“From Struggle to Success” The ‘Ah huh’ moment
People tend to think that they are too old or they do not have the right qualifications and skills to start their own business. This might be a good excuse, but it is far from the truth. You can never be too old, when it comes to following your dreams. You can always gain and develop your skills, they are not something that is given to you, they are something that you can learn.
The next story, reminded me of story written by Jorge Bucay about a person that could not read or write, but he saw a need and an opportunity and managed to build his own business empire. Alan Sideen can of course read and write, but he saw the opportunity and started his own business, without having the necessary qualifications or skills.
His company name is “Alan Sideen” and he is an entrepreneur working from his apartment in Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada. He is an artist of portraiture and caricatures and he has a cartoon character “Uncle Louie the Millwright”.
1. What is your idea/ business about? How the idea was born?
My idea of my business is that being an artist I have to have a “niche” for myself, that is when I came up with a cartoon character. Most creative minds whether musicians, writers, and as a portrait artist myself we have to find a marketing gimmick; hence, my cartoon character. To further my niche cartoon to the public my cartoon carries no language such as words or sentences. Words take up too much room on the paper. I use symbols, as I like the reader to look at the cartoon and think “What is going on?” I want the audience to sit back for a moment and catch the “Ah huh’ moment. This is when the light bulb comes on in their mind.
How did I get the idea for the cartoon character? I am a gate keeper at my full time job (security guard). It is here that all the visitors, blue collars and white collars have to sign in. I meet many different characters- professional and trades people. One day I was reading the daily cartoons in the local newspaper and it occurred to me that there are no cartoons on this construction industry. So…I found out that a millwright does a variety of tasks such as mechanical, electrical, carpentry. They are very “hands on” trade kind of people. A millwright can give me a lot of ideas to draw a cartoon on as compared to one discipline trade such as a carpenter.
So “Uncle Louie the Millwright” was born. His home town I decided to be in Semans, Saskatchewan. The era for him I wanted to be from 1948 to 1962, today’s cartoons are just that- about today. There are no cartoons referring to yesteryear. When you think of this era, a lot of inventions were discovered either a bit beforehand or into these years. What I need to do is to talk to some seniors about past events, inventions and visit some museums on what old fire trucks looked like and so on.
2. Tell me about yourself and your team?
A bit about me is that I am a self-taught artist, I learned how to draw from a book. Later on I did not like what was “for the beginner’ art books so I came up with my own – “Uncle Louie the Millwright Learns to Draw Books”. Since I am a one man show, I followed King Solomon’s advice in the book of Proverbs and it was simply “to seek council when moving forward”. I don’t like to do business on my own advice so I seek advice from knowledgeable people. For example, I don’t know about marketing so I find someone who knows about marketing. I use this simple formula – “Find the people that know the knowing, to go the going with you”.
3. What are the main struggles that you have experienced?
Main struggles that I have are making a living from this career called “art”. Being an artist, I have to work or teach to pay for next years’ wall calendars for example. And if this doesn’t work out then I have to think of another way to use my artist skills in another area such as getting contracted out to draw caricatures at wedding receptions or corporate Christmas employee dinners.
4. If you had a chance what would you do in differently?
If I had a chance to do, what would I do differently? Well… I am 52 years of age. In high school and going right up to my late 40’s I didn’t know what my gifts were. Most of my adult life was of frustration as in our society we as men are to go to university/ college right after high school and become a doctor or lawyer. Then, we are to get married and have kids, and to top this off we are to have children. This did not happen to me. I was the first one in the family to get layed- off from my employer, and then two years later I declared personal bankruptcy, I also lost my house due to finances. What would I do differently? I wish some particular books that were printed recently were written and published when I was 20 years old, such books as “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”. This showed me the differences of a person’s gifts/ talents. Also, I would take up Book keeping. All businesses have one thing in common- accounting. What else would I change? Do a lot of different jobs and ask a lot of questions of how people got to where they are today, ask questions such as “How did you know you were good at this?”
5. What was the best advice you got and what was the worst?
Best advice I got? I would say King Solomon’s book on Proverbs. He was quite the business man. Make sure you get a spiritual advisor that knows the bible well. I feel that if you can sit down with someone that is seasoned in their profession, they will spend hours with you out of joy and in return this would save you literally years of angst, frustration and lost time.
The Worst advice? Hmmm….When I teach night school, I often hear people tell me that “When I retire, I will take your drawing classes Alan”. They do not realize that they may fall ill due to some cancer before their retirement. I once taught a course four years ago. A little ol’ lady came to my course using a walking aid. She must have been 70-80 years of age. She told me that she was just diagnosed with cancer. She told me that night “Don’t wait Alan, just do it”.
I as a cartoonist read the daily comics in the daily local newspaper. I would cut and paste these onto sheets. I would study these cartoons strips and find out how the cartoonists made them popular as there are. After 4 or 5 years I had 16,000 cartoons put into 13 volumes of binders! Also, I did get a chance to contact and converse with some of these cartoonists such at Tom Batiuk of Crankshaft and the cartoonist of Ziggy.
6. What will be your advice to the other entrepreneurs?
My advice to entrepreneurs is this. Seek council with well knowledgeable people; paint them the big picture of what you are doing. Fill them in on how their skills could be used. Ask for their help and tell them also to think about it before giving an answer. People will say “no” immediately but tell them “I will get back to you in 3 weeks”. Not 2 weeks but 3 weeks. In the third week they will have given your subject, project, business idea some considerate thought and they would feel some good ways to contribute to your venture. Also, are you prepared to face the consequences if your business does not turn out right, favorable? Are you the kind of person that blames others for miss haps? I have a saying „In times of trouble, a person’s true characters comes out”. Be prepared for failure. Be prepared to wear many hats, such as doing the book keeping, doing your thing that you’re good at, and also time management. Be forgiving of others mistakes as well, we are all under pressure. I did a lot because I didn’t have a “significant other”. I lost a lot of money too, to make my dreams “Come true’. I am glad that I didn’t have someone by my side as I was under great stress and frustration when things did not go my way.
Be patient as well.
Dream big and often, and dream a little bit bigger too!
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July 22, 2016