I remember anxiously pacing up and down the halls at 26 Ceres Road like my office chair had pins in it and I was avoiding it. My palms were damp and I couldn’t stop blabbering. I talk too much when I’m nervous.
I WhatsApp’d Zelipah Mukudu all day in preparation for this presentation. I thought for sure I had it in the bag. Clarence had run around the evening before to get t-shirts printed with my logo on them. I was ready, this presentation was gonna change my life.
I left work and headed straight there. I met other creative entrepreneurs in the foyer and each one of us was on edge. We really needed this opportunity. You see, the winner gets to walk away with an award and some money. Who doesn’t like money?
I got on stage, delivered my presentation, responded to questions from the judges and whoosh I was gone. I had left work and I needed to go back. I didn’t stick around to hear the other presentations. I’m glad I hadn’t cause we had lost. I had to break it to my Board that we hadn’t made it.
I was heartbroken. I genuinely felt like the idea wasn’t worth pursuing and that it wasn’t worthy of funding. I gave up. After going for the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, I renewed my interest in this project. I applied for one of the grants available to YALI Alumni and once again we didn’t get the grant. The disappointment was paralytic.
Then Value Creation comes along, my team and I tweaked the proposal and submitted it. I was excited when tweets of the finalists were published. And once again, we weren’t shortlisted. At this point, I was numb. The rejection was now a familiar kind of pain. I felt nothing.
Fast forward to February 2020, I stumble across a grant for digital skills. I must be a sucker for punishment. I was so busy I couldn’t notice the deadline drawing closer. On the day it was due, I ditched my work station and completed the application form from the office restroom on my phone. I consulted no one. I sought out nought from anyone. I submitted it one minute after deadline and went back to my work station.
Days later, I got the email that we had been selected to get the grant. Not only that, but they would fund the project to be upscaled. I revised the project and sent it back to them. The contract came and it was a done deal! On the staff bus, heading back into town, I got an SMS from the bank. I just opened it wondering why they’d text me mid-month. And there it was, grant money had come in with the most zeros I’ve ever seen in my life. In that moment reality sunk in, I had finally won a grant to fund my dream project.
After failing three times, the fourth time was the charm. I still can’t believe that this is happening. Whatever your dream is, no matter how many times they have told you, “No!” Keep at it, your yes is coming and it’s gonna be bigger than all the no’s summed up together.