Letter to my younger self: Sharon Richey, Because

Sharon Richey, chief executive at Because, reflects on her earlier years and the entrepreneurial spirit she exhibited as a teenager.

Because's Sharon Richey considers what advice she would give her 18-year-old self
Because's Sharon Richey considers what advice she would give her 18-year-old self

Dear Sharon, 

Congratulations! You must be feeling on top of the world right now. To win Best Small Business in South Africa for your modelling agency at the age of just 18 is an incredible achievement – and only two years after you set it up. Who would have thought that the girl born with a dislocated hip, who had both legs in plaster up to her waist until the age of four, would come this far at such a young age?

But then you’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart. Remember the beer festival you organised in your parents’ garden aged 15 when they were away on holiday? That vision and initiative will serve you well in your career – just make sure you get the proper licences in future.

You have so much to look forward to. It will be hard leaving your friends when you emigrate to the UK aged 21, especially as you don’t yet have Facebook or Google Hangouts to keep in touch. But you’ll quickly make your mark when a photographer approaches you as a model, and you end up buying agency MHP within months of getting on its books.

Not everything will be an easy ride. Be wary of letting your kindness get in the way of business. In your 20s, you’ll regret entrusting the finances of your growing company to your boyfriend. A string of degrees is no rival to having a head for business, as you’ll discover to your cost. But as your inspirational mother told you, find strength in the face of adversity.

So what advice can I offer you for your life to come? Firstly, it can’t just be about one thing. You’ll never lose your ambition, and you’ll not often sit down. But children will bring more balance to your life, and you’ll learn to separate work matters from home life, while still remaining as committed as ever to your business interests. You might not think it now, but one of your proudest moments to come won’t be winning that big pitch you worked ever so hard to get – but seeing your six-year-old winning form prize.

Secondly, work hard to attract and retain the best people around you. Recognise that people like to work with others who are quick to share success, able to laugh at their own mistakes and are forgiving when others don’t get it quite right. Make time for fun – we all need to let off steam.

Finally, let good principles guide your business endeavours, and stay true to what you know is right. And embrace your belief in giving something back to others – the Educare centre you will end up funding in South Africa will transform hundreds of young lives over time, and fill you with joy.

Yours ever, Sharon

More: Letter to My Younger Self: Lizzie Carver, MCM Creative

Letter to My Younger Self: Tom Eatenton, Kru 

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