Believe and you will achieve. It is all about your mindset. Be fearless; see each challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow, embrace self-discovery and strive to be extraordinary.
As an entrepreneur and business owner since the age of 22, I have certainly had a very exciting and enlightening journey so far. I often get asked the question, “what does it take to be an entrepreneur?” People tend to think that you need a certain set of skills or qualifications, a large amount of funding, or a world-class idea. Unfortunately, one or a combination of these aspects is just not enough. Besides the hard work and persistence required for any successful entrepreneur, the one thing that I believe enabled me to run a profitable product-based business, is having a growth mindset; a yearning to learn and grow, every step along the way.
My entrepreneurial journey started with a choice I had to make at the end of 2011. I had not been accepted into the postgrad entrepreneurship course at the University of Cape Town and I refused to accept a blanket “no”, for an answer. After eventually contacting the Dean of the faculty to ask for an explanation, I ended up getting accepted into the course at the last minute and had to make the decision to turn down a job offer, that I had already committed to. I was told that the reason for my reviewed application was due to my curiosity and persistence, which were considered as “entrepreneurial traits”. At this point, I knew very little about what it meant to be “an entrepreneur” and in my mind, I considered my actions to be “normal”. Who wouldn’t try everything possible, to achieve something that they really wanted, especially when there was nothing to lose? Yet, I have come to learn that very few people ever ask, instead they just accept what is. Never settle; always aim to challenge the status quo! Simply asking changed everything for me, as I probably would have taken the job offer and ended up helping someone else achieve his or her dreams, never knowing what I was missing out on.
I sat in the orientation week for the course and listened to the convener suggest that an entrepreneur is someone who is innovative, a change-maker, a visionary. I honestly felt as though I was in the wrong class. A team from the previous year came to share their journey with us and they had managed to go international with their business, in less than 6 months. I was extremely inspired by their success and thought to myself, “well if they can do it, then so can I”.
Fast-forward to the end of 2012 and our team has managed to develop a unique product, which I believe has huge potential to continue running, as an actual business. Knowing very little about wristwatch making, buying out partners, the import and export market and running a business in general, I decided to take on the challenge of turning our university project into something much bigger. I saw it as a huge opportunity to learn and grow and my focus was on the challenge, not the profit. I believe that this gave me the confidence to take more risks and appreciate the process.
I ended up buying out my partners within the first 3 months, exporting within 6 months, turning our first million in year 1, visiting our manufacturer in China and changing factories in year 2 and then finding myself at a conference in France, networking with 2000 influential businesswomen from around the world, which opened up my eyes and many doors, for my business and myself. If you had asked me if I thought that I was capable of doing any of these things in the first week of orientation, I probably would have said no; however, with every milestone that I reach, I realise that I can learn as I go and that the opportunities are endless. With a growth mindset, I honestly believe that there is nothing that one cannot achieve. It takes being fearless and trusting the process, as there is always something to learn or someone to learn from.
Amy de Castro at a conference in France. Photographer: Etienne Jeanneret.
Success Lessons I Have Learned In My Journey
Define what “success” means to you – if you don’t know what you are striving for, it is impossible to achieve it.
See each challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow – these are the experiences that build your character, make you wiser and make you stronger.
Ask for help – Together, you can always achieve more. Focus on your strengths to allow for growth and expansion, both personally and professionally.
Embrace self-discovery – figure out what truly excites you! Passion is what will get you through the many trials and tribulations.
Strive to be extraordinary – Don’t underestimate yourself and overestimate the competition. You are better than you think.
Amy de Castro is the co-founder and currently the sole owner of Bamboo Revolution (Pty) Ltd, producing unique bamboo and leather wristwatches. After completing her postgraduate diploma in entrepreneurship at the University of Cape Town in 2012, Amy went on to pursue the business that was started with five of her classmates. In February 2013, Amy bought her original partners out and registered the business in her name. Since taking over the business, Amy and her team have grown the business internationally, with distribution set up in seven different countries. Amy has great plans to continue building an international brand and to grow Bamboo Revolution‘s product offering in the future.