As long as I can remember, I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Today, after many years of living that dream, I proudly attribute my love for perfection to my mother. We were five siblings, hailing from a middle class family (my father was a sports journalist and my mother, a homemaker). Supporting a large family on a limited income meant that we all had to make sacrifices at various stages in our life. For example, my school books were hand-me-downs, uniforms were stitched at home and an outing to a next door eatery was the only occasional luxury. Since we rarely went out to a restaurant, my mother made the fancy dishes right at home. She would also make cakes and ice-creams, which I used to go out and sell. With such entrepreneurial initiatives, she taught me the importance of hard work and the need to make the best of every situation.
When in school
Growing up, I wasn’t the most confident child. In school, to get noticed in a class of 60 students, you have to be either extremely good at academics or be among the naughty ones. I was neither, which meant that I spent most of my school years being invisible. Also, being a short child didn’t help my self-esteem. Because of the 5’5 height, I had no choice but to sit on the first bench with the studious bunch. These kids would talk about their dreams of IIT while I would barely scrape through and score 30th odd rank. I got bullied a lot too. With all this put together, I suffered from an acute sense of insecurity and low self-worth.
Fighting against the odds
What steered me was the constant belief I had in myself. I always knew I had some talent. I may not have been the best student in school, but I soon realised what really mattered in life was steely determination. After graduating from Loyola College with a B.Com degree, I began working as a sales trainee. I stayed in that job for two years before I got a chance to start my own business. Eventually, I started Derby (fashion brand) in 1994 as a tailoring shop, in a 200 square meter area. When I started the venture, my family’s first reaction was ‘are you crazy?’ No one in my family had ever done something like this before. Their argument was, if you’re earning well in your job, it didn’t make sense to quit. It took me a long time to convince them. But, I am grateful to my dad, who, even in that moment of doubt, gave me the initial capital to start my business by dissolving his fixed deposit. Of course, being a first generation entrepreneur with no experience or a support system, I've learnt everything through trial and error. And twenty years of experience, bundled up in lessons, is what I have to offer to young minds today.
Indeed, when I look at youngsters and budding entrepreneurs today, I see a very similar frame of mind that I had when I was their age – the fear of failure and a dire lack of self-confidence. As parents, that is where we come in; teach your child to treat life as an adventure. Teach her that fear is a part of life. In fact my policy is this - ‘when you avoid fear, it grows and when you face fear, it goes.’ The first 19 years of my life might have been full of failures. But, just as how when you press a spring and release it, it bounces back, I decided to let go of my past and bounce back. Eventually, everything fell into place.
My success mantras for your teen…
Mantra #1 - Self-confidence
All along the challenging journey, I learnt life lessons, such as loving oneself and the biggest, of course, self-belief. Remember to boost your teen’s self-confidence. Teach him that it doesn't matter how he looks outside. What matters is his beautiful inner-self.
Mantra #2 - Self-motivation
I believe that externally-motivated people are created by circumstances, but self-motivated people create their own circumstances. ‘There is nothing as useless as doing something efficiently, which should not have been done in the first place,’ said Peter Drucker, management consultant, educator and author. And rightly so. Self-motivated effort without a sense of direction is a waste of time, effort and energy. Hence, steer your teen in the right direction. Sixteen is the right age to have a sense of purpose and direction in life. Teach her that time and effort cannot be managed in isolation, they are inter-related. Encourage her to put her self-motivated efforts only in areas where she wishes to progress in life.
Mantra #3 - Consistency
Anyone can churn out an occasional act of greatness. But, great individuals are those who consistently perform acts of greatness. You will not be remembered for what you do once in a while, but for what you do all the time. Thus CDSE (Consistent Directed Self-motivated Effort) will help you on your road to success. Also, children should be taught the importance of effort and hard work. Remember, success doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot to get up there. Successful people have to put in that extra effort.
To Dear sixteen-year-olds,
My advice is, identify your passion. Pick the right stream and college. Work as an employee for a few years in your chosen field and then branch out on your own. Though this might sound like an early lesson, it is a worthy one too. Save 30% of your earning or pocket money, so when you have the complete knowledge and business blueprint ready, you can jump into it right away. And, remember to always have faith in yourself. Apply CDSE, manage time, build a team, invest time in your health, make time for your parents and continue to work on self-mastery, no matter what you choose to do. Good Luck!
To Dear parents of sixteen-year-olds,
Parents, realise that your teen is now old enough to decide what she likes or dislikes. Keep your mind open to her choices. It might not always match your idea, but remember, by now, she is her own individual, and has a mind of her own. I am a father of a teenager in the same age-bracket, and from my experience I can tell you this - you have to respect her individuality, because your child is much more capable, informed and intelligent than you give her credit for. Do not push your agenda on her. Have faith. And enough cannot be said of this, that every child is different in terms of talent, learning capacity, growth and interests. Accept that. Also, remember that parenting is not just about providing luxury and provision, but about being your child’s believer and stronghold. Happy parenting!
Vijay Kapoor is a young entrepreneur and founder of Derby Jeans, India.