It was now time for the FIFA 2009 South Africa Confederations Cup to start and still I hadn’t raised enough money for my FIFA license fee. I was still knocking door to door to raise the capital, and the FIFA officials were still allowing me to be part of the team. The money I needed to raise was not only for the FIFA World Cup license but also production and sales. In the meantime I also started my sample process for my World Cup bags. With the FIFA officials including me in all the licensee events and meetings, I got to enjoy a lot of perks, some were once in a life time experience like the FIFA 2009 Confederations Cup games. What an incredible experience that was. At the time I was a huge NBA fan and didn’t really understand soccer, that winter I got to understand why they call soccer a passion sport. Watching the fans and the emotions spread out in the arena was incredible. These were people from all over the world sharing the passion that they had for this sport. Strangers hugging strangers because their team just made a goal and men crying because their team lost. It was beautiful, and I had a new respect for this sport.
After the games I was becoming more stressed because of the money. The FIFA officials called me in and said they would lower my fee to help take some of the stress off and that helped a lot. Shortly after that meeting some of my moms friends also offered to contribute to my FIFA opportunity. Contributions were anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 per person. The stress went down even more. John and Judy allowed me to stay with them to help cut costs. It was very kind of them and I was also starting to build my own unique relationship with them. I loved that, and the relationships meant everything to me. In some way they were filling a bit of that aunt and uncle void I had been struggling with.
By that time a lot of the money was raised, then my childhood best friend Natia gave me a call out of the blue. Natia knew a lot about what I was going through in South Africa, and she called to tell me that her mother was interested in investing. This was shocking because for almost 15 years I thought her mother hated me. Natia and I went to the same elementary and high school in Atlanta and lived very close to each other. We spent a lot of time together, that is how we grew very close. Funny, we didn’t hang with the same crowds growing up but we had our own unique relationship. We continued to keep in touch even when I moved to NY for college.
Even though we were close and I spent a lot of time at her house I always remembered her mother shouting and not being nice. Her mother scared me a bit and I always tried to stay away from her when I was around them. It was surprising to hear that her mother wanted to invest in me. She asked if it was ok to have a Skype call with her mother and of course I agreed even though I was nervous. When I called her mother told me how proud she was of me and how much she admired me. I didn’t know that Natia kept her in the loop with all the things I was doing and she wanted to help me accomplish my goals with FIFA by investing $20,000. I could not believe it, the last person I would have expected just invested $20,000. She also added that she wanted to stick it to my relatives on my fathers side for not helping me even just a little. How could they just watch me and not do anything? The call with her was truly touching.
I cried when we got off the call. I think I cried for many reasons, one I now had enough to pay for the license and to do a lot more with my sample production. Two, I was overwhelmed with the way people that I least expected came together to help make this happen. Three the factory I was working with in Los Angeles also contributed in tremendous ways. On top of all of that I had incredible support back in the US. I knew that I could do this! I still needed to raise more for production but I had enough to get the ball rolling. Especially with FIFA lowering my licensing fee.
I started meeting with the retail executives to ask them what kind of products they were looking for and at what price points. Then I continued working on my samples and loved every minute of it. Having accomplished all of that I still wanted to prove something to my family.
This experience allowed me to work with people from all over the world. There were possibilities for my work to be sold in other parts of the world. That was truly an experience of a life time and I learned so much first hand. Working with FIFA opened my mind in so many different ways.
It was time to get my samples ready and show to buyers. I remember ordering my first set of samples from the factory and they all came in wrong. I was devastated, then I made the decision to fly to China immediately and work directly with the factory so that the samples come back with me correctly for my FIFA showcase. I had all the support from my American and South African investors. One of the owners from the factory I worked with in Los Angeles travelled to China to assist me in translating what I needed to so that the product was executed correctly.
A lot was accomplished at that point and there was still a lot more to go. I was truly in my glory! It was time to take my first trip to China and work first hand on my samples. I couldn’t wait.