Sully Iqbal

Creator, Entertainer, Smile Maker

Travelling Alone for the First Time

So I travelled internationally all by myself for the first time last week! I travelled from London Heathrow all the way to beautiful Calgary in Alberta Canada. Honestly it was potentially the greatest experience of my 22 year old life!

So I’m going to break down some cool tips I have/ picked up on my travel, as well as using this as an excuse to show off some of the cool pictures I grabbed!

Check the In-fight Entertainment

Okay I’m going to defend in-flight entertainment at this point so get off my back! Are screens on flights bad? Yes yes they are, and are cut down versions of movies bad? YES YES THEY ARE! HOW DARE THEY CUT DEVDAS FROM 3.5 HOURS TO 2 HOURS! However! Going into the flight fully unaware of the movies available to me I almost missed some awesome films that I checked out during the very very long flights.

Okay this picture isn’t technically Calgary but look!

Okay this picture isn’t technically Calgary but look!

Only Take The Essentials

So I took a lot… a lot of stuff with me on my travels, and I’ll be honest I didn’t use a lot of the stuff I took!

Things I took that I didn’t use in the slightest include: My Nintendo Switch, a pair of slippers and at least 3 shirts! Sure it’s good to have too much than too little, but the fact it took a ton of space in my already pretty small suitcase does make a difference!

The coolest thing at the Royal Tyrrell Museum

The coolest thing at the Royal Tyrrell Museum

Plan that Itinerary

I’m not usually the planning type but honestly had I not done the little research I did I would have missed out on the coolest things I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m a huge fan of dinosaurs, and so through my reading of The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs I came across the Royal Tyrrell Museum. So as soon as I knew I’d be going to Alberta I made sure I scheduled into my calendar to make some time to visit the museum! Which was great because it didn’t even cross my hosts mind to go there!

Have a Friend

Okay so this is a hard one, and isn’t necessary, but having a friend where you’re travelling is the best thing in the world! Not only does it mean you have a place to crash, for free! (If they’re nice) which relieves a lot of stress. But they also can show you a lot of cool spots you’d miss out on if you aren’t a local.

For me it was getting poutine from this small cute place and even telling me some cool and tasty stuff to buy from a 7/11.

Conclusion

So hopefully these tips have been useful! I’m not a seasoned traveller but honestly this experience has made me want to travel more, even further and for even longer! I hope this helps motivate you to continue or even start travelling on your own!

My Mistakes in Launching a 'Fashion Brand'

If you’re reading this through my website and have looked through all of the pages , you would have come across a page about ‘Aion Clothing’ a fashion brand I’ve been trying to get off of the ground fro the past year.

Coming into the project, I though it would be an easy way to make some passive income. Boy was I wrong.

Here are someone of the to the trails and tribulations I have faced in launching the brand, and all the mistakes I’ve made.

The Idea

I came up with the idea to start a clothing company one day whilst I was laying on a free sofa bed I had coped when moving into my tiny studio flat in Finsbury Park. I was looking for a second way to make some income, and for some reason I though that launching a company in an already over saturated market would be the way to go.

So I did a minimal amount of research, my first mistake as had I done some I would have realised this venture may not be the best fro me, and came across a website: ‘Printful’. An extremely hand website that allows you to upload designs which they will print on demand and ship for you only taking the price of shipping and the item plus printing. This allows you to keep the profits per item without having to deal with packing and shipping. Joy!

I however underestimated the fact I was left with two very difficult jobs… designing and marketing. Both of which I have little to no experience in. Well you gotta role with the punches I suppose.

The Name

So Aion is an interesting name. It means eternal or eternity, I got it from the Greek Hellenistic deity of time. I wanted a name that would give my company a touch of class. Little did I know that Aion was also the name of a MMORPG and a snow time clothing company. Should I have changed the name? Probably! But I’d already changed the name once. From the original name of CloudFine with the tag like, ‘Your Cloud Nine Clothing Line’. Honestly, I should be paid to write jingles.

The Trademark

One of the biggest mistakes I made in this process was trying to ‘legitimise’ the brand, or as I saw it at the time, the company. Instead of going ‘guerrilla money making’ with this idea, I decided it would be the best course of action to make Aion into a company. An official online sole-trader business. Did I do research as to how to do this? No. Have I done this? No. Did I blow over £200 on a needless Trademark for the name? Yes! Until the Year 2028 I am the holder of trademark UK00003320096.

Was this a necessary use of my money? No way. I reiterate, I would have been better served taking a fringe route and investing the £200 in Facebook advertising in an attempt to make some sales and creating a recognised brand before trying to register for trademarks or even register the company.

The Website

Once again I fell into the trap of trying to create an air of legitimacy around the brand. Or at least what I thought was an air of legitimacy. So I decided to sign up for a Squarespace website (much like this website if you’re viewing this on sullyiqbal.com). Squarespace websites are beautiful and I wholeheartedly recommend them, unless you’re in a position where a few hundred pounds means a lot to you, which in my case, a few hundred pounds means a lot.

Printful has this nifty feature which allows you to auto-sync products to certain e-commerce platform and fulfil orders automatically from those platform. Squarespace isn’t one of those. Products have to be manually listed to Squarespace and automatic fulfilment only takes place after the first order of an individual listing. This means automatic fulfilment only takes place on a certain product in a certain size in a certain colour, only once that very specific item has be ordered at least once.

So I essentially traded ease and simplicity for look and style, and not to mention a significant amount of money.

However this was one mistake I learnt something from. I decided, it would be best for me as an individual to go back to the basics. I decided to make my main hub for the business a Storenvy website. The website is far more basic and I do not have a custom domain (I’m on the free plan) however the ease of automatic fulfilment and Storenvy’s marketplace make the switch worthwhile in my opinion.

Marketing

The final area where I have made mistakes is in marketing. My main means of marketing is social media, as many other burgeoning brands are also doing so. However where Aion has struggled is finding the tone and voice of the brand. The Instagram page has gone through so many stylistic changes there is no set brand feeling.

Furthermore, I went into paid marketing for the brand without much knowledge of the landscape. This had both negative and positive impacts. Obviously, the negative impact was that resources have been sunk into wildly unsuccessful campaigns. However through these unsuccessful campaigns there were very small granules of useful data collected. By compiling this data, campaigns have been refined and ultimately become more successful. Particularly on Facebook, where ads are far cheaper to run than on Google.

Furthermore I originally paid little attention to the content I was putting out, under the guise of quantity over quality. However I soon learnt that ‘content is king’ and that potential customers are far more likely to buy when they are presented clothing in new and interesting ways. This seems like a no-brainer, but when you’re an individual on a low budget, it’s easy to want to take short cuts. However after learning this lesson, the brand will use it’s lack of funds to find a way to create unique content, which will be a driving force behind the brands image.

Conclusions

I’ve made many mistakes when it comes to Aion Clothing and I’m sure I’ll make many more, however the learnings from this first year have been so substantial, they serve as motivators to push on with the brand and make Aion live up to it’s namesake and become an Eternal Brand.

How to start a Podcast

The definition of Podcasting is: ‘the practice of using the Internet to make digital recordings of broadcasts available for downloading to a computer or mobile device.’ A more apt description would be, people who like to talk do more talking, mostly about themselves or something they care about.

Why am I tell you this? Well, it’s to let you know about the trials of podcasting itself. Similar to the labours of Heracles, to launch a podcast, one must: Slay the Nemean Lion; Slay the Lernaean Hydra; Capture the Ceryneian Hind and so forth.

Getting Started

On a serious note, launching and running a podcast is tougher than it seems. Recently I launched the SlapDuck Podcast, which is now has a featured piece weekly in thefourone.com. And it wasn’t easy to get going.

Much like convincing your racist cousin that minorities are actual humans, it took a lot to convince me to get going. I umm and ahh a lot so it took thefourone’s own Julian to tell me firmly yet softly, like a gentle lover, that we were going to ‘record the podcast today’.

The SlapDuck logo is probably the best logo you've ever seen right?

The SlapDuck logo is probably the best logo you've ever seen right?

Researching

So you’d think sitting around a table with our buddies having a chat is a piece of cake, right? FAKE NEWS! It’s pretty damn tricky. Most of the things you and your friends talk about are inside jokes or conversations with many many layers. Is a listener going to enjoy this? Only if they’re a DaVinci Code level masochist. Sure if they’re a long-term viewer, they’ll be in on the joke, in on the ‘top bants geezer’. Yet, a new viewer is going to be more lost than a rich kid in a favela.

What you’ve got to do is research your butt off, finding relevant topics that do two things: attract listenership and allows the hosts to have an engaging conversation. Failing to find a topic that does both of these things renders your time wasted. And let's be honest if you’re trying to start a podcast, you're trying to make it work so you can leave your miserable day job.

When my computer slows down whilst I'm trying to research topics for the SlapDuck podcast

When my computer slows down whilst I'm trying to research topics for the SlapDuck podcast

Hosting

Be a host of a podcast is much like hosting a rabble of dwarves in your hobbit hole, only to be convinced to go on a journey across the land to inevitably slay a dragon. Essentially it’s no walk in the park.

Being entertaining is the easy job. The more difficult task is to navigate the conversation and maintain it’s structure. Much like Monkey D. Luffy navigating the Thousand Sunny, you need to make sure the conversation remains on track, but also allow for the addition of tangents which may add to the conversation.

If you succeed in doing this, you’ve had an engaged audience and excited hosts, which means you've essentially collected all 7 Dragon Balls of podcasting!

Susan, you're slaying that purple dress #WorkItGirl

Susan, you're slaying that purple dress #WorkItGirl

Conclusion

These are just some findings I’ve seen from my brief time as a ‘podcast host’. I’m certain that there are more complex findings I shall uncover in the future. But for now, these three key points are a solid foundation for creating your own podcast!

High Fives for Podcasting!

High Fives for Podcasting!

Living in London - part 3

I've been living in London for around 2 months now, and all in all, it's been a mediocre experience. As I've mentioned before, I had this delusion where I thought simply moving to London would drastically change my life in an instant. This, however, is sadly not the case. This I accept is partly my fault, I personally am not a very outgoing person. I'm not a person who goes out to bars or goes out for the sake of going out.

I'm an individual who prefers a quiet setting and surrounded by a few people that I care about and have a connection with. 

A totally legit depiction of my friends and I...

A totally legit depiction of my friends and I...

On a different note, I may not be an outgoing person, but I am a creative individual. For example, my YouTube channel, which allows me to express my creativity is an outlet for me. It allows me to communicate with others without the means of going out. 

On the one hand, this can be perceived as negative, as I'm building a persona that is completely based on the self I create and post online. This is a conundrum that I have greatly thought about. It, in turn, lead to me taking a few hiatuses from YouTube. Although these breaks in uploading content have had positive effects, such as giving me a new fuel for content creation and inspiring new ideas both for YouTube and in other projects.

However, there have been some adverse effects. The technical problem is that, once a channel stops posting on YouTube, it becomes buried within the algorithm. Essentially the YouTube machine that controls what videos people are served assumes the channel is dead. Therefore it won't suggest videos of a channel that it thinks won't continue entertaining people. There are way to work around this, a little bit of 'hacking' you can revive a channel. Something I am currently working on.

Hacking powers active! Obviously a picture of me...

Hacking powers active! Obviously a picture of me...

The other aspect that of taking a break from YouTube that has had a detrimental effect, is that I have clearly lost some confidence in front of the camera. This I feel is obvious in my most recent videos. It takes a while to get something right, and I'm still unhappy with end the result. I'll eventually overcome this, but for now I feel stuck in a transitional phase. 

 

As I've have said before, I'm comfortable being on my own, the prospect doesn't scare or upset me. However I do recognise that my creativity is being stifled by this comfort. Many of my creative idols are able to thrive in this 'loneliness'. My favourite writer Haruki Murakami comes to mind.

Unfortunately I feel that i've hit a certain threshold with my self induced reclusion. The only ideas I have are my completely my own. They're not influenced by a third party, or at least a third party where I can discuss an idea. I feel that if were to find a place to discuss and share creative thoughts it may help me unlock more potential in myself.

What is my issue? Well it all circles back. It's my lack of motivation to create these links.

I'm the first one to admit that i'm a 'lazy' individual. I wont go out of my way to do things if I don't find them to be imperative. An example would be, I've gone three weeks without buying milk. Why? Because I can use milk at work. If I want cereal (Jordans Cereal hit me up) I'll have it at work. If I want tea, I'll have it at work. That is the extent of my 'laziness'. 

This 'social laziness' isn't detrimental, for now, but a small part of me feels that unless I make some kind of change in my life, my inner loneliness will have drastic effects. It's difficult to come out of one's shell. To embrace others and accept them into your fold. Yet I feel very very slowly, I'm going to get there.

I leave you with the most recent video from my YouTube channel (as of writing). Hopefully your outlook on it is far less harsh than my own.

 

 

Living alone in London - part 2

A few weeks ago I wrote my first blog post, after 3 weeks of living in London. Another 3 weeks have gone by and, honestly, both a lot and not much has changed.

I'd mentioned the Meetup App as a means to make friends.  I've tried out the app one or two times and it seems pretty alright. My issue with it is less so with the app but with myself. Many of the conventional meetups are centred around drinking and nightlife. In all honesty, I'm not a nightlife kind of guy. I don't drink, mainly for personal reason, but many attribute it to my religious beliefs. And the two time's I've been clubbing I hated it! Too loud, too many people and too many creepy guys trying to feel unsuspecting women.

The few meetups I've found interesting are more relaxed and up my avenue. However, the ones I'd really love to attend are a considerable distance from where I live, and that's in London alone! For example, I'm a Bollywood fanatic, but I'm really not feeling travelling 40 minutes on the tube to watch a film with other people. On the flipside, one meetup I honestly really enjoyed was the Silent Bookclub. It was low key, in a creative jazzy environment, and with people who genuinely enjoyed reading! Not only that but I met a woman that worked for a drama school that had rejected me a few years ago! NO IM NOT BITTER.

My level of bitter

My level of bitter

 

Aside from the Meetup App escapades not much has happened. This makes me question, Am I doing something wrong? When I imagined moving out I thought that I'd go through this amazing fast paced metamorphosis and become a beautiful butterfly. Imagining I'd become one of those souls searching millennials, who have potted plants and discussions with new wonderful people. However I feel like the same guy, with a lot less money, but know knows how to cook and pay bills, so that's a bonus I suppose.

I thought I'd become like Heimlich from 'A Bug's Life'

The reason I suggest that it may be my own fault is that I've personally not done a whole lot to change as a person. Is that a good thing? I'm not too sure. A lot of people I know become completely independent of their family, quickly after leaving the nest. Giving them the occasional phone call and visiting once in a blue moon. However, I myself have spent 5 out of 6 weekends back home in the safety of my parents home. I can take the easy route and blame the fact that my parents call me twice a day, asking when I'm coming home. Or the fact that my mother starts to tear up when I leave on a Sunday evening, to return to my own 'digs'.

However, that would be lying. Yes, that is part of why I go home, but it's also because it's easier. Isn't it? It's so much simpler to be with your family in a comfortable environment than with strangers. 

I've started to understand that I as an individual like comfort and when given the option will take the comfortable option. I'm slowly starting to work on this. I've been offered some weekend work. This is a good opportunity to earn some extra money (much needed) but also to take the chance to remain in London and maybe put myself out there more.

It won't be an easy task, but as an individual with dreams, that seem too big for a person like my current incarnation, I need to start growing (emotionally/mentally and start trimming down physically) if I want to attain these dreams.

By dreams I mean goals, however owning a bed sales giant wouldn't hurt I suppose

By dreams I mean goals, however owning a bed sales giant wouldn't hurt I suppose

It's not all doom and gloom though! The past few weeks some really positive things have occurred. Firstly, I've grown increasingly close, emotionally/romantically to a person that came into my life this year. I don't have the greatest track record with this department (a story for another time). But this feels right. I hope it works out.

Secondly, I've opened up at work. Now that I don't have the excuse of a two-hour journey to get home, and my colleagues know this, I've taken more opportunities to stick around a socialise with my work-mates. This has been interesting as I work with a broad spectrum of people and getting to know who I do and do not click with has given me a new perspective on friendship. (Another story for another time).

Living alone in London - part 1

At the age of 20, after being a 3-time university drop out, I'm finally living on my tod in London. It's been about two weeks, and surprisingly I've not gotten the urge to run back to the safety of my home and my mothers home cooked meals. (Although as a single South-Asian male this was probably the biggest adjustment I had to face.)

I've always been a person who spent a lot of time on their own. I've never really felt the urge to go out with others, and the one time I've been clubbing, I was lost beyond belief. Does this make me weird? Perhaps. But I'm just being me.

However, moving to London as seemed to have changed my perception of 'hanging out'. I now crave having people to spend time with, and honestly somewhat regret my decision to live on my own, because I 'don't like sharing'.

However, it's best not to dwell on past decision, but to focus on those to come. (As long as you learn from those decisions.) So what do I do now? I have two people in my life I'd consider close friends, those who I'd consider my "ride or die's'". Unfortunately, they both live a considerable distance from me. I could continue to sit in my flat on my own, play some PlayStation (yes I'm a PlayStation guy) and read a book. However, not only does this ramp up my electricity bill, but it's unhealthy.

 

How to literally Ride or Die

Don't get me wrong, it's good to be able to be alone and enjoy yourself, but if that's all you do, it's going to get pretty toxic. You're the only person you listen to, all your ideas, all your perceptions become one dimensional. You need others around you to help you mould into a well-defined character. People to give you experiences, make you question your perspective and simply socialise. 

So getting back to my 'what now' scenario. Well at the behest of one of my "ride or die's" I downloaded the Meetup app in an attempt to meet new people. It's intuitive and filled with groups of people doing weird and wonderful things to survive in this crazy city.

Moving a big city is a huge culture shock, especially if you're as introverted as me. It's going to be a long hard slog to become a proper 'Londoner'. But in the words or Wiz Khalifa you 'Gotta Go Hard or Go Home'.

Example of poper Londoner

Example of poper Londoner