Journal: Why “Never Fold.” Changed Me and the way I’m navigating business failure.

There was an internal struggle about whether this post should be published. Ultimately, this is what it is. I can’t and won’t downplay how Nipsey Hussle’s death shook me. And as a result, how all of the business failures that I’d been focusing on changed. For you to truly understand, I’ll briefly recount those failures.

Patent Ventures is in its fifth reincarnation. That’s five times that I’ve resurfaced the way it looks, or reorganized the way it is structured, or reevaluated its services.

The intention, initially, was to build a black creative agency—complete with offices and a robust team. A team did assemble and we had an office ( my apartment living room). Time did its thing and the team fizzled out. Their talents bloomed, their ambitions soared, and I didn’t have the revenue to compensate them (nor the projects to elevate them); so they moved on.

After that, I took a stab at an overhaul. I thought the agency thing could still work but maybe it had to be structured differently. Yea….tried that and it failed too, this time costing me thousands of cash. That black agency dream was dead. So, I shifted.

During a two year span I started and stopped beaucoup business projects. Two apps, a virtual business accelerator, a destination brand incubator, a fitness CPG brand, an alternative business education platform, a black business study and those are just the ideas I can remember right now. To balance out the lows, it’s worth mentioning that during both years I was also freelancing under the guise of an “agency”. I successfully designed the packaging of a few product collections that made it to retail. I designed the branding for a documentary. I creatively assisted a crowdfunding campaign to raise $10K+. I walked with a sister as we sorted through her ideas to find her voice and own her creativity. And I was doing brand strategy for a skin care company. In my eyes, in the things that I had hoped and dreamed for though, I was failing.

2019. I knew something had to shake (read change). I just didn’t have a goal in mind. I didn’t have a sense of purpose. The goal at the beginning was to have this agency. Well, that was done and abandoned. So here I am, or was, paralyzed in existential dread.

March rolled on and the crisis was peaking. “Nobody needs me,” I thought. “I’m just Ashley, the creative who keeps starting and stopping.” Then the news of Nipsey’s murder hit.

As I read the tweets, watched the videos and heard the stories surrounding who Nipsey was, what he did, and how he affected people…I grieved too. If we’re honest Nipsey wasn’t some wild pop culture icon. Prior to his death I hadn’t even listened to a single song in his catalog. I would come to realize that while Nipsey may not have had a huge influence it was evident that he had earthshaking impact.

“The game is gonna test you, never fold.”

Never fold. Never fold. Never fold. I read it over and over again. I tweeted it daily until it settled down and became a mantra for the times when the toxic mental voices are loud. Or when Im frustrated about having to navigate these failures. Or when I don’t get it right. Or when I’m raging about what I hate about the black brand/business game. Or when I’m complaining excessively. It reverberates in my mind when I think about what my goal should be… and that is impact. So now I’m learning, I’m trying, to move around with my failures not as baggage but as evidence. A badge that says “I haven’t given up, I won’t give up as long as I’m still here doing this thang”. I will transform and reinvent myself as much as I have to.

I’m a strategist but I still don’t have it all completely figured out. I wrestle daily. I do know though, that when I die, I don’t want to be cherished for how popular I was. I would hope that I rest emptied of all the gifts I have. I want to be cherished for how prolific I become. I put my right hand to God and I extend my other to greet and help you be prolific too.