I Support You, But My Money Doesn’t

Perhaps the most difficult roads that any young person, of average means, based in the Caribbean region can choose to travel are the roads of art and entrepreneurship. These are difficult roads to travel anywhere but they are particularly difficult in the Caribbean region. Our currencies are a hard match against the most prominent foreign currencies of the day, the equipment and resources necessary for certain artistic and entrepreneurial endeavors are often times beyond the ability of the average young Caribbean man or woman, a significant portion of our populations struggle, our people suffer from a culture that says that “Foreign is better” and quite frankly we live in a zone where most people are not taught to celebrate or support the success of others.

Between September and November of 2016, 6 young writers — I, included — from the Caribbean began work on something called The Letters Project. The launch of this project would be the genesis of a publishing company called Wakonté Publishing whose aim would be to share Caribbean stories with the world. In a compilation of letters to be released to the public as books, we would be tackling a range of issues — social, relational, economic, political and religious — in a bold and transparent manner, with a tinge of humor, an embrace of Caribbean parlance and a wealth of wisdom.

We wrote letters to our sisters, to our brothers, to honest folk, to Massah, to the broken, to the abused woman, to the abused man, to the confused, to the hurting, to “d jabal” and “d boatwin”, to the faithful and to the faithless. I think many of them are brilliant and I can’t wait for others to read them.

3 days ago, 3 young Caribbean authors and myself launched a crowdfunding campaign to get our publishing company off the ground. I hated the idea of crowdfunding to get this project off the ground. However, we had found ourselves in a position where we had placed a significant amount of our time and our own resources on the line. We had found ourselves in a position where we had missed our first release date because one investor — for whatever reason — dropped off the face of the earth even while assuring us that the investment was on its way.

After the disappointment with the first investor we continued our search for another and we found another investor who offered us double what the first investor had offered us for the same amount of equity. On the day on which the transfer was supposed to be made, he found out that someone dear to him had found themselves in a bind which his money could dissolve. Understandably, he could no longer help us out. The situation he relayed to me seemed so much graver than ours. I wasn’t even upset.

As the lead on the project, I was back to seeking another investor. There was failure at every corner, with each person advising that I go the route of crowdfunding. Like I said, I hated the idea of crowdfunding for this project. I hated the idea because I understand Caribbean thinking.

Caribbean people love being associated with affluence and wealth, and crowdfunding says, “I don’t have enough money to make this happen.” To Caribbean people, crowdfunding says, “I’m still poor.” It says, “I’m still out here trying to make it like you are,” and for some inexplicable reason, Caribbean culture is not sympathetic to these type of people.

Still, we had waited long enough. Hope had been deferred. Hearts were sick.

As an entrepreneur, I’m familiar with the disappointment of not having things work out as planned. And I’ve learnt to cope with it when the impact is largely mine to behold. However, there is a different disappointment that comes when failed plans impact dreams and goals that others entrust to you. I dreaded having to tell this man and these women, once again, that things weren’t going as planned; that their debuts into the world as Caribbean authors would have to be delayed and there was nothing that I could do about it.

Because I wanted to soften the blow of disappointment and because some of us had significant resources on the line, I suggested crowd-funding as a means of raising the remaining $2000USD that we were missing to launch as planned. I explained to them that I was not willing to raise money without giving something in return, particularly because I didn’t want us to seem like beggars and so we came up with the idea creating a Limited Edition Series (with additional letters and other surprise features) to give away as our rewards at particular donation points.

They were excited. We’ve got this! This should be easy! And I understood and carried a bit of their excitement particularly because so many people had encouraged us on the messages which announced that we were launching this project and this company. I remember one author having 428 likes under her Facebook announcement and another 300+ likes. People were excited about reading these books. So yes, based on the excitement that had been displayed at our announcements, this should have been easy. Deep down I knew that we would have quite a bit of pushing to do.

It’s 3 days in, and we’ve raised a little over 10% of our target goal of $3000USD. We’re very likely going to raise all of it by the month’s end. But I’d happily take my claim to wrongness if we manage to raise it in 5 days like my crew initially thought; or even ten days.

So why is it that a project which seemingly has hundreds of supporters has not yet raised at least 1/3 of a $3000USD goal?

In the Caribbean our mentorship, our support and our encouragement of the dreams, talents and ideas of others can be captured in one sentence, “I believe in you, but my money doesn’t.” We will encourage you with our words, we will share your posts and your writings, we will capitalize on your artistic talent as much as possible when it is free, we will even hail you up for your free work, and we will tell you that things will get better, but our time or our money will NEVER follow.

I’ve seen it happen over and over again. Young artist consistently releasing great music. We love it, We even ask, “Man when can we get this on iTunes?” It gets there and we never make the purchase. I’ve seen it happen over and over again. They tell you that they’re proud of you and your efforts. They tell you that you’ve done well, but they will never purchase your book or your clothing.

“I support you, but my money doesn’t.”

The Caribbean region has been owner to the cry of “not enough diversification” for a long time. The Caribbean region has for a long time said, “Tourism is not enough”. I think that there are young men and women who’ve heard these pleas and have sought to diversify our economies; sought to provide their unemployed and struggling peers with non-traditional means of employment. I also know that they’ve been unsuccessful primarily because there is no monetary support.

Lately, I’ve been spending lots of time reading Solomon’s writings. Something that he said in Ecclesiastes 10:19 stuck out:

A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes merry: but money answers all things.

Everything has its purpose. A feast for laughter, wine for merriment, your words of encouragement when we are mentally in the gutter. But sometimes what we need is your money and there is no substitute for that.

For the curious, you can read a few of our letters from The Letters Project here. And just in case you’re impressed enough to want to buy our books, you can pre-order the Limited Edition Series of Our books on our Gofundme page.

This was originally posted on my LinkedIn Profile 2 days ago. Since it was beautifully received, I thought I’d share it here also.