Copper candles, t shirts & chai.
I work part-time at an entrepreneurship centre. For the past 4 weekends, I have been working with students to deliver one of our summer programmes. UCREATE, the design, make and sell challenge. Over the 4 weekends, they do what it says on the tin. They design, make and sell a product to then sell at a London market.
We had undergraduate students from various backgrounds participate from fine art and architecture to chemistry and pharmacy. The programme was delivered by myself and a colleague and I found myself learning on the way too.
I would say I can sometimes be harsh, I lack patience with people (including myself) and I sometimes just feel like saying ‘just do it, no excuses.’ One thing I learnt on this programme from watching the interactions of my colleague is you HAVE TO BE NICE TO PEOPLE. I know, it isn’t a massively enlightening piece of information BUT if implemented it can have massive repercussions.
There have been times where my colleague would be overly nice to someone that, to me, is being rather annoying or rude. I have said to him on more than one occasion, ‘you’re so patient! You are so nice!’ and he would answer, it is what works. And I realised he was so right.
No one wants to work with an ass. To build a relationship you need to be kind, you need to be patient and you need to help to nurture people. Children and plants flourish in positive and enriching environments, we aren’t that far removed. Be nice, nurture the good and help people work on the bad. Positivity unlocks potential:
We did an interesting exercise with the students. We told them to tell another person their business idea, the person who was listening was only allowed to ask neutral questions like ‘okay tell me more’ rather than ‘who would buy it’ and the listener also has to be over the top positive about it and encouraging, “wow that sounds amazing.” “Sounds like a great product.”
The positive environment in which the person could express their idea allowed them to express things that they hadn’t even previously thought about with regards to their idea.
Then also did it the other way, “that idea is rubbish” “why else do you think it wouldn’t work?” And the individual quickly disregarded the idea and came to the conclusion that they could probably think of something better.
It can be frustrating working with people sometimes but you HAVE to be patient. Only good can come out of it, yeah they may not execute how you wanted but you have probably impacted them in a positive way that you didn’t know. The power of positive reinforcement shouldn’t be underestimated. You might just be the only person that stuck with them long enough, that was patient with them and didn’t just tell them ‘just do it, get on with it.’ You might be the first person that helps them achieve something, all because you set up a nurturing environment for them to flourish in.
Being nice does test your character, but do it long enough and hopefully eventually it will become your character, your default mode.
So for me, I am going to be nicer.
START WITH WHERE YOU ARE
I saw students go from having no idea to carrying out market research to prototyping to branding to then selling on a market. Some of whom will go on to pursue the idea such as Handmade Skincare Co, The Shalimar Chaipot and Copper Candles. In what seemed like overnight they had started a business.
The UCREATE programme was great, if I may say so myself.
But, we didn’t give them any breakthrough knowledge, skills or support. We just facilitated an environment where you just need to do. You just need to get out there talk to customers, figure out how to make your product and eventually get enough together to be able to sell. It is easy to say ‘but I don’t have the contacts, capital, knowledge, support’ the list goes on. But really there isn’t ever an absolute perfect time to start. Start with what you have and where you are now.
So reflections from UCREATE. Be nice + Do.