I've been in New Zealand for 2 months.
Spending the majority of my stay in,
Wellington, the capital.
Before I came to New Zealand, I researched online the safety precautions
solo female travels should take, read a few blogs and reviews
about food, travel, and things to do in New Zealand.
One story that came up in my research was about the British backpacker
that was murdered on her Tinder date.
I also read, that New Zealand has the highest rate of domestic violence
in the world (people I've met said, it's just the highest reported rate).
So, planning my stay in this far off land, I was hesitant.
But, I was happy to be
staying with a family friend and connect with the local Jewish community.
The first couple of weeks was absolute bliss!
Locals told me that this was the best summer in a long time,
people smiled at me as I walked around, people asked how I'm enjoying
my time in New Zealand, and was happy that I came here before
going to Australia (apparently there is a rivalry between the two
countries), and the local Jewish community is so friendly and welcoming!
My first few weeks, I walked around, organized my day around writing
and ate lunch at the harbor.
A Few Incidents Where I Felt Unsafe
No country is perfect.
Let alone free of inequality, homelessness, or violence.
Walking around during the day, I always kept alert,
and aware of my surroundings.
Yet, there were three incidents where I did feel unsafe.
The first two times, in high afternoon, walking downtown
I could feel an older man
How do I know these men were following me,
after all, it was a crowded street, that went straight for a long time,
perhaps they were just going in the same direction as me.
I could feel how closely they were behind me,
and when I stopped, I turned around, in both incidents
the men also stopped, I continued walking, and they kept following me.
Intuition, is real, and I just kept on walking, just a bit faster,
and when I turned around again, the men weren't there.
I guess they gave up :/
There is a problem with homelessness
The next time I felt unsafe, was also in a very
public area, a park, in high afternoon.
This time, by a man who appeared to be a drug addict/homeless,
just walked right behind me
as I was making my way across the park,
and tried to grab me.
I yelled at him not to touch me,
which scared him away.
I looked around, to see if anyone just saw what happened,
and people just kept walking by, like nothing happened.
So I kept on walking, trying to enjoy the rest of my day.
A bit spooked, but I wasn't going to have my day ruined.
After those incidences, which I told my friend about (and wasn't surprised,
she explained, perhaps since I'm a Black woman, I'm an easy
target for these men)
I realized no matter what time of the day, as a solo
female traveler, who is visibly different, I have to be
on guard at all times.
Terrorist Attack in Christchurch
When I learned about the HORRIFIC terrorist attack
in Christchurch, I was walking out the door
on my way for shabbat services at the local synagogue.
I got 3 messages from members who told me services were cancelled
because there was an attack at 2 mosques
First, I was shocked, because I was
on Facebook earlier in the afternoon, I didn't see any news of
an attack (I don't follow any New Zealand news, and the
story didn't get international attention until later that evening).
Next, I asked how is it that assault weapons in the
country were allowed...I thought that was only in America...
Apparently, there is a big illegal gun market in New Zealand
and in the south island, in Christchurch, there are many
skin heads and neo-Nazis.
So, people in my community spent shabbat at home.
I was shocked to learn about the incident as more
details were being reported.
On Fridays and Saturdays, during shabbat, my phone is
is usually off.
Given this tragedy
I turned it on and saw a missed call and messages
from my family and friends asking if I was okay.
Not many people know that Christchurch is in the south island
of New Zealand, I'm in Wellington, which is
located on the northern island.
So, I went on social media and emailed people close to me
and shared that I'm okay and safe.
I read the news to learn more about the attack.
A Country Coming Together
It's through the most difficult times you can
determine how strong you are.
And personally seeing Kiwi's come together
to fight Islamaphobia, racism, bigotry
and changing laws so this horrific tragedy never happens again
I believe New Zealand is a prime example of how
to combat hatred.
I waited to write about this incident so I could
get a complete picture of this tragedy.
I've talked with people in my community, friends, and
read online how such a horrific event could happen
and what's being done next so it won't happen again.
New Zealand, is like any other country in the world,
though it's small, diverse, and far away from everything,
it's a great place to travel to, just keep your guards up
and don't be afraid to call people out if they
exude hatred or bigotry.
Thank you for reading!
Why I started this blog?
One year ago, I started this blog, blaircadet.com
Though I'v been blogging for 5 years, I wrote on my business websites
nhc.com (Natural Hair Capital, my first failed venture),
then on healthyhairasia.com (my shop website, that had my blog).
And when I showed people my website at the time,
it was confusing.
There was my business, and then all this other extra stuff about me, tech events, etc.
It didn't make any sense!
Plus, once I got my pre-seed investment, I wanted
to take a new direction to scale,
I no longer wanted to be the "face" of my business.
My signature hairstyle and journey to healthy and beautiful hair is part of my personal brand
But for the business, clarity between my personal brand
and business brand was needed.
Creating a brand: Yummy Blair
So, I created a LINE inspired sticker character, Yummy Blair.
Yummy Blair, has some of my characteristics, obvious one, my hair.
Other characteristics include her being an entrepreneur, traveler, and tech-savvy.
Now, if you're unfamiliar with LINE stickers,
or the importance of the business of cuteness
in Asia, one prime example is Hello Kitty.
Hello Kitty or the Sanrio brand, is worth $4 billion dollars.
That's the power of a cute brand.
Applying to L'Oreal Open Innovation Accelerator
Aside from clarity between my personal brand and business,
I was prompted to start my personal blog
because I was applying for L'Oreal Open Innovation at Station F.
The first beauty accelerator program in the world,
I was super excited when I learned about this program,
as most accelerators
focus on AI, FinTech, big data, etc.
When this program was first announced, the website just asked applicants
to email them and write a short "about me" and a summary of their business.
Which I found that strange :/ (they have a new website!)
They didn't ask for pitch deck, portfolio, or website....
But, that didn't deter me.
Given the confusion when people saw my
initial website, I created this blog, transferred old blog posts,
pictures, and milestones of my business, to my personal website,
and viola, Blair Cadet the Entrepreneur was born!
I included a short description of myself, my new website, and my pitch deck,
which they interestingly didn't read (reading saves a lot of time...)
My design team also finished creating Yummy Blair stickers and the pitch deck,
so I created yummyblair.com
Corporates Entering the Startup World
The people at L’Oréal team were surprised
and unprepared for my application.
The program called for beauty entrepreneurs around the world,
to apply and move to Paris where they had an office in Station F.
What I later learned was they meant was for beauty entrepreneurs in Europe.
I think some people forget that there is a world and market
outside the US and Europe....
I wrote a detailed post about this experience last year,
Corporates Meet Startups, because the team running the program
were unfamiliar with how entrepreneurs communicate and was
"worried" that L’Oréal didn't have the resources, mentors, or understanding
of the market to help me build my startup in SE Asia.
I never worked in the corporate world
Interestingly, the beauty market in SE Asia is the market to be in right now,
and the Asia market is the largest international market for L'Oreal
maybe I was missing something :/
So, they suggested for me to wait later in the year when they had more experience
building the accelerator, and for now they will focus on European beauty startups.
Fair and practical suggestion.
And with that, I rescinded my application.
I'm an entrepreneur, we're irrational people
(given that 90% of startups fail)
I could see why many big industries are easy to disrupt,
because they don't "connect the dots" and aren't flexible to change and/or adapt to new trends.
In this case, Asia is the best place to be to build a beauty brand,
the numbers, research, and profits show it.
Perfect, but not for me
I was hesitant to apply to other accelerator programs after this experience,
and after other rejected applications, I took a break to focus on my business.
Did I really need accelerator program to scale and build my business?
Yes and no.
Yes, because being a foreign founder accelerator programs (good ones) in Asia provide
a visa and startup capital to get a founder started
No , because I already have a product, team, and brand.
Why give away about 10-20% in equity,
that would cost me more in the long-term
for a $100K or less investment?
But again, I'm an optimist and like to see my options
So, 1 year later, I applied to new accelerator program.
And in all honestly, when they contacted
me 2 weeks ago, I completely forgot that I applied.
I was optimistic.
A new opportunity!
When I read their website, read about the founder, and the application process
An accelerator program giving my startup a chance!
I won't names the program, but the accelerator is in Singapore,
and was created last summer.
It has everything I'm looking for in an accelerator.
They were looking for "real entrepreneurs that will go to the ends of the earth" to build their idea.
And the start of this program was perfect timing for me
as I plan to head back to SE Asia later this year.
It couldn't be more perfect!
But sometimes what's perfect, is not for me.
I made it to the 2 round of interviews,
Then I had to take an aptitude test.
I'm not a good test taker, and especially when it's timed.
So, I didn't make it to the 3 rd of interviews :(
My thoughts on aptitude test, as a previous teacher,
Tests don't measure the creativity or capability of a student/person
If you want a good "worker" or "employee" with a specialize skill
absolutely, but for entrepreneurs building a business
not a good measurement of skill.
I believe entrepreneurs should prove their prowess via
personal and business brand, product, team, and track record.
Their rules. So I didn't measure up :/
I do wonder, when accelerators look for entrepreneurs, in this case
real entrepreneurs, do they just want former corporate people,
ex-McKinsey's, Harvard and Stanford MBA's, academics, and nerds?
If so, if you look at some of the best entrepreneurs in the world,
Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and Richard Branson,
all real entrepreneurs, brilliant in their own right,
and a test (with exception of Elon Musk),
couldn't measure their entrepreneurial prowess.
What I learned
Well, this potential opportunity did prompt me
to create my Facebook group, Healthy Hair Asia
so I could connect more with my customers,
and create a community around my brand and product.
Which is what really matters,
so another lesson learned!
As always, thank you for reading!
And remember, life is full of lessons,
don't let setbacks or failures keep you from building your dreams!
Event: Digital Marketing Workshop for female founders in Wellington, NZ
Organizer: She Owns It
Date: Thursday, March 7, 2019
Rachel Lewis, Founder of She Owns It
Mia Garlick, Director of Policy/APAC Regional Coordinator at Facebook
Nicola Willis, Member of Parliament
Monique Doy, Founder of Dressing Room
Sara Quilter, Founder of Tailor Skinkcare
Hirira Rollestone, Founder of Mindset for Paddlers
Amanda Snedden, Founder of Little Ones
How I learned about the workshop
I've been in Wellington, New Zealand for about 6 weeks.
And this was the first event related to entrepreneurship that I've attended since I've arrived in New Zealand.
I'm not a tourist, I'm an explorer.
In a new country, I have a list of events, people to meet and interview, and I write about what I discover.
Traveling to New Zealand, my focused was writing my adventures over the last 4 years.
I had no plan to travel around the country, go to events, and just write.
And I noticed a pattern with my life around this time of the year,
I'm always in a new place.
2018 I was in South Korea for 1 month.
And my time there was a real adventure!
I attended the Startup Weekend Seoul Women, Startup Grind Seoul,
and plethora of other events and places, like Pangyo, Campus Seoul Goolge,
and interviewed local and foreign founders to learn their stories.
This adventures, for the first 2 weeks I could feel myself growing unhappy.
I felt my creative energy and 'hunger' was slowly depleting.
And I finally figured out why.
I'm human, a very sociable human.
And I simply cannot live an insulated life with one focus.
As beautiful and luxurious as it is to focus on writing, in an incredibly beautiful place,
if I'm not happy, and my creativity doesn't flow, I can't work productively.
I know what it's like to be unhappy in a work setting,
hence why I quit my teaching job, and went full-time with my startup in 2017.
I was so happy, and even when things started to fall apart,
and had to move home and live with my family,
I was still happy, "hungry", and determined to make my way back to Asia.
So, I made a change.
I signed up for 2 online business classes
to expand my knowledge and skills to manage my business.
I also bought more books, as I've learned writers have to be vigorous readers.
One book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki,
I was reminded by the importance of socializing
and being around like-minded and/or ambitious people.
So I went on eventbrite, looked for events to attend so I could surround myself around
entrepreneurs, and found the workshop!
What I learned
It was good to hear the stories of panelists, as many started their business solving a problem,
and the challenges and success they had over the years building their business on social media.
There stories reminded me of when I first started, Healthy Hair Asia.
I started styling hair and selling hair products with friends and my customers while teaching
English full-time when I first arrived in Bangkok, Thailand.
I posted an ad on craigslist and InterNations, and one of my customers recommended that I
create a Facebook page so it would be easier people can find my services and sell hair products.
It took awhile for me to learn the basics of building a Facebook shop.
And over time, I started investing more money into my business,
and even created 'how-to" videos to teach my customers how to properly use the hair products.
There stories were inspiring, and when the workshop started, we took out our phones,
and spent the next 2 hours learning the how to's use Facebook tools, Instagram Stories.
I learned about the difference between branding, marketing, and advertising, and the importance
of building a community for your customers.
So refreshed and empowered after attending the workshop.
It was nice to be back in a business focused and female business friendly environment
(men and women do business so differently!)
So, now that I know the basics of Instagram Stories Facebook ads,
and the importance of building a community for my business,
I'm going to apply and execute what I learned.
Balance is also important.
I've already manage my time with writing my book,
taking online courses and now I'll go out
more to socialize with other entrepreneurs.
And if you're wondering do I plan to travel more around New Zealand,
I do have a road trip coming up!
Thank you for reading and Happy International Women's Day!