In July 2014, I started a popcorn business. Contrary to popular belief (and the lies I tell myself), I am not a big fan of doing nothing over long periods of time. I was going to get a job as a secretary or office clerk; anything to keep me busy over the next year. My mother, however, wasn’t too keen about that. She is awfully protective of me (usually to a fault).
My mother has/had a dream. It is such a wide and all-inclusive multi-generational dream that sometimes I wonder if it’s possible for people to be so bold with their aspirations. But I know better. We are each wired differently so…
Anyway, that was the year my mother decided to begin actively working toward her dream. We got two plots of land and decided to build a restaurant of sorts. While all this was being done, we got me a popcorn machine. There was a man who built two-in one machines so we could make salt and sugar simultaneously. He said it was possible to pay an amount up front and then work to pay the rest off. We took the deal.
They day we bought it, I learned how to operate the machine and successfully made my first batch of popcorn. I was excited. The dream was becoming a reality.
Every morning, around nine am, I would go to the site with any of my siblings so they help me carry the machine. I’d clean it, and make the first batch of the day. It was hard selling popcorn on a dusty road where most of the passers-by were not interested in spending money on a snack like popcorn. I was losing money. It didn’t even help that some days I stayed there till ten pm. Nothing was working.
One morning, after about two weeks of being stressed about my losses a lady who was taking her child to school came to buy some and told me that I was late. Late? Nine am was too early for me in the first place. I was/am more of a night person. But I listened anyway. She told me that most people start taking their children to school around seven am. By the time I arrived at nine, everyone was gone. The children were the ones who would be interested in what I was selling. She was right. I had been doing this all wrong and without any proper planning or target market.
The next day, I got there at six am. It was too early for my siblings so I went alone. For someone who hated asking for help or even talking to strangers, I found myself asking a passer-by for assistance. They gladly obliged. Thirty minutes later, I was simultaneously bagging and selling my first batch of popcorn for the day. That was the first time since I’d started selling that I made two batches of popcorn in one day; one in the morning and the other just before schools closed.
It was a tiring job, you know. Sitting near the dusty road, running every time someone showed up. And some days, it was so hard to keep my eyes open, but I stayed awake. Before long, I had regular customers. Things were really looking up for me.
Within a month, I had mastered my craft. I knew where to get all the things I needed from wholesale outlets in the market. I learnt tastier ways of making popcorn by observing other popcorn sellers whenever I saw them. A little butter or margarine truly goes a long way.
Throughout my life, various people have said, jokingly (or seriously), that I am lazy. For a very long time, I believed them. But sometimes, when I look at all the work I have done in my life, I remind myself of the need to always take the things people tell me with a pinch of salt.
It is true, words shape us. It is also true that when a bunch of people say something about you, there is a high chance that they might be right. However, if I had listened to all the ones who said I didn’t have it in me, I might have never given myself the chance to start a business of any sort.
Today, my popcorn business is quite irrelevant. Sometimes, we remember to make it, other times, we don’t. I guess it got lost somewhere along the way when we grew and I became a bartender and waitress (and manager); serving drinks and waiting tables. But that is a story for another day.
I feel like this should end with some kind of Moral of the story. Like, “Don’t give up on your dreams” or “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going”. It’s true, but I think we all know that. Truth is, we just need a reminder sometimes when things get hard.
I guess in effect this is one of those. A reminder, to trust the process. And even if it doesn’t work out, may we find comfort in the fact that whatever we went through taught us a lot of lessons we might otherwise have never leaned. May we find the grace to let go if ever the time comes. May we find peace in knowing that we gave it our very best, which in effect, is all we can do in any given circumstance. No cap.
Dr Nyameba 💜