No one said it would be easy!
Simon Sinek has lead me to believe that innovation is neither efficient nor cost effective. It’s true. Innovation takes up lots of time. It uses up all your energy and costs lots of money. People use the Wright brothers as their inspiration to innovate. They worked in their bike shop to pay their bills, used up hundreds of parts making their prototypes, and spent all their spare time planning and building these prototypes that failed again and again. They were true innovators. And according to Sinek, they were driven by a deep sense of purpose and they loved what they were doing.
When we started Equinity we spent 3 years looking for funding and sponsorship. We spent hours setting up meetings and selling the dream. With no success. The only people who backed us were the racing fraternity. Phumelela agreed to allow us to run our event at an existing night race but had no cash for us. We had tons of people and brands loving our plan but no one would sponsor or invest. We even hired a sponsor expert and paid him with money we didn’t have and while we got to meet some great people we never got one bite.
So, we thought fuck it. We’ll do it ourselves. We scaled back our first production to a size we could almost afford, used every spare cent we could scrape together from our recently, almost bankrupt business and went for it.
And even then, we failed. We didn’t sell enough tickets so we had to do deals to get our friends to come. But even that wasn’t enough so our head person, who was running the project, invested the last of some money inherited from her dad who had recently died. And so Illuminessence, the first Equinity production happened, successfully in the end, but with a whole bunch of, let’s call them lessons and challenges, not least of which was the torrential downpours which cancelled any chance of racing!
With hindsight, not having any money from sponsors or investors has been perfect for us. Because we are spending our own hard earned and very limited cash we think very carefully before we commit to anything and we always aim to get maximum bang for our buck. It has also forced us to do things differently. We know what we want to achieve and now we have some original ideas to help us bring our vision to life.
Simon Sinek is right. Innovation is hard, time consuming, and expensive. But for us Equinity is the most liberating and exhilarating thing we’ve done and as soon as we finished the first one we booked the date for Equinity 2. And we didn’t bother with the sponsorship and funding plans. We started putting money aside from our corporate work and got straight into planning and building the next show – Meoquanee.
The major benefit of not having to answer to anyone is that we can experiment and try new things. We are driven not by a fear of failure but fearful that our productions won’t be unique and edgy. We want to surprise and blow people’s minds and to do that we have to push the limits. And to do that we have to innovate.