My business class ticket changes everything. After scanning my digital ticket, the woman at the check-in desk scans the details on her computer screen. Her whole demeanour changes, a smile lights up her face and she looks directly at me.
“Welcome back Miss Fagbemi,” she says, “Is this trip for business or pleasure?”
“Business,” I tell her.
“Well, I hope you get a moment of respite,” she says.
I say, “I I hope, so too, it’s been a busy month.”
I say month, but that is probably understating it. Three years separate me from a time of plentiful rest, but no rewards like business class travel. When my employer began the layoffs, it felt like a massacre. Although I was not directly affected, building a career in the debris of such an event felt strange. I needed to build something for myself, so I started looking at a vacant commercial premises in my local area. I had always wanted to open a restaurant.
The first one was small. Only 18 guests could fit in at a time, but each night there are queues around the block and every hour a satiated batch of diners waddled out to let the next lot in.
Despite its success, I was forced to close the restaurant. It was impossible to cover the rent at such a central location with so few covers. We couldn’t turn over tables fast enough to make the money we needed, without harming the dining experience. I learnt a very important business lesson at that time. I wrote it down in my notebook, and I copy into every new notebook. I learned not only about the restaurant business, but about myself as a business owner.
Undeterred by the closure, I quit my day job and began planning the next restaurant. The next one was much larger. We had the ability to serve 100 diners at a time, over two floors. It was a roaring success. Soon, the restaurant was bringing in so much money and media attention that investors came calling. I expanded to four more locations in the city. And then we went global.
I have spent the last three years opening versions of the restaurant across the world. Every location gives me the opportunity to explore a new culture and to enhance our existing menu with more diverse flavours. I rarely sleep in my own bed now and I mostly speak to my loved ones via video calls. I would say that I have more love to give now. The passion I experience building this global business enables me to ignite something in everyone to come into contact with. They get a better version of me, because I am fulfilled.
At the gate, the airline assistant at the desk scans my boarding pass and then smiles.
“Enjoy your flight, Miss Fagbemi,” she says as hands me back my pass and ushers me towards the walkway leading to the plane.
“Right this way, Miss Fagbemi,” the flight attendants say once I get to the plane. Within seconds of taking my seat I am offered a drink.
I say, “I’ll take the orange juice.”
After takeoff, I look at the land below, slowly, disappearing, amidst the clouds. I open my notebook and reread the note I made of the lesson I learned: ambition is merely the belief that you can go higher, and it is no respecter of failure.