From troubled youth to the man behind the scenes.
Content warning: This post talks about depression, drug and alcohol abuse and self-harm.
I have known Sam since I was around 14/15 years old when I became friends with her son at school and I can assure you, at that age, I had no interest in nail art or working for Sam. Like most 15-year-old boys I wanted to play video games, steal alcohol from parents cupboards (This was tough as neither Sam & Jon nor my mother drink) and generally cause havoc and a mess.
I remember sitting on the floor of Sam’s front room packaging pigment orders to send out and hearing Sam talk about ‘The Sugar Styler’. I never imagined that 10 years later I would be working with Sam in the nail industry, a lot happened in the ten years between being that boy who’s friends mum ‘Did something to do with nails’ to becoming the man behind the scenes of Be Inspired Online.
I left school and decided to study Business Management & Marketing at university, it wasn’t my first choice, I wanted to study journalism but thought that a degree in business would give me a better chance at finding a job in the future. Luckily I discovered I loved business, there’s an excitement in keeping alive a company. A certainty in adding up numbers and looking at growth plans. I enjoyed it so much that in my last year of university I decided that I was going to start my own business!
So in 2016, I began to try to build a business, I had an idea, a business plan and even successfully pitched for start-up funding. What followed was nearly two years of trying to launch a business while finding a place to settle down, maintaining a full-time job and overcoming all the tribulations that come from being in a long term relationship with someone on a different path than you. Needless to say this didn’t work out and I ended up single, jobless, several kilos heavier and at my lowest point emotionally. I had no confidence in myself, no idea of what the future would look like and I was too proud to return home to my mother and let her know I had failed, partly because I knew she expected that to happen all along.
This kickstarted my 2018, a period of sofa surfing and bad decision making. I maxed out my credit card, went deep into my overdraft and spent all the money I had on ‘having a good time’ which really translated to trying to get as much of these three things as possible: Drugs, Sex & Alcohol’ two of which were easy to come by, the other I never had much luck, to be honest. I look back on this time with an odd feeling, there were genuinely great moments, there were friends I made for life, but all of it is tainted by the knowledge that I was deeply unhappy. This lifestyle was obviously unsustainable, and when the person whose floor I was sleeping on said it was finally time for me to move on, I realised I would have to go back home to my mother and tell her what happened. So August 2018 I returned home with just a holdall full of clothes, I had no possessions, they were scattered across friends, strangers and my ex-partner’s house. I had no job, no savings, no idea what I was going to do with myself and STILL no luck with the ladies. What I did have though was lots of debt, a few friends who were still living in the area, letters from HMRC asking for tax payments and my mother breathing down my neck every day trying to get me to do something with myself that didn’t involve eating all the food in the house, making a mess and arguing about household chores.
By October I had had enough and one night while watching Grand Designs NZ I swallowed a load of painkillers in the hope of falling asleep and finding some peace. This did not go as planned, I am not a fan of pain. Ask my partner, you try to pluck my brows or do anything that might hurt and I can’t handle it. I’m very sensitive to pain, and so when my stomach started to hurt I panicked and called an ambulance. I spent 3 days in the hospital, during that time I found out I had got a job I applied for! It was only two days a week at a pub, but I was over the moon. I was discharged Friday morning and did my first shift that Friday night, it felt great to be working. To talk to people, to do something with my time other than feel sorry for myself, I decided then that the drugs were gonna stop and I was going to be a vegan. I wanted to make a change in my life that I could control. By December I had another job working nights Waitrose and it was there I would bump into Sam & Jon on a food shop.
We would talk about what we were all doing, Jon was writing a book, Sam had just started doing her digital art and me? Well, I was putting Fruit and Veg on shelves all day while trying to think of how I was going to escape my small village again. Through these conversations, I told them of what had happened and Sam asked me if I would be interested in helping her a few hours a week selling her art and helping her with a new business idea. I was unsure, to be honest, and I think Sam could tell that. It’s not that I didn’t want to do it, I just didn’t feel like I would be any good at it, I’d never done it before and my previous foray into doing anything I found challenging had ended so poorly. It almost felt like it was something I was being offered not on the merit of my abilities, but rather out of pity, at the time it was weirdly hurtful.
Nevertheless, I accepted the opportunity and started spending a couple of hours a week helping Sam. I don’t imagine I was much help in the beginning, it wasn’t like my previous work environments, there was almost a parent/child/student/teacher relationship rather than a boss and employee. This was what I needed, I needed someone who was ok with me making mistakes, who I didn’t feel like I was letting down. From here it grew and when Lorna (Sam’s previous assistant) left, I was offered more hours and more of a role. Sam invited me to go with her to the Mystic Nails Weekend as a trial, I could get a glimpse into the industry and see what it was like to work for Sam Biddle. It might surprise you but I was terrified, I was in a room full of successful business owners, nail techs and mainly women. I was the awkward boy stood in the corner taking photos and trying to be invisible, while also trying to help Sam sort everything she needed. This day was notable for a number of reasons:
- I did my first ever nail (A Baby Boomer).
- It was the first day of my Be Inspired Online journey.
- It was actually where the idea for The Mel & Sam Show was created!
From that weekend my life changed, I know it sounds cliche, but it really is true! I felt believed in, I felt trusted and I felt like it was time to let go of those past fears and mistakes and be the person I wanted to be. I couldn’t have done this without Sam, over the next couple years I went from working with Sam part-time to it becoming my main source of income. I learnt so much, I learnt all the things university didn’t teach me, things that I only could learn from someone who was willing to take the time to teach me, to make sure I understood and to allow me to grow at my own pace. It wasn’t just about running a business though, it was about running a life. I began to understand my emotions and my actions, I discovered things about myself, I made peace with my flaws and stoked the fire under my passions. I was no longer lost, all I had needed was someone to tell me that they believed in me, someone who I knew meant it because they wouldn’t hesitate to help me when I failed or praise me when I succeeded.
My world today is here thanks to Sam & Jon. Without them I wouldn’t have become the person my wife fell in love with, I wouldn’t have been a person capable of accepting and reciprocating that love. I never would have had the confidence to move to a city far far from home. To be self-employed and to finally be stable and independent. It may seem odd to some of you, to think that answering emails, building courses and thinking up marketing copy five days a week was the change my life needed. Trust me, it surprised me too. But it wasn’t the job that changed me, I wouldn’t be the person I am now had I worked anywhere else. It was Be Inspired. It was Sam.
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