TED x Brussels
Mar 08, 2017
- Posted at Mar 08, 2017
- in Videos
TED x Brussels - How facing the limits helped me achieve the impossible
1. The Intro
Centuries ago, in the mountain village of Benin, a young woman named Yeba ascended the throne right after her father died on the battlefield. She was strong, brave and intelligent. Battle after battle, she led her people to victory. Queen Yeba was a charismatic woman respected by her warriors for her strength and loved by her people for her great sense of humanity.
During her reign, she forged alliances with sub-region tribes and managed to bring a long-lasting peace in the region like no king had done before, imposing her style and vision of life.
Queen Yeba had three sons, and before she died, she made each of them promise to give her name to their first daughter, so that they would never forget, that like her, they were born to accomplish their own Destiny. The tradition continues till today…
My father told me this story so many times when I was a child that it still resonates in my heart in a very special way. This story was a true blessing. I did not only receive a name I could always be proud of, but something more powerful, the power and the belief I could achieve anything I put my heart into.
I’ve always been a creative child. And as far as I can remember, Fashion has been my passion.
I was five when I opened a fashion magazine for the first time, and since then, my interest never stopped growing. When I was 14, I knew I would create my own fashion brand.
But slowly and gradually, I lost track of my dreams, or had to put it aside, all this magic I had inside.
Every adult around me would make it clear, life was not a playground and I had to take it really seriously.
So I focused on getting the best education possible.
I graduated from the best business school of Belgium,…
Then I started my career in financial auditing. I then moved to management consulting and ended up in Marketing Consulting, pursuing challenges one after the other. During more than 10 years, I learned a lot and gained great experience in Finance, Strategy, Operational Excellence, Marketing & Comm.
…But deep inside, I felt unsatisfied and incomplete.
2. The Shift
Then it happened that day. A day like every other day.
I had pushed my limits to the maximum, and I couldn’t do it anymore.
I was at the office, in this huge white and modern open space, very pregnant and staring at my laptop. I was sitting there, silent, in front of this huge Excel sheet I had to finish, and my mind was drowning slowly. There were consultants around me, discussing, phoning, working and rushing like their life depended on it.
I suddenly asked myself: What am I doing here? Is this going to be my life? I mean forever? A life with no Purpose… on a path so far away from the one I was supposed to be?
For the first time since childhood, I heard this little voice inside of me: “Have you forgotten our dream?”
It was not the first time this thought had crossed my mind. But this time, I was ready to open up to what had sparked in me.
I did not wait. I decided to quit everything.
It was scary at that time, but looking backwards, it was the best decision I have ever made.
People often ask me where I found the courage to make that decision? The answer is that I just followed my intuition and my heart.
3. The idea
So I wanted to create my own fashion brand. That was the dream.
All I needed was an idea, a simple idea to start with…and I had one. No, I was obsessed with one. I wanted to create the most elegant and chic business bag ever seen for women.
I was wondering why it was so difficult for a woman to find a luxury bag that would be elegant and chic, and functional at the same time to carry her laptops, documents and other personal belongings. Since I could not find it, I would design it myself.
And around that bag, I was even more excited to create a brand, with the strong values embedded in the name YEBA. At a time where women were growing, succeeding and achieving great things, they needed a brand that would inspire them and convince the world that they could achieve anything.
This new project gave me a Purpose that resonated with my own story and came with the focus and the determination that I needed [to start/jump].
But don’t think that launching my brand was easy. I had to face many limitations and challenges. These challenges thought me 3 lessons.
3.1. The First lesson is about ‘Fear’
Imagine. When I started, I knew nothing about design, leather, manufacture or craftsmanship. And I had never attended a fashion design school.
I had no experience, no contacts and no technical knowledge of the fashion business or industry.
Of course, I was scared to death to fail. I was about to invest all my savings into something I had no certainty would work. I did not know where to start, and worse, I was paralyzed and sweating just thinking about designing these bags that I wanted to be perfectly perfect.
I feared that the whole world would discover that I was a fraud.
And my own fear increased constantly when I made the announcement that I was going to launch my new brand, most people who cared about me were so worried that I may have totally lost my mind…
It was difficult, but I decided to let go of the fear, and to trust myself and my talent. I grabbed a pen, started drawing and slowly and gradually came up with my own creative style and signature: this Y embedded in the leather of each.
Overcoming my fear helped me realize something essential: Behind your fear lies your true potential.
3.2. The Second Lesson is about ‘Perseverance’
They say things never happen according to your initial plan. It’s sooooo true. (Joke)
Nothing worked according to my initial plan. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
There were more challenges and problems waiting for me that I could have ever thought of.
Let me give you few examples, just related to making the bags:
- I worked with 3 different designers and did not succeed to come up with any good mock-ups
- I worked with 6 different manufacturers, who all cheated me. The first one did the ugliest bag you’ve ever seen.
The second took a down payment of half of the money I was intended to pay him and never delivered (he went bankrupt with my money).
The third one was an old man (who looked crazy but was really talented). He started working on my bags and then got bored. “I can’t finish, I am sick of it”, he told me.
The fourth one disappeared in Morocco and took 6 months to finally contact me and to inform me that he had not started working on my project.
Then I decided to fly to Italy, the land of ‘Made In Quality’. I managed to find a manufacturer who went on to make my first prototypes.
But the day I organized a first private presentation with my future customers [they/these so-called best manufacturers] called me (one hour before the show) to say they would not produce my collection (they had found a better or bigger fish). Basically, it was a total disaster.
I could have stopped a thousand times that first year, but I refused to quit. I kept going, defeating life and telling myself, that I would always find ways – creative ways - to prove that I deserved it. I would continue even with tears on my cheeks, I would work day and night and would continue to push my limits.
It was so difficult, but I kept going.
I now realize that all these obstacles and failures that I experienced were not only challenging, they were necessary. We need first to be limited in order to become limitless, and deeply challenged in order to realize we can truly achieve anything.
3.3. Sharing my vision with others to achieve the impossible and remove all limits.
With all these failures I came to the point I asked myself: what if I was so focused on getting results that I had even forgotten about the whole Purpose of my project, the reason why I started this journey? What if I was living the dream “just for me” and failed to communicate
I then changed my mindset. I realized that sharing my Vision and Passion led people to contribute and make things happen.
I finally found a manufacturer who decided to work seriously on my bags and made the most beautiful samples. I was very lucky to have great professionals who understood my vision, believed in me and worked hard to give my brand a new face. We send the brand presentation to the Director of the international fair. To my biggest surprise, she contacted me to say: “We want to have you on our fair and help you achieve your dream”.?
What if the ultimate limitation was to think that we should keep our dreams to ourselves?
I learned that “When people understand and feel connected to your vision and believe in your purpose,, they will join you in achieving the impossible”.
To conclude, I’d like to say that this journey was not only about designing bags, it was also about designing my life and finding myself along the way.
I am deeply convinced that we have all have that one thing, may it be an interest, a talent, a passion or a dream. It’s our job to find out what it is that we should be doing in life and “do it”.
I am just at the beginning, and they are still a lot challenges and struggles. However, I am confident as I feel, more than ever, the spirit of YEBA in me saying….