I was very fortunate to strike gold with my first business idea Red Letter Days which I started from scratch at the age of 24 back in 1989 and nurtured on a shoestring budget. The concept was to create a company which offered gifts as experiences for the ‘Man who has Everything’. Little did I know that I was capturing the spirit of the ’90s and sparking an entire business sector. By the end of that decade, the retailer Boots had done research which showed that ‘experiences’ were the most important trend in gifting.
Here’s a talk I did at the British Library a year or so ago about how I created Red Letter Days – surviving the dark desolate early stage of setting up a business, and the subsequent rollercoaster ride journey through great success before seeing the company go into administration 16 years after I founded it. I think it perfectly captures the emotional turmoil involved in losing a business:
I came across this really great interview I did with Smarta in late 2008 which not only tells you everything you need to know about Red Letter Days’ demise, it conveys the post-trauma wisdom that only time can give you:
People often ask me if I have any regrets about losing Red Letter Days or what I could have done differently to save it.
Looking back I now realise that I needed to let go of Red Letter Days to give me the time and space to develop my life in different ways. I had lost passion for the business back in 2002 – and when you lose your passion, it really is time to get out. And if you cling on to things that aren’t working in your life, the Universe has a great way of taking them away from you!
So many great gifts came out of the Red Letter Days era, including my Dragons’ Den fame, the opportunity to become a published author and to speak to audiences worldwide about my business journey, that I consider myself blessed to have created a business which captured the imagination of so many people.
I also experienced the anger which surrounds a business meltdown. But I honestly believe I exhausted every avenue I could in trying to save the company. The UK insolvency laws are so incredibly stacked in favour of pushing companies through an administration that when you get into difficulties it’s extremely difficult to survive them.
Banks also have a huge part to play in the demise of businesses. Many people don’t realise that Red Letter Days had £3.3million cash at bank when it was pushed into administration by Barclays. Had they allowed us use of that money there is no doubt in my mind that the company would have survived.
Since 2005 I have used my experience of going through a business meltdown to help many other entrepreneurs on their own business journey. As it turned out, thanks to the meltdown in the banking system (karma?) and the subsequent recession, many were about to face the same trials I had done a few years earlier. For 6 years I worked almost exclusively in the Enterprise Sector, inspiring, motivating and empowering others on their business journey. Through my mentoring I have also helped save businesses which were labelled as doomed by their professional advisors.
During this time I became increasingly interested in energy work and metaphysics, and through a series of synchronistic events I am now Business Manager to the UK’s leading metaphysical teacher and author Barefoot Doctor. As well as managing the edit and publication of his 15th book ‘The Message’ which was released in February 2012, together we are masterminding a mass sound healing event called ‘The Big Om’ in London on 12.12.12 (which also happens to be my 48th birthday) – the perfect culmination of all my years in the ‘Experience’ sector.
My life these days is incredibly fulfilling as it is focussed on helping transform the lives of others, rather than just helping myself.
I may not be making the same amount of money I was in the hey day of my Red Letter Days years – but in so many ways my life now is far richer.