Douglas Williams : Entrepreneur

I found this house in 1985 and it took me two years to finish building it. My house is in a book you can buy because it was built around 1853. It’s the oldest house on the street. The owner used to tie up his cow to the back wall in the back yard back then! There was an old dunny in the backyard, it was all urban jungle out the back. I’ve built it up a bit higher now because I wanted to sit here in the backyard and not have this neighbour behind me, who has built this tower, looking in. But as they insist on looking here, I insist on walking around naked!

I’m into numbers. I’m a nine. I live in 2016. I was born on the 27th day. I love the number nine. If you want to live in a home it’s got to be in harmony with your birthdate. I bought this place because it’s eighteen, which is nine times two. If you add up the houses on this street, it adds up to nine. Nine is an incredible number.

I used to encourage people to move here. I’d meet people and say: “You should buy into this area, in twenty years it’s going to be good”. I was like a real estate agent. People said: “Why are you moving there?” But as you can see, now I have built my little resort here, like my own tropical paradise.

At the moment I love the young tech, entrepreneurial people coming to the area who are smart and happening. They are leaving all the slow coaches behind. That’s what I find. Slow coaches can’t afford to live here anymore. I’m an optimist and go-go-go kind of person. I have a lot of things going on.

I was enthusiastic about a lot of the nasty people not being able to live here because they could not afford to live here. I’m not being pompous, but what I’m saying is that it’s nice to talk to peaceful, calm intelligent people who are on my level. I dig that. But when I first moved here. It was full of rascals. That’s a good word isn’t it? There is a diverse mix here but as long as they don’t start any trouble and I don’t have to call the police, I’m very happy. Let’s live in peace. I think it’s a little bit like London here. We have a little park and I go down there to water it with a couple of buckets of water. People are very friendly. They pick up their dog poo, which is good.

What disappoints me about Surry Hills mall is that it’s not in Surry Hills. It’s clearly East Redfern. I’m sick of people living over the road and saying they live in Surry Hills. It’s a nonsense. Be true to yourself, you live in Redfern. East Redfern is where I live.

I used to be in the shoe business. We used to make shoes in Byron Bay. We made woodies in the 1970s in Kings Cross. All the woodies are coming back now. Then when I worked for Lois Lane shoes we made dance footwear, jazz shoes. We used to sell jazz shoes to Peter Allen and he used to buy them in every colour. He was a size eight so we had to make some shoes that size for him. We introduced boxing boots, perforated boxing boots, and all the rag traders in Surry Hills started getting girls boxing boots.

The 80s were great. All these kids running around in brightly coloured boxing boots in the streets with boxing shorts and tops at rave parties.

I think the most difficult thing was losing my folks. I lost my father when I was twenty-three and I think of him everyday. As a young boy my father would say to me: “mix with smart people”. If you mix with stupid people, you’ll be stupid. So I have surrounded myself with people who want to get there and make it in life.

I would say to anyone starting up a business now, be precise and on time, never let people down, or you don’t get great business. If you fail you just need to say sorry and tell yourself that you will be punctual. People hate being let down.

I feel like I have reinvented myself in a way. If I knew what I know now, I would tell myself to have a weekend off. But no one is going to make it in this town unless you work and not bludge off the government. Just go and do it.

3rd November 2017

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