you”
“Sure that would be great!” I said, “How much did you pay?” I enquired
“We paid 7,500RMB—I’m sure they haven’t put up the rent,” Said Ralph.
A big smile spread across my face—and I said a quiet “Thank You” to my inner guidance, as I knew Ralph’s old apartment would soon be mine.
The following day I called the agent and made an appointment to view the apartment. It was a no brainer…. Although smaller than my own apartment, it was just as light and bright and with exactly the same views overlooking the river and Pudong.
I gave it the once over and said “Yes I’ll take it”