I am Dean Okai, I am 42 years old and originally from South London. I grew up on two housing estates in South London until I moved out of my Mother’s house at 18. Young Men don’t necessarily make the best decisions and me moving back to New Cross to be around certain friends wasn’t the smartest.
Within a couple of years I can say that I was surrounded by petty criminals on the establishing rungs of the ladder. Yet regardless of the environments and circumstances I found myself, I always knew exactly who I was going to be and where I was going to be. I had that same spirit in school, when I would hear teachers tell me I couldn’t do this or that.
There was never a stage in my life when I would base what I was capable of, based on other peoples limitations. Everybody you come across that is threatened by your confidence will try to convince you out of your position, by selling you fear and doubt. Don’t buy it, there is something innate in your spirit that knows your path and destiny.
Having established that at my core I was always a big brother and an entrepreneur, I made a decision that no matter how many businesses I had that went down and how much I lost a by product, that I would never sit still and continue evolving and sharpening my pencil with regards to mastering business processes and acumen.
In the year 2000, I lost two phone shops in South London after three burglaries that left me with £260 in my pocket. My MO was always to get a job for six months and take advantage of all of the resources around me to re-establish myself and save the stake money to bet on myself again. I’d make myself as small as possible and save until I reached my number and then leave for another Dean Okai adventure.
You will find a common thread with many entrepreneurs in that we have had many incarnations to give us 10,000 hours of practice, to master our environment within the business landscape. There is nothing easy about being in business, because as business people we are choosing to be problem solvers. When you look at the matrix of challenges in front of you such as a shrinking economy, new technology that reduces your customer base, marketing that has become more streamlined to attract niche markets, all whilst paying the commercial land lord, who is raising the rent.
Did I mention that you have to do all of this and manage the dynamic of personalities within our companies and manage Family life at the same time. Having a job is not practice for running a business. This upsets many people with jobs, who have aspirations to get off the plantation and become architects of their own destiny. You need to just do it. Do your research, surround yourself with expertise, emerce yourself in the industry you want to enter and be aware that you have a number of transferrable skills.
Because of my experience I have always been aware that I had a number of transferrable skills, which is why I never listened to anyone else about the limitations of my capabilities. I was encouraged to get a job and work for someone else from my earliest memories, this is how we first betray our children, which is why I home school my son and enable him to be an entrepreneur.
Getting around to my current business, Suits Direct on Camden High Street, which was only an opportunistic means to an ends to provide a daily income, whilst pursuing everything else that I do. It provides me with choices that enable me to advocate on the ‘Transition of the Black Pound’ projects, raise and spend time with my son to guarantee that he will permanently be his own boss. As Black people we need to practice self preservation that serves our Families and our collective interests first.
As Men we are obligated to pay the rent and feed our Families, whilst climbing the ladder to fulfil our dreams. Being an entrepreneur is the perfect way to do that, which is why I advocate for teaching our children to be financially literate and run their own businesses. From the age of 9 I always wanted to work for myself, inspite of the fact that my Mother always encouraged me to get a proper job. My son will never know the pressures of those conflicting interests and be happy to follow the desires of his heart.