Blog #10 Death, cancer and business…

I’ve thought long and hard about whether writing this blog would be valuable to anyone but myself and whilst I still have a few doubts what I have learnt in the last two years has been that in order for us humans to engage and grow authentically we need to bare our souls, share our experiences and look for the commonality in the communities around us.

That said I’m not one to share every meal I eat or every time my dog looks cute, no judgement, my love for social media and its ridiculous brainwashing vortex is waning! But every now and then even a blind squirrel finds an acorn and I’m moved or influenced in a positive direction to do better or keep trying.

So, I hope this piece helps at least one person to believe in their journey, to not lose hope when it seems that is all there is left to do, to carry on loving life in each moment good or bad, to show compassion and understanding both for yourself and those you know and do not know and mostly to be curious and open rather than judgmental and fatalistic about the world we live in.

This time two years ago, two of the most influential years of my life began. I decided to go back to being an entrepreneur, I had once owned my own business, but it hadn’t gone the way I wanted – a great learning curve, steep but necessary. Three days after I resigned my mum was admitted to hospital, she had a double cancer, two primary instances of different cancers – super rare and completely misunderstood by her medical team. The plans to start my business were replaced with 12-hour days at the hospital for the next 12 weeks, a month after that she died in my arms at 10.07 am at the tender age of 57 with three children still under the age of 18. A week later we had to put our beloved French Bulldog, Harvey down. Four weeks after that my grandfather passed away and I got malaria from my mum’s memorial in Zambia, and I was hospitalized for a week. Two weeks after that we went into level 5 lockdown in South Africa because of COVID-19 and all hopes of my events business starting were dashed. And so, the rollercoaster of self-doubt began – I had resigned 8 months earlier to start my business and it hadn’t even gotten off the ground – my savings were running out and now COVID meant we couldn’t earn anything. Four months later, deep into the uncertainty of the COVID lockdown cycle, we all know so well and nine months after my mum passed away, I too was diagnosed with cancer.

Ok enough of the war stories but suffice to say that it had been a sh*t 12 months, life had been saving up a whole lot of curveballs and then threw them all at once with very little time in-between. Why am I telling you all this, well this is where the doubt came in about whether or not it would be valuable to you as the reader… but I think it’s always necessary to give context, sharing experiences helps with connection, it opens people’s eyes to what is out there, sometimes it comforts people to know that they are in a similar boat – whatever your specific reason is, my intention for telling you my story was to highlight the good that has come of everything I have gone through, an acorn that hopefully encourages you to keep going, dig deeper, not give up. I’m certainly not out of the woods but I now know and understand that each day is worth my undivided attention.

The following 12 months bringing me to today have been nothing short of chaotic, up and down, in and out. They tested my faith, my relationships, my work ethic, my self-belief but they also opened my eyes. I went on to have intensive IVF treatment following my diagnosis and was blessed beyond measure to extract the eggs I needed. I then underwent the first surgery of its kind in South Africa, with 4 surgeons, 6 hours of surgery and 10 days of ICU care I came out of the hospital a changed human in more ways than I understood at the time.

What I did in-between was eventually start my business on the 1st of July 2020, it wasn’t pretty, and it didn’t have the clarity it needed to be valuable to my target market. Like so many businesses I needed to pivot, in-person experiences weren’t going to cut it and my passion was in making a sustainable impact through connection and relationships. So back to the drawing board I went, there were a few things that were needed – expertise outside of my own, a clearly articulated value proposition geared towards a new economic reality, reaching out of my comfort zone, facing deep-seated fears and relinquishing control. As an A-type, this list is rather daunting and whilst I have addressed a few things it’s an ongoing exercise of looking in the mirror and conversing with my ego… there are good days and bad.

However, I am immensely proud that next week just over one year on from the start of the business, we are re-launching the rebel element – yes that’s a royal ‘we’. I found the expertise I needed in a dear friend and chance meeting five years ago at my wedding venue, Gill Bowmaker joined the business towards the end of last year and has become my partner and COO. I’ve faced my ego daily; I’m becoming more aware of the role it plays in my actions and sometimes it’s disappointing other times, pleasantly surprising.

What I’ve learnt? Well the list is too long, and this ‘short’ blog is already longer than I wanted it to be, but in 5 words:

    • Help – ask for it, it’s not weak it demonstrates courage
    • No – use the word with a ’thank-you’, being a people pleaser drains your energy
    • Focus – cut back, a jack of all trades and master of none is not valuable to anyone least of all yourself
    • Ego – get to know yours, it’s either your Achilles heel or greatest asset
    • Listen – the most valuable information is often found in the seemingly unimportant conversations

Gratefully our first year was profitable with all thanks going to our incredible support base, over the year we have spent hours listening to our clients, community, suppliers and colleagues. What was once a one-dimensional business has been adapted based on the prized insight from these stakeholders, to form a three-dimensional business offering.

Our immersive experiences will still be offered through rebel connect designed to facilitate engagement, collaboration, and innovation on three different platforms from open access to an exclusive invitation. These launch before the end of the year!

Rebel consult sees our team delivering a bespoke engagement strategy for you and your stakeholders directly taking your team across the finish line supported by in-depth analysis, feedback, and reporting.

Our newest offering rebel-in-a-box born as a direct result of feedback from our consulting clients gives you the frameworks, support, and resources to build an engagement strategy on your own using the same tools and structure that our consulting team use.

And finally, the rebel club encapsulates our passion for realizing the strength and value in the community, become a member, a contributor or an advisor of a professional community connected by design to innovate, ideate, create, and disrupt.

As we celebrate another women’s month, I realise this month will always act as a strong reminder of the real-world opportunity that a crisis can afford if only, you’ll open your heart to it. I’m incredibly excited to present our new brand and over the next few weeks to be sharing our new offerings but most importantly to invite you to be part of our community, join the rebel club and let’s make a significant difference in the business world by engaging authentically and with purpose as humans.

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