Sitting at the state capitol building.
…in the wee hours of the morning
I have easily spent hundreds of hours here.
It’s open 24 hours, heavily guarded, meticulously maintained, and extremely quiet at night.
There is something that is simply marvelous about sitting on one of the war memorials inscribed with the names of thousands of people who have died, sacrificed and fought for the unbelievably cushy and enjoyable life I get to lead.
I sit there and read. Or plan. Or think.
It’s truly a humbling experience that reminds me we all stand on the shoulders of giants.
I sometimes wonder if others have such a remarkable place to call their own.
….all of these are various reactions I get from people whenever I dye my hair blonde.
Sometime in 2001 when we were at a lock-in for our church group…someone said, “Why don’t we dye your hair blonde?”
I have no idea who said this, or even why such an out-of-the-blue suggestion was made…but it sounded like a fantastic idea. Two of us immediately drove to the nearest Walgreens and bought a black-to-blonde hair bleaching set.
I learned that girls really like anything to do with hair….so I had no real input in this whole process, nor did I care. All I know is yadda yadda yadda my hair ended up like this:
Obviously it wasn’t true blonde…but more of an orangy-yellow color.
The reaction from everyone including my friends and parents was almost always the same:
Stage 1: “What the HELL did you do?!?!?!”
Stage 2: “Ehhh….I don’t like it, but it’s alright?”
Stage 3: “It’s blonde…so what?”
That whole process generally takes about 5 or 10 minutes.
I was in college the first time I did this, and it garnered some interesting results. First of all, it was definitely a conversation starter. Secondly, I became exceedingly easy to recognize.
In one class I was working on a group project, and we collaborated with the professor to play a prank in the class which would “advertise” a fake product we were promoting (all part of the project). My cell phone was to go off, the professor would find me and make me go up on stage to set an example of me (she was particularly vigilant against cell phone use is class and was well known for it).
As the prank went according to plan, I apologetically walked toward the stage in front of the roughly 600 people in that class (all still in shock at the professor’s outburst at me) …then BOOM, I tripped over an extension cord! The entire auditorium erupted into raucous laughter as all my stuff, backpack and a huge stack of loose papers (I purposely bought to class for a more dramatic effect) went FLYING in the air and I came crashing down!
I got on my feet, completely mortified (I was acting), and yelled loudly into the auditorium, “IT WAS THIS STUPID EXTENSION CORD I TRIPPED ON!!” Right then, another group member got up and said, “Mrs. Cleveland, you know better than to use an old-fashioned extension cord, you should use the NO-STENSION cord!” That was our “imaginary” product we were promoting for the project.
Anyhow….a group of 600+ people saw me eat floor…and at the time I was a brown kid with blonde hair. EVERYWHERE I went on campus for the next week someone would say, “Hey, I saw you fall in Mrs. Cleveland’s class!” I met half the class simply because of my hair!
The next time I dyed my hair blonde was about a year later on 11-7-2002 (I know this because the photo info tag still has the date). This time it was in my college dorm, and I kind of wanted to do the blonde hair again. Obviously some girl chimes in and says, “OH PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE LET ME DO IT!”
So once again…yadda yadda yadda I had a bunch of bleach in my hair:
(That’s right….I DID in fact have recessed lighting in my dorm. I ghetto-rigged it out of L.E.D. Christmas rope lights and duct tape).
Once again the hair was completely blonde.
One of the things that appealed to me about this whole change was it’s ability to MORPH. So my hair didn’t simply stay blonde, it would constantly grow black hair underneath. This meant it would go from full blonde, to black roots showing, to half-black-half-blonde, to mostly black and some blonde tips….and often some weird stages in between.
Also whenever I got a haircut it would change the entire look. Sometimes it came out good, sometimes it came out bad. It was always and gamble!
The next time I did it, the bleach wasn’t left in long enough for whatever reason. The hair came out more gold or orange, like this:
I could spike it up and it looked more punk rockish (or nowadays Jersey Shore’ish):
This picture is relatively accurate of the actual color it turned out:
Once this hair would grow out for a little while, it’d be time to get a haircut. Often the first hair cut would leave the hair looking like this:
It was black with golden tips:
Take a look at that last picture. During that time I would frequently get the “Are you you gay” question. I later found out that having blonde tipped hair and immaculately waxed eyebrows DID IN FACT look hella gay. It makes me cringe to think I walked around in public with eyebrows like that! You’ll be happy to know my eyebrows are currently big and bushy.
Now previously the hair bleaching had been done by people (or me)…all whom had no idea what they were doing. You buy the bleaching set, you mix some horrendous chemicals together, you slop it on my head…wait an hour and BAM. Blonde hair.
The goal was always BLONDE hair…not “orange” hair that always came out instead. So the last time I made my hair blonde (February 2010), I went to a real salon and told them to make my hair platinum blonde. I was curious to see what would happen.
They ended up bleaching my hair THREE times for THREE HOURS! Now that’s some DEAD hair!
They also made me sit under one of those heat chair things….it wasn’t the most comfortable thing. My hair was being bleached to death while sitting under this thing blowing very hot air at my head.
Fortunately I brought a book to read…the whole process took over three hours.
The first machine they put me under created a “swamp” effect…mainly just very high humidity and some heat. The second machine (above) would blow very hot air at my head. By the third time they put me under this thing, it was VERY painful.
This is a picture of the hair (look how dead it looks) after three hours of bleaching.
The end result. It kind of looks like a hairstyle a lesbian would have. Like I said before, I never know what it’ll turn out like!
The above is about a week or so after the bleaching. It would kind of naturally curl or stick straight up in the morning.
Below, I found whenever I simply pushed the mass of dead hair that happened to be attached to my head straight up, it looked like Kramer.
Just for clarification, I think looking like Kramer is a GOOD thing.
When the hair is down, it looks like a “Blonde Mop” on my head:
It’s difficult to show, but the hair looked “interesting” from the side in its half-black-half-blonde stage:
After a few more weeks, it starts looking even crazier:
At this stage in the hair’s growth, it just started looking crazier and crazier. I though it started to look like Einstein at one point….however it took on more the form of a DragonBall Z character:
The final stage of the hair got pretty long and curly. The day I cut my hair it looked like I was wearing a big powdered wig around….
I actually did not plan to cut my hair for quite some time. I liked how I progressively looked more insane as my hair grew out…but it was the same me underneath. Maybe there’s some sort of moral in that?
Eventually I decided to cut my hair because the maintenance was getting too cumbersome. Washing the hair required special shampoo and conditioner, and I kept playing with the hair which would make it tangle. I literally couldn’t run my fingers through my hair without them getting stuck somewhere through the journey.
A quick $11 haircut later:
….now the journey through styles continues as people think I got my hair highlighted with blonde tips.
So this is why every once in a while I change my hair color. It simply goes through an unknown cycle of looks, styles and generally-not-fashionable stages by itself. I never know exactly how it’ll turn out, and that appeals to me.
Here’s an interesting story (well…I think it’s interesting because it’s about me) that might inspire some of the younger crowd.
As you may know, I’ve never had a real job before. I’ve always started businesses that have been successful enough to sustain me and then some. I’m not saying everyone should choose this route, but it IS pretty damn cool.
Like any result, there’s usually a story behind it, and mine started sometime in middle school when I had a mean peach-fuzz mustache growing and embarrassing gold-rimmed glasses that took up my whole face. In a nutshell I “accidentally” became a businessman by starting a CD making business. I had a CD burner when most people didn’t, I knew about downloading MP3’s when most people didn’t….therefore I had a resources people wanted…and would pay to get. I ended up making more money than I could stuff into the little change jar in my room. You can read more detail here.
So some stupid kid stumbles on how to make some money….
I thought it was pretty cool, but never took it super seriously. Back then my parents provided me with everything I ever wanted, so making money wasn’t top priority.
In high school I started getting more and more into computers. I took programming classes and was even accepted to the first ever public school course funded by a private organization (or some crap like that). There was a Cisco certification course I worked hard to apply for, and I got in! Only a select few students from our entire district got in….all day long we learned how to setup LAN, MAN and WAN networks, hack into routers, design more efficient networks, diagnose problems. It was a FUN class and I was proud to be in it. I was surrounded by smart people all day and had $40,000 worth of networking equipment at my disposal! I was Cisco Certified when I was a senior in high school…that was pretty cool back in the day.
However I think where my entrepreneurial spirit started grabbing roots was in my high school computer science classes. We had normal class during the day, but AFTER SCHOOL we had a teacher who let us do whatever we want.
I used to stay after school almost every single day for various clubs, but me and some friends would always stay late as possible screwing around on the cool new computers (and fast internet) the school had just acquired.
We were CONSTANTLY looking for cool ways to make a buck….I mean nothing serious like building a business, more like simple get-rich-quick schemes. Back then a lot of companies offered you money for browsing the internet if you kept advertisements on your screen. So with our programming skills we setup 30 different computers to constantly browse random webpages and collect money! Was this allowed? NO! Did we care? NO! Did it teach us something…I think very much YES. Although it was just screwing around, it kind of made computers and the internet “fun” for us….not just boring tools.
We also scoured penny stocks to try and buy and strike it rich “if ONLY the stock would go up to $1.00!” We tried dozens of silly ideas.
We wrote programs that would make annoying sounds based on a timer…and loaded them on the library computers. It was HILARIOUS to watch all the computers start making annoying beeps at once….the librarians would come over to see the commotion, then they would all stop!! Stupid pranks, but they made us think creatively.
Our school used Novell to administer the computers, and I found out a way to login to the “unlimited access” profile which let you play games. We setup a folder on the network with all sorts of cool games and would play them before class. None of the other students could do it.
Through Novell and my Cisco class skills, we found out a bunch of other things about the school network and would frequently be called in by school officials to help with problems! I remember one school administrators baffled and nervous look when I simply logged into the administration without him giving me any password information!
Even though we could sneak in and out of the school computer system, we never did anything bad or malicious. If one of our pranks (like the annoying library sounds) got too much…we stopped. We were more interested in having access to something forbidden than actually DOING anything harmful. Because of this we never got in trouble for anything, and it was actually good for school officials who could ask us computer questions at any time and have them fixed immediately without calling a tech guy and looking dumb.
In addition to all this I started making webpages for fun. I remember registering Neville1.com (my FIRST domain name), and posting pictures of cars on it. I would Photoshop pictures of cars to make them computer screen background wallpapers then share them online via Neville1.com. I called the page “Neville’s Cool Car Archive” and it started getting lots of traffic. It was enough traffic that all the free hosts I was on started kicking me off. I’d have to PAY for hosting, and that wasn’t an option back then. You see, at the time there was really no way to monetize the traffic….so I’d just pay money for hosting, and wouldn’t be able to easily make that money back from the users. I wasn’t interested and pulled the plug.
Another unique experience I had was through my Parsi Zoroastrian (my religion) community we had some exceptionally successful people we knew. With the help of my mom I got around to asking some of these people…“Ummm….so like….what do you do?” Basically that question was masking my true question of, “Why do you have so much more money than everyone else?”
….every single time the answer was they owned their own (successful) business. I would inquire further. What did they do? How did they do it? Who buys from them? How come people buy from you, not someone else? Then I’d ask the clincher question: “Can I come see your business?”
Every single time the answer was yes. They were all proud of what they did and were happy to show an inquisitive young person around. I saw large ecommerce warehouses, housing tracts, large apartment buildings and various other projects these people ran. They explained the ins and outs, the advantages and downsides….all sorts of valuable information I was lucky to have…but brazen enough to ask for.
This appealed to me. I don’t know why, but I always thought what they did was so much “cooler” than what most other people did.
Thus started my journey into entrepreneurship. It shakily started out as just messing around and inadvertently being creative…but after years of experimenting and trying things out, it started working pretty well.
Be curious…try things….don’t let people’s warnings stop you…..be creative and have an almost childlike curiosity about everything.
Here’s a question I’ve been getting more and more geared towards my business House Of Rave:
Have your sales gone down in the poor economy?
It’s actually a fantastic question and relatively interesting to hear different answers from different business owners.
So, have your sales gone down in the poor economy?
MY ANSWER: YES…..but not in the traditional sense. Let me explain:
Most people expect that sales simply stopped coming in after the economic downturn, this hasn’t been true even though House Of Rave sells things people buy only on disposable income. In fact, if you never told me there was a “recession” going on, I probably wouldn’t have noticed too much….people still order all the time (although I’ve seen a very significant drop in big orders from large corporations).
The MAIN problem I’ve had which takes a DIRECT shot at lowering my sales is all the cool products are out of stock. Almost all of my previous best sellers are no longer being manufactured.
HouseOfRave sells “hard to find” and “unique” products….which often means “they don’t sell it in big stores”. This has been great so far, but a problem I’m seeing now is manufacturers are on tight budgets and don’t have the capital required to mass produce slower selling items. I may be able to sell 10 per day of an item, but a manufacturer might need to sell 10,000 of them per day to keep cash flow moving.
….so unless an item can move HUGE quantities quick, the product might be discontinued.
This has been the predominate way that my business has been affected. The cool part is, with more marketing and more effort I’ve been able to maintain and grow both the profit and sales of the business, but it’s required more effort than in the past (keep in mind I used to put NO effort into it at all). Before, I would just slap products on the site and they sold….it doesn’t seem to be quite as easy anymore.
Many smaller manufacturers and product patent holders are going out of business now. Think about it, to manufacture just ONE simple product you must spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for materials and labor, store them, then find people to buy them. Before you make even one CENT from the product, you could blow through a half-million dollars on credit. If the product is a flop (note the importance of beforehand PRODUCT RESEARCH) you’re screwed…..and I’m just using the example of small-scale manufacturing of novelty products.
While my business doesn’t have the extreme overhead of these manufacturers, I feel their pain indirectly when a cool product of theirs goes out of stock.