A bright red blazer, with a deep blue shirt and a white tie underneath. He was different, he stands out from others. I was at a networking event, A Breakfast for Directors by High Profile Club, founded and organized by him, the person wearing the bright red blazer, A Rafael Dos Santos.
He is the CEO of High Profile Media Club, he is one of the most positive and most confident, yet the most selfless person I have ever met.
But as extrovert, as one may seem, there is always a Yin Yang, dark and light. Rafael has been through some dark times.
“I never thought I would suffer from depression, I am very happy, positive and energetic, I have a lot of friends and outgoing. I thought I would be the last person in the world to be depressed.” He said.
At the end of 2000, Rafael moved to England from Brazil alone, he was 20. It was a big decision for a young adult to make.
I asked him “How did you come to this decision at such a young age?”
“You look for change for two reasons, you either want to avoid pain or you want to seek pleasure. In my case, I wanted to avoid pain.” He said.
As a gay man, it was difficult for him to enjoy life around close-minded people. His classmates bullied him, beat him up and threw stones at him.
“It was very hard, it was very difficult as a child, bully started when I was probably 10 to 18. It was really difficult.”
“I was beaten up a lot because I was very feminine.” He said.
The place he calls home pushes him away because of who he is, people did not embrace him. That was when he determined to move away from Brazil.
“I want to leave the country that didn’t accept what I was. And I thought I could be somewhere that accept what I was. It’s one of the reasons why I came to the UK” He said.
When he arrived in the UK, he had no one but his sister and his best friend. He did not know a bit of English and he had to start from scratch like a newborn baby. He was Microsoft Support Analyst in Brazil, and a split second later he was a kitchen porter.
“It was difficult, I worked for Microsoft in Brazil, and then I came here, then I was cleaning toilets. My English was so bad that I couldn’t work behind the bar. I had to collect empty glasses.” He said.
He was washing dishes for 12 hours a day behind a sink, collecting glasses that often cut his hands and cleaning toilets — even on his 21st birthday.
“It was my 21st birthday in January, working for free, it was very difficult to leave that restaurant.
He put down the last plate in the basket, turned off the tap, wiped the counter clean and slovenly dabbed his hands on his stained white uniform. It was -5 degree Celsius outside, He threw on his coat, and walked out of the restaurant into the cold.
London was eerily quiet at 12:30 am. His damped hands were aching in the freezing wind but he did not feel them over the numbing emotions. He dragged his body to a tree while sobbing uncontrollably, and sat down on the cold and wet grass. He cried for two hours, on his 21st birthday.
However, that did not stop him. He continues to work, meet new friends and learn English.
“Yes, it was awful, it was terrible, but it was either I could have just go back to Brazil or thought I’d never gone through that again.”
“Everything happened for a reason, and I learned from everything that had happened.”
“This is what you make of life. I could be crying under the tree again for another year, feeling lonely but instead of that, I made friends. My 22nd birthday was a big celebration with hundreds of people.” He said.
It was admirable that these experiences did not break him. He was only 21. Of all the times he had suffered, he had kept his smile on.
“I had to make a decision either I do those jobs or I had to go back to Brazil. For me, I didn’t want to fail. I want to learn English, I want to stay. I need to find a way to success.” He said.
There is a Chinese saying “The Bitter must come before the sweet and that also make the sweet the sweeter.” Rafael’s life got sweeter after the first 2 years in London.
He became an entrepreneur to help the migrants. As a migrant himself, he understands the pain and frustration every migrant would go through. He set up a business to help accommodate the migrants when he was 23 years old. Rafael met his other half and got married.
Life was turning around for him, life was good.
His business had a turnover of £1.2m, he was at the peak of his life, those 10 years were the ‘yang’ of his life.
Rafael started a new business in 2015, The Room in the Moon, to help migrants find a place to stay through social media. It was going seamlessly until 2016. He invested in a technology business but it failed.
He lost £70,000.
“It wasn’t so much that I lost the money, it was much more about the feeling of failing.
“It was very difficult for me to accept that I have had a successful business for 10–12 years, suddenly that went down the drain.
“The most difficult bit was the acceptance, that’s when the depression comes in,” he said.
Rafael used to go to the gym with his husband before work, but then he started lying to him. He made up excuses to his husband on the way to the gym to go back home, avoiding going to work.
He would spend every day in bed crying, avoid talking to people and avoid reality. He knew he could not run away forever. The pressure of having to face the failure eventually and the guilt of leaving his employees miserable slowly piled up on him.
“Depression is kind of a black hole in your brain and you see yourself in the black hole and you couldn’t get out,” he said.
There was a blog online about how to overcome depression. It said ‘try a new diet, it’s not gonna work but try. Try to walk in the park, even if it doesn’t work, but try.’
Rafael unwillingly dragged himself out to the park for 10 minutes and went back home.
“What she said is even if it doesn’t work, at least you are trying and this is the positive side of things. I thought it was amazing,” He said.
After a few weeks of trying and failing, he got out of the bed more, and he started to seek help. He slowly opened up. He visited a therapist, talked to a counselor on Better help and talked to his husband.
By taking little steps and strong medication for the next three months, he eventually got out from the black hole.
“Never take anything for granted.
I never thought I would suffer from depression, I am very happy, positive and energetic, I have a lot of friends and outgoing. I thought I would be the last person in the world to be depressed. Its one thing I don’t take for granted, anything could happen to anyone.” He said.
A year later, he has a new business, High Profile Club, for entrepreneurs to come together and pitch and promote their business.
“Now I’m back to being myself, positive person, lots of energy. I am able to build something again. For the past year, I have built High Profile Club, and for the past 3 months it’s really taking off.” He said.
Rafael has inspired a lot of people, his business is open not only to the entrepreneur but also to a student journalist like me to watch and learn.
Michelle Raymond, the founder of The People’s Partner met Rafael last February. Her most unforgettable thing is Rafael got her an interview with Tedx Talk.
“People have a need to feel significant, he does a very good job for internal needs for people, he knows me one or two weeks, and I know I’m on his mind.
He is such a great joy to be around. An advocate of people. He is Selfless. I love his fearlessness about him.”
Dan Sainsbury is a transformational psychologist; he met Rafael three months ago.
“My first impression is he is extremely caring. The best thing he is good at pushing me to an area I’m uncomfortable.” He said.
Rafael came to England without speaking a bit of English, but his positivity and perseverance are what make him so successful. He is The Sunday Times ‘Top 100 Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs in the UK.’
Yin Yang represents the ‘dark’ and ‘light’ in life. They come together as a whole. The ups and downs in life make it complete, without one another, it is not life.