I’m a woman. I’m a business owner. I’m a mother. I’m a brewer, fermenter, juicer and soon a distiller. I am Danii Oliver, founder and head brewer of Island to Island brewery. More than that on a day to day basis I am a marketing director, a photographer, a designer, a developer, a programmer, an accountant, a media correspondent, a government agent, a teacher, a writer, an office manager, a booking agent, an event planner, an analyst and a cleaner, cashier, bartender, hostess, driver, porter. Did I cover all my tasks and job titles?
At times I wish to just have a job, like only a brewer, or only a designer. Some of you might read this and say “Oh she’s a Jack of all trades”. Ha I wish! The fact is when looking at my responsibilities those are them with all the responsibilities and requirements of an Indeed.com job description. I don’t have the luxury of dabbling I must immerse myself in every task. I have been becoming an expert at each over time. Other entrepreneurs would understand best, when your business is your life and your business supports other people’s lives, that there is no time to half ass anything.
Old World Ethos
Where I come from a person’s work was not measured by repetitive tasks of assembly line work such as, only filling a bottle with beer, nothing else. A person’s work was a complete endeavor from digging dirt to lay a foundation to mixing clay and making bricks which they would then lay and mortar as walls for a home. This same person would then, themselves run wires and pipes for electricity and water to run through that home.
They’d climb a tree to pick coconut to feed and hydrate themselves then shred those same coconuts and hundreds more to make a mattresses to sleep on. This house would fill up with naked babies who needed clothes and clothing would be sewn, they needed to be educated and lessons we taught. The now family would need to eat and earn cash for market shopping and so they’d pick what grew wild in the yard, cultivate the land and build a farm. They’d harvest the crops and eat, selling what was left over down on the Savannah.
When more bricks were made, more land was cleared and more walls were built. This structure became a storefront and another business was started. The government made that store location an official Post Office and thus this establishment became established in the eyes of the public. Commodities had to be acquired and a security system had to be established to protect what was offered. More than that, the items needed to be advertised to be sold faster or in greater quantity before going bad.
All the while not a single staff member was hired. No labor was outsourced and no one had a bachelors degree to build all they had built. My family started the Oliver storefront, Oliver signs, Oliver boats, Oliver rentals, Oliver arts, Oliver band, Oliver fishing, Oliver orchard, Oliver spirits and ales, Oliver catering, Oliver consulting. We needed no one and created something desirable every day. All that I just mentioned is the story of my family’s progress in less than two generations. It was work what we did with the old world ethos of “get it done.”
Then the modern word began to invade when the radio and television began to preach about a better life a simpler life an easy life. Some of my family members began to see their lives in comparison to actors, much like today how we compare our lives to social media profiles. They felt their lives were overworked and sought retirement in the States with the dream of ease, of more and a better life reasoning the journey.
Think of it, with only a single piece of silly paper, they could enter a world filled with “for sale freedoms” and stories about “opportunities”. Once in the States with only another silly piece of paper, one could get a job doing one thing over and over for more silly pieces of paper called cash. And with cash the world became your oyster, in other words, easier and better. But paper cash quickly became meaningless.
More and more cash was needed for basic things. Climbing trees for food became impossible thus, cash was needed to eat. Sewing clothes shamed your kids so cash was needed to buy clothing. Then there came another game to play called credit. Credit was everything and getting a home was no longer about your skills in brick making but the credit you had based on statistics no one understood. Neither skills nor cash were providers in the modern world.
Pride kept them in the States working to pay off what the dream of “opportunities” sold them. Since having a store or working for self made them feel shame as “immigrants” in a land filled with immigrants they worked a job eight to sixteen hours a day confined to one task, one desk, one machine and called it prestigious. Daily they broke their backs, poisoned their bodies and got sick with new diseases of diabetes, high blood pressure, depression and cancer. Shame sent some of my family away, back home or in search of better. For those who stayed this new found mental prison left them with one last mission, to bring back the soul of our people and the work that built truly free lives.
My grandfather prayed and laid hands on me, but never spoke English when he did it. He invited spirits to walk with me whispering ideas to me. He allowed stubbornness to flourish within me. He disciplined all his children yet, never disciplined me. He let me be free. Kept nurturing something rebellious in me. He left me alone in search to find my own. His only words to me I can remember came from his spirit saying “tell my son this is my son”. (cryptic no?!)
I resented him for twenty five years. All he’d done to me or for me was cast spells on me not even teaching me his language to understand him. Now, I see he was keeping the veil from over my eyes so I could see this modern world for what it is. He was instilling in me the desire for back-home-style endeavor building. His mission paired well with the entrepreneurial spirit of my maternal grandmother (another “get it done” ancestor of mine).
And so I brew beer, I write, I design, I photograph, I drive, I book-keep, I bartend, I teach, I build, I use tools daily to make and to fix, I manufacture, I collect taxes and I serve. All this so I can have a THING. I thing that keeps my family going since pieces of paper have failed us and enslaved others.
The Rat Race
I was raised in this stateside foreign American society. I was always told to pick one thing to be in life yet, I was pressured to be great at many things in school at the same time. The ingrained ethos was to strive to be the best and gain recognition via awards and grades and titles like dean’s list, principal’s list, honor roll, AP, Magna Cum Laude, boss, Dr. and ESQ. Being alive was never enough. Today the competition against self and others for more and higher is still a requirement to live. So I haven’t stop trying.
I could not get an eight hour a day job from the grades, titles and pieces of paper I earned. In Philadelphia, I was told no one of my skin tone could be a professional according to my Arcadia University professors. I left the country to travel the world and found I was an outcast because I cared to learn about the world not simply drink my nights away on a cruise ship or take selfies before it was a thing. I found that my skin meant nothing in the grand scheme of things. My skin was desired and hated, coveted, covered up and celebrated around the world. Having seen that my professors at Arcadia were wrong I left for Temple University and Baruch College. On graduating Cum Laude no business would hire me, not even a retailer.
Now in the New York, my height was wrong, my gender was wrong, my body shape was wrong and there was no tree to climb to feed myself. With a host of small skills I built a little and turned a little in to more via bootstrapping.
Men laughed at me saying “How could you, you’re so small”. Women shunned me because I was doing too much work, not being vulnerable enough to men in power.
Men laughed at me saying “How could you, you’re so small”.
I kept my head in books until my head exploded built a venture then got back to studying for the next venture or phase. No skill set was a hobby. Every task I applied to an endeavor was for gains not fun. I worked 3.5 shifts a day then became a mother and downgraded to 3 shifts so the baby could be looked at by me. In seeking to make my life work with family and tasks on top of tasks without the income of a job, I kept my kid near raising her myself; not sending her to be raised by teachers who’d give me progress reports about my offspring so I could learn about them from, you guessed it, a silly piece of paper.
How did I get here
My mind works so diligently it does not have time to sugar coat things and so when data has been inputted it only gives a straight answer. For this reason, NO, does not compute. I was told oxymoronically, to be one thing in life yet required to be great at many things. Thus my brain computed this into a prime directive “be the thing you want to be by any means necessary”.
My one thing has been to be a business owner because those people are the builders of the world. We create what does not exist for society or provide access to things. My route to my goal was to build, with perfection, every element. And so I’m a woman. I’m a business owner. I’m a mother. I’m a brewer, fermenter, juicer and soon a distiller. I am a marketing director, a photographer, a designer, a developer, a programmer, an accountant, a media correspondent, a government agent, a teacher, a writer, an office manager, a booking agent, an event planner, an analyst and a cleaner, cashier, bartender, hostess, driver, porter.
Old World Ethos Returns
I want at times to be less. Because for all the work I do and best-ness I strive for, there is no reward worth the effort. But I can not stop. The answer to “why not stop” does not compute like the word “no”. In fact every time I hear “No” or “Stop” my mind devises another way. If a way can not be found the only answer is death. When death becomes an option… ego kicks in to prolong the day and keep poisons and sharp knives at bay.
Yes, living with suicide is a thing.
I am an artist. Painting was not a hobby. “Every painting is and opportunity for a sale, so make it great.” Said Dee Winfield, high school AP Fine Arts instructor. My pastimes were income generators. I watched people eat & drink beer for fun. Where they saw a moment to breath I saw an opportunity for branding and innovation. I used my art to brand and my research to craft recipes. I earned more pieces of paper to justify my expertise and I used my silly piece of expensive paper to write plans. I then took action with my own elbow grease.
Today I have at only 30 years old a growing beverage manufacturing business, a hospitality business, an advertising & marketing business and a budding school. I am not the partner of a man. I am not a co-founder and do not share the burden and responsibility of CEO. I am building a team, yes. I have advisors and mentors, yes. But what man is an island?
I wish to one day have a full team of professionals dedicated to their singular tasks and titles, heck I wish to be one of them too. But, I know from my family history such a singular mentality doesn’t lead to much. I must continue to work with the old world ethos of “get it done” in case no one comes to help me or I can breed more people. In the meantime my small team is growing.
In conclusion, who I am is more than a name it’s a legacy of self made individuals who built businesses and families. I am all this, and still working to make it using an old world ethos in the modern world.