When I ask 20-somethings just out of university what they want to do, they often tell me that they would rather not work for a company driven by profit. “Profit-making isn’t a good cause.” Seeking profit is a sign of “greed”.
I realised that something needed to be done to address this trendy aversion to capitalism. The economic case for the profit motive has been around for a long time, but many young people are not taking notice, if they have ever even encountered it. So I created Tianah, a short documentary about my friend, to show the human side of profit.
Tianah tells the story of how ambitious entrepreneur, 23-year- old designer Christianah Jones, went from a teenage Psychology student selling clothes from her bedroom on the Depop app, to the businesswoman who created the famous Slim Shady sunglasses brandished by Bella Hadid and Kaia Gerber today.
This is a snapshot in the life of one of the many entrepreneurs active in London in 2018 – a celebration of individualism, technological advancement, and the beauty and necessity of the profit motive.
When Tianah was a teenager she was a fan of style. Since there are so many styles to try, she hated wearing the same thing twice. This made her stand out, but led to clothes stacking up in her bedroom. To get rid of them and make quick money, she sold them along with other cheaply sourced fashion finds that she would patch up herself. It became a hobby, and demand grew. It was when she made a profit and sales kept improving that she realised this is how she might not only make a living, but achieve the success in life she desired.
Tianah took the risk of quitting her graduate job and abandoning her plan to continue her studies to master’s and PhD level. Then she could focus full-time on her business and creating her own fashion lines. With no other income, this step forced her to find increasingly imaginative ways of sourcing labour and materials and keep ahead of what the young masses craved.
It is an inspiring story; it says that backing down from your ambitions in the face of popular beliefs can compromise not only your own success, but your ability to lift the cynics up with you. Tianah explains why profit is vitally important to her survival and why she aims far higher than merely getting by.
If Tianah invests her time, money, special knowledge, and materials into making her latest fashion idea a reality, and these efforts make money, it is a signal. It means that her product – the combination of the resources she brought together in her own way – is more valuable than the sum of its parts, more valuable than those parts were before her vision connected them. If she loses money, she is destroying value, and those resources would have been better expended elsewhere.
As Tianah puts it, nothing is free in this world; she gives people the feel-good factor and she receives something in return for that.
By choosing to buy Slim Shadys, someone has decided that the money it would cost to buy the Slim Shadys is worth less to them than the Slim Shadys being on their face. It is personal; the customer knows best. Others are free to come along and create a better product. But when Tianah does it better, she wins the customers’ money and creates more of the same product that is making people better off than they otherwise would have been. Crucially, the product will become more ubiquitous and affordable as creators realise there is money to be made and compete for business.
Slim Shady sales are an example of this process which transcends fashion and can improve everything from supermarkets to schooling. It is a process that leads to more wealth being created, not taken from anywhere. It is why, throughout history, entrepreneurs such as Tianah contribute to human progress. Profit-seeking means everyone gets richer and life gets better.
Profit makes the world go ‘round.