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Wisdom Can Only Come From Being Unwise

Wisdom Can Only Come From Being Unwise

Michelle is a Caribbean entrepreneur with a story to tell. Grass-fields explores Michelle’s wisdom.

Over the years I have often thought that it would have been easier if I didn’t achieve anything. I was 21 and fresh off the boat. I had arrived in the UK. My auntie and my uncle were my only family. They lived in Nottingham. So, I went straight to Nottingham.

My plan when I landed in the UK was to become a hair and beauty professional. My aunty offered me a room in her house. So I moved in with her. She lived in an area that was mainly Caribbean; Just like me.

In the 70s many Caribbean people fled from Jamaica to find work in the UK. Many were promised by the government that they would become nurses and high paid professionals. This was not true. They found themselves wiping bottoms and cleaning bed pans.
I was determined this would not be my destiny.
I started to work for my aunty in her business making custom-made curtains. I worked long shifts for little money. Although I always knew that wasn’t what I wanted to do. I followed my aunties advise, unquestioned.

One day I plucked up the courage to tell her that I wanted to do something with my cosmetically degree that I had achieved in Jamaica. This was greeted with anger. I was told “This is what life is, this is what you are. I can’t pay for someone else to do your job, so that you can do hair” I felt hopeless, trapped and slowly started to believe this may be my life.
And then I fell pregnant with my first child. A little Girl!

I knew I had to not only care for myself, I had a little baby girl to care for all on my own. I would work long shifts in my aunties shop. I would think every day: this is not the life I want.

Once again, I told my auntie how much I needed and wanted to work in beauty and have my own business one day. I told her it will give me and my daughter the chance for a better life. A house of my own. A future doing what I loved! This time she did not shout. She did not scream. She was silent.

The next day I went to work, as usual. After work, I collected my daughter from nursery school. When I arrived back home, my key didn’t work in the door. Then I knew. The locks had been changed. I screamed, shouted and pleaded with her to let me back in. After all, I was a single mother in Britain in the 70s.
Now I was homeless. How would I survive?
My auntie ignored my plea and the door stayed locked. I had no family. Only her and my uncle and I didn’t know where he was. All I knew is that I had to find him.

The thought dawned on me - me and my daughter are homeless. We started sleeping on some of my good friends' sofas. I felt blessed that we didn’t have to sleep on the cold ground outside.

I never gave up trying to find my uncle. Every day I would get my coat on and stand in the street and ask everyone. All around Nottingham. “Do you know Colin? He is my uncle. I need to find him” This wasn’t easy as Colin was a common Caribbean name.
After a hundred No’s, I got one “Yes.”

Finally, I found my uncle. I could start my life. He supported me and my dreams, meaning I could finally become a hair and beauty professional. But yet again, it wasn’t that easy. My uncle wasn’t a rich man. I needed to provide for my daughter whilst also saving money for my own business. So, I worked night and day. Whatever job I could find. I worked until my bones ached. I worked untiI I had enough money to achieve my goals.

My uncle cared for my daughter and guided my spirit and showed me that my life could be anything. He taught me that I am loved and supported, but he sadly passed away. He left me with his spirit and guidance.

Now, 28 years later I am still following my dreams. I have had my own hair and beauty salon for over 20 years now. In the same shop that was once my aunt's curtain shop. Ha! The irony.

I have now worked with celebrities such as Joseph Hall and Mario Chevoy. My regular clients are doctors and lawyers. This is because my passion for perfection shows in my work.

There are so many lessons I can take from my life but my advice would be to my Caribbean community. To my Caribbean families. To anyone with a dream of owning their own business. The greatest lesson I have learnt is that-

In business and in life it is important to grow together and support each other. Not hold each other back or beat each other down. I know this because without my uncle's support and love; who knows where I would have been. Who knows what my story would have been.

An interview with Michelle Sameson By Bianca Watson
Touch of Class Salon
Address: 13 Radford Road, Nottingham NG7 5DQ
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