NOT LOCKED IN
Before LOUD I thought my first ONYX project was going to be a smart bike LOCK. The project was ONYX ~LOCK I was still thinking out the name.
It was a bike LOCK system that I envisioned would develop iteratively into a smart hub for your bike. I was going into this project because I pinpointed that I was really passionate about cycling, it was something I'd loved all my life.
In addition to that I was making relationships with established Black folks in the city also interested in entrepreneurship. One of them was Dr. Michel a professor at uOttawa. He was thinking about starting a manufacturing company. He liked my skills an encouraged me to develop a product that he's future company could produce. I thought this was perfect for me as an industrial designer, and ONYX LOCK was simple enough that this was the right opportunity for the first ONYX project.
That year, (from July 2014) I battled a deep depression after breaking up with a partner of 3 years. I was also struggling with ADHD (that had gone undiagnosed all my life; which was even more unbearable without the support of a partner. I was put in a situation where I had to regroup and reimagine my life.
I decided to take a year to radically take care of myself. The mission was to take care of myself at all cost.
In school that meant I only did what I wanted to. I took only courses I wanted, I didn't go to class if I didn’t feel like it. I went to all the school group functions that I always had to push aside for ✌🏾actual✌🏾 school.
I spent money on fitness classes; did everything from yoga, zumba, to interval training, to make me feel better about my self image and also to be active. I researched and changed my diet.
I went to meet ups, to meet people. Spent a lot of time going out and making new amazing friends, and learning from them.
I did counselling, I got assessed to fully understand how my ADHD effects me. I did research to understand why I had ADHD and other psychological issues.
Some how I got a approved for a credit card and if I wanted something I spent it without looking. I finally bought myself nice clothes, and felt self-confident.
I started working on ONYX which was a project I'd dreamed of for most of my life but had always been waiting for the right time to go fully in on.
Around April -June-ish I was nearing the end of the self-care year. The Dean of my program was supportive (to an extent) of me doing self-care and self discovery in school and invited me to share what I learned from that year.
I wanted to present to him ONYX and the importance of the school being open to feedback and criticism from students. I wanted to tell him that the school should have an entrepreneurial stream and that our school wasn't keeping up to the internet age. I wanted to tell him about the anti-blackness in his institution, in the students and even the faculty.
The meeting was delayed for a couple of months because he was busy and when I came in he told me he didn't have time for a presentation. As I began to try to have a conversation with him, he kept cutting me off and he spoke to me in a condescending, patronizing tone.
I wasn't surprised but he was my last hope for the program. In the brief interactions I had had with him prior I saw him as the north star, I imagined him to be the only person of reason. Surely, a person who rose the ranks to lead Canada's renowned school of industrial design had done it through exceptional leadership and strong virtues. And here I was trying to have this one directional conversation. Where I was being spoken down to and underestimated because: I'm young, obviously naive, and black and ain’t nobody got time for that. (Also I remember thinking he might have ADHD that he's dealing with too )
Whats amazing is that the idea for LOUD was sparked in that moment. One of my self-care goals was to listen. I challenged myself to listen even when I'm completely diametrically opposed to the person the words are coming out of.
As I was trying to direct the conversation towards the topic of, technology and the internet creating new opportunities for entrepreneurship and progress for society, he jumped in with -Instagram. I was like what?! At first he couldn't remember the name. He was like "What's that app called where people share pictures and (raytaytay)".
I was like "Instagram?" "Yes" He shot back, and then went on to spell out doomsday, how Instagram destroyed the ✌🏾Photography Industry✌🏾 by allowing everyone to be photographers. I was shook, Instagram has its issues but this guy was upset because it democratized photography.
I said to him that “now people that couldn’t be photographers before can be photographers now, and we get to see the best photo because they're up-voted. Instagram means that we get to see the best of the best, because there are less barriers.”
But he was fixated on the industry, he shot back "but now there’s more competition," "Now you can't just be a photographer to make a living." And I was just sitting there like if he had let me go through my presentation we could have had this conversation because I spent a year thinking about exactly this 🙃, I decided to save my breath and let it go.
But I was thinking man middle age white men sure love capitalism until they actually have to deal with its effects. He was ranting about the boggey man who I had already come so accustom to seeing all my life.
A CAP TO THE -ISM
That year for ONYX I was battling with how to practice entrepreneurship without practicing capitalism. One of the themes of that research was industrial complexes. I was constantly thinking up strategies to end them.
In that moment he made me realized that Instagram did that. It disrupted a whole industry. It could have reimagined that industry (but thats a story for next time).
The combination of access (more affordable camera's in smartphones) + up-voting. Uprooted a whole industry, and I thought where else could that be applied.
Thats when I mentioned SoundCloud and how so many artists who would never have been discovered can start their career there, and listeners get to hear amazing new music because of it.
Somewhere in that moment LOUD was sparked. I went home to flesh out the big idea. After I started to figure out the basic tenets of the idea I made a creative brief and began to develop its brand identity and focused on imbuing it with all the values it was inspired by.
A ~month later on this day I finished and LOUD was born.
*Using ✌🏾to mean air quotes✌🏾
*This is a recollection so none of these are direct quotes