Ten years ago I got my first taste of business and of ‘youth stardom.’ I hate that term, but I’ll have to use it just to help you to understand.
A microbusiness I started with my brothers and a friend won a regional enterprise competition and the beginning of a phase of my life I will call ‘The Lauded Phase’ started. Star-studded events, press coverage, local fame; in some ways it was a dream come true. But was it a sticking plaster over the many years of depression, bullying and rejection I had faced before?
I’ve always had an unsettled nature. Not so much in a negative sense, just I’m very impatient. I like to get things done and change things that I feel aren’t right. I took an alternative career path, ditched my University offers and took up a place at the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy where my full-time entrepreneurship career began. Again I’d like to think I made a success of myself, I held a high profile launch for my renewed ICT consultancy company and attracted celebrities, press and a whole bunch of business enquiries. I was flying high.
Not one to always wear the sensible hat, the business suffered a mini depression of its own and our dependency on one or two major clients caused the company to re-form. Our focus had begun to shift from pure technology consultancy into digital campaigning and work with young people. I had success with clients such as Google UK, the National Trust, various large charities and small businesses. We helped them raise awareness, raise money for their causes and shift dialogue to make meaningful social change like influencing policy and giving the unheard a voice.
Never did I think such work would command me to Buckingham Palace to pick up an award from Her Majesty the Queen last year. This was such an emotional moment, after the bullying and stigma I’d faced because of autism I felt like my life really had turned a corner. Needless to say, shortly after this time the attention was too much to bear. Come summer last year my depression re-emerged, I think a lot of it was a delayed aftermath from my dad’s sudden imprisonment in 2014 – due to crimes connected with his gambling addiction. I have campaigned hard on the issue to change the perception of gambling addiction and to make sure others don’t fall down the pitfalls that devastated our family. I became almost dependent on anti-depressant drugs and work and life became a chore.
I was back on my feet by the end of the year, having run a successful programme to support young entrepreneurs #AdamStart, and working with Youth Business International, a charity which supports young entrepreneurs globally.
2017 has been a fun rollercoaster too, I moved on from the charity and formed Bradford Swain, a social enterprise agency which backs social entrepreneurs, inspires young people and runs programmes to tackle humanitarian issues. Myself and my business partner have been touring the world with the business, having visited over 30 cities and dozens of countries since June of this year.
I’m taking the end of this year as a very personal reflection. I have realised that among this journey I have forgotten to look after myself; that age old cliche which stints so many entrepreneurs and changemakers. Mental health is important – cliche one. Put yourself first – cliche two. I could go on. I have let a lot of people down this year, I have been slow at responding, less social, a tad stuck in my own bubble. I am changing this. The sheer mammoth of my history and the space which I occupy whacked me in the face last year and I don’t feel as though I ever truly took time or effort to get to grips with it and harness it. Next year I will be better, I will be my best. I will do more business and support more young people and be real about the challenges in making that happen. I won’t hide under any rocks or close my eyes when the going gets tough. I’m sorry to everyone who has had to take the blunt end of my person this year, I will be better and I will resurface as the same Adam Bradford you still know.
In 2018 I will release my book – I’ll Never Fit In. I’ll be able to tell you all about my life so far, my thoughts, feelings, views on the world and my lessons learned in brand new ways. I’ll be in the media campaigning, making my voice heard and promoting the very best of what young social entrepreneurs have to offer.
It’s going to be an amazing year!