Super cool. Els, in what ways have you had to support Wesley with the start of BLACK BANANAS?
Els: I don't know if I had much influence on the success of the business. Wesley always had an entrepreneurial spirit and letting Wesley make his own free choices played an important role. When he wanted to explore engineering as I said earlier, I thought to myself: let him make his own choices and mistakes. Only then will he find his true passion.
We realised very quickly that Wes was not someone who would be able to work for a boss. He is not one to listen when told what to do. We often clashed because I wanted him to do something around the house but he refused and you could see his rebelliousness come through. In the end, again I thought: follow your own path, make your own mistakes and learn from them.
Life was all about trial and error for Wesley. How did this translate to the start of BLACK BANANAS?
Els: Where do you start? You start with nothing. And as a parent you think: yes, pursue your ideas and go for it. And I remember a conversation with him telling him that in the future when I'm 80 years old and you come to visit me for a cup of coffee, I hope you say to me: 'remember when I tried something in fashion and it didn't work out?' Rather than : 'if only I had tried, too bad I did not.' And that's how I felt about it. Just try it.
Wesley: I always felt an enormous amount of freedom in pursuing my crazy ideas. Many parents would find entrepreneurship right out of school tricky. You don't have any savings and you don't have experience, good luck!
Now thinking about it, I recognize that my parents always supported me, whether it would be a great success or not. They always acted as if it would be a great success anyway! That was their mentality, their way of supporting me, and that way I also always believed that BLACK BANANAS would be successful.
Els: Well, it's not only about believing. The truth is, we know how hard it is to become successful. I mean, many want to be professional football players but you know only a few succeed. And you know there are lots of people who want to be models and you also know only a few succeed. People who start a business also again, only a few succeed. And you can try, of course, but there is no assurance.
We did say at the time: don't get yourself far into debt with a huge loan, but build it up. Don't go and borrow thousands of euros from a bank with the chance to find yourself unsuccessful and quitting a year later to be left with that kind of debt.
Wesley: Yes, that was probably the best advice I ever got as a starting entrepreneur. I have only borrowed money from my parents once.
Els: Yes, that wasn't even borrowing.
Wesley: Haha. No?
Els: I remember we were sitting in the backyard and Wesley started talking about his next step: 'If I had 1000 euros...' followed by all of his creative ideas. I said: 'Stop right there. Write down what you would do with that 1000 euros and show me.' So later he came to my husband and me with his piece of paper. We thought: 'Let him sweat, let's see what he comes up with.'
Wes started explaining in detail. Once finished I said: 'well then you should go and do all that.' You do not have that money, but we do so go ahead. But remember: it is not for holidays, it is just for what you wrote down on your piece of paper. I laughed and said that I had become the first shareholder of the company and one day you'll become a millionaire.
Wesley started BLACK BANANAS from home. How did that look like at the time?
Els: Well, in the beginning is was really fun and exciting. Because had only one large Ikea closet filled with some designs of caps and that was really it which he sold from time to time. But then he started creating more T-shirts and the one Ikea closet became two. And then again after a few months, it all became too small. We went on to fill the space in the attic, and had to buy a third closet. But it would never be enough: every week there were more boxes and bags.
Eventually, my house was was filled all the way from the front door up to the attic. Labels, packaging, products, everything. I had one exception: not in my bedroom. Other than that, the whole house was filled from floor to ceiling, it was completely BLACK BANANAS.