There may come a time in every person’s life where they will go through adversity; it could be losing a job, splitting from a partner, or becoming homeless. When your back is against the wall, you have only two choices.

Give up or fight back!

At an art exhibition, I was introduced by a colleague, to a young soul. She wore her fitted cap low; her aura was calm and collected; she appeared shy but spoke with a quiet confidence. I asked her what she did for a living, and she told me she’s a property manager, but happen to be thinking of taking a new path in construction. She later went on to say she just came back from Jamaica, after sorting out some business there.

I was intrigued, to say the least, who is this young lady forging a career in a male-dominated industry? I was shocked and later inspired after hearing her incredible story was much more than that…

Meet Rochelle Hamilton, a property manager, co-owner of the restaurant/bar lounge ‘Shake it’, a director of a scaffolding company ‘CMAG’ and the girl who learned to believe in herself whilst being homeless._mg_7303-3

Kofi: Why did you choose to embark on a career in property?

Rochelle: I worked at a bank and wanted to buy a house. I did some research into how to get a mortgage. I found it interesting, and thought… ‘Hmmm, I should look into a career in property.’ I started to search for jobs that didn’t require a degree or prior experience and that’s how I became a property manager.

Kofi: That’s interesting, your research lead you to a new career. Did you ever find out how to purchase a home?

Rochelle: {Laughs} Yes I did, because I worked in a bank I had access to all the necessary information.

Some people think it is impossible to get a property. They believe that you might need a 100 grand deposit. Through conversations with others, I find out most people don’t have the knowledge. However, if you want it badly enough, you’ll do the research and find a way. I’m thankful to God I was able to buy my home at such a young age when they say the average age is 32. But I always tell myself that I am not here to be ‘average’.

Rochelle had bought her first house before she was 24. She spoke with humility and relief; I could sense that the journey to attain her property was not as attractive as it sounds.

Rochelle: When I want something, I am going to get it, and that has always been my philosophy. I do not think everything will be easy, but I am always willing to put in whatever work is required to achieve. That is one of the reasons that drove me to buy my house.

Kofi: Tell us your secret, where do you source your inspiration from?

Rochelle: My mother is my biggest inspiration. She went university in the evenings, worked in the day, bought her property, and travelled to different countries, all whilst being a single mother. She had loads of ideas and shared it with us as kids (Rochelle and her two brothers). Her actions taught me that anything can be done. I didn’t realise the magnitude of how amazing she was until I was much older.

I grew to understand I have to take responsibility for self and it’s not down to what the teacher or manager said I can or can’t do. Knowing that I am responsible for my actions keeps me in good spirits and optimistic about life – this doesn’t mean I don’t go through bad times.

I noticed a change in Rochelle’s voice; she pondered deeply before going on to recount a bad episode in her life._mg_7341

Rochelle: My mum moved to Jamaica with her husband four years ago, which was life changing for me. She earned a decent salary in London, and she took the risk to leave and start from scratch; it didn’t work out straight away. I went from a life of going on holidays with my family and not wanting for nothing to assisting my mother at times she had financial needs in Jamaica while trying to manage my life here in London.

At the age of 23, I was homeless, low and stressed out.

I had to sleep at friends’ houses, and I couldn’t see any way out. I started to think how did I get into this position? Why did my mum leave me? How could she do this to me? I called her one day and opened up to her about how I felt. She told me that the pain wasn’t going to last and that we were going to make it through, with God.

From eight months being homeless and taken to court, I was able to start a business and own my first property. I was determined and focused on getting out the situation. Not a lot of people know that I’ve been so low in life, it’s not something I usually share with people.

The pain from her words were soothed by the beauty of the outcome of this experience. The comeback she made was nothing short of a miracle, but this couldn’t solely be put down to luck. Her tremendous faith and hard work were the magical ingredients.


Kofi: You’re awesome! Tell me about your business and the inspiration behind it.

Rochelle: I travelled to Jamaica for my mother’s wedding, and we flirted with the idea to start a business there. When I got back to London and visited a milkshake lounge in Finchley, North London. I thought, why don’t we replicate something similar in Jamaica.

‘Shake it’ was born and has been running for three years now; it’s been challenging but rewarding, and I can only thank God for it.

Kofi: What challenges did you face starting a business abroad?

Rochelle: The culture shock. In the UK we are more customer service focused, and it’s totally the opposite in Jamaica which can make the business hard to manage.

Most importantly, if it were not for my mother we wouldn’t have the business; she has been running it, whilst I am in London. When we started, we didn’t have any family, friends or connections in Jamaica which made it even more challenging. Financially speaking there have been times when we’ve been down, but thankfully we’ve been able to ride the waves.

We’ve recently expanded the business from a milkshake bar into a restaurant/lounge selling international food such as Italian, Indian, and British.

Kofi: You have achieved so much, and it sounds like you have a lot more targets to tackle.

Rochelle: {Laughs} Yes. One of my goals is to develop my career further in property and construction, although my mother, stepfather and I have developed one of the most emerging scaffolding companies in Jamaica (CMAG Scaffolding Ltd) within the last 3 years, being blessed to be able to work with some of the most recognised hotels. My ambition is to own more properties and maybe a development one day.

I am in the process of developing a strategy to take the ‘Shake It’ brand across the Caribbean. We host events now, like karaoke nights and we also have had famous musicians perform in our venue, such as Etana, Gully Bop and Assasin.

Kofi: Brilliant! I bet you must have enjoyed yourself.

Rochelle: Yes I did have fun, maybe a bit too much! I tussled with the thought of not coming back to the UK, but I have responsibilities here, and there were still a few things I want to achieve.
Kofi: I have no doubt that you will achieve your goals. What keeps you so grounded and focused?

Rochelle: Believing in myself, realising that God has a plan for me and timing is key. At times it still isn’t enough to make you feel better when you are feeling low and people are telling you positive things. However, when I started to believe in myself once more and I began to work hard to get out of my negative situation; piece by piece it came together.

When you attain certain things like the car or clothes you have always wanted, after a while, they lose their glamour. I felt successful through the experiences of the struggle and the hard work to get these things and not in the objects themselves.

Kofi: You said that you felt successful, rather than you are successful. Was that for a particular reason?

Rochelle: When people hear what I have achieved I think they see me as business women, but I still feel like the average, shy and emotional girl.

At my darkest moment, I had a vision board that I looked at every day and told myself I am going to buy a house. It was not like I had a hundred grand, I had absolutely nothing, apart from a dream that I made a goal.

I haven’t achieved everything I want, and I am very optimistic about the future. I want to inspire; I’m the normal black girl from inner London who believed in herself. I want others to believe in themselves too. I believe with God, all is possible.

Subject – Rochelle Hamilton

Writer – @Kofi Dwaah

Photographer – Kofi Dwaah