“Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it…” ― Wilferd Peterson
This is my favourite quote and one that I have only just discovered the real meaning and power of in the past couple of months. In a true act of serendipity I stumbled upon the Archie Talks event on Facebook (I always knew spending hours of my life on that site would eventually pay off) and at the beginning of March I went along and met superhero John Egan for the first time. Through John I was introduced to the wonderful world of Sandbox - a worldwide network of over 600 innovators, entrepreneurs, creatives and creators, leaders, achievers and impactors under the age of 30. The mission of this extraordinary community is to build meaningful relationships amongst like-minded peers around the globe and help them realise and grow their next big idea. When John told me about it I thought it sounded amazing and something that I really wanted to be a part of but I was slightly intimidated and didn’t think my humble credentials would live up to the standards of the incredible people that were already a part of this organisation. How and ever John recommended me to the head honchos in Zurich and I was invited to apply to join the Sandbox Dublin Class of 2012 who would form the Sandbox Dublin Hub that was to launch during a week of events in April. Winging my way through round one of the application process we were then asked to do something to WOW in order to prove our worthiness to join the cult (I use this term most affectionately) and help decide the final group who would make it through. Putting all my creative curating skills to use I installed a mammoth show at the gallery especially for Sandbox, filling the space with the entire contents of my stockroom. I then took a photo of myself in the middle of it all, blew the image up, printed it to the size of my desk and wrote my story on it. The story of how I came to be where I am, doing what I’m doing and loving it, the places and people that shaped and influenced me, the setbacks and the motivators, the endurance and the rewards along the way. However what I really wanted to convey was that this was just the beginning of my journey, a small part of a much bigger picture and a vision that I knew Sandbox could help me achieve. So I rolled up this little piece of me, tied a blue ribbon around it and sent it off to Zurich. Meanwhile in Dublin, I commissioned a little bribe in the form of a Sandbox cupcake (from the delicious Jennie’s Bake Shop) and sent it along with a mini version of my wow to John at the Archipelago HQ. A tactic that clearly worked because about a week later I got the news that I was in, officially indoctrinated as a Sandboxer. The week beginning 16th April saw Sandbox descend upon Dublin with speakers and attendees from all around the world including William McQuillan and Niamh Hughes at the Sandbox edition of the Archie Talks and Melissa Richer, Kyra Maya Philips, Kalsoom Lakhani and Tara Yip-Bannicq at an incredibly inspiring event organised in conjunction with Social Entrepreneurs Ireland at the Science Gallery. Endless dinners, workshops, pitching events and investor meet-ups also took place throughout the week culminating in a photocall and chat with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the official launch of the Sandbox Dublin Hub at the Mansion House with the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton. We were entertained by the superbly talented singer (and fellow Sandbox newbie) Rebecca Winckworth and regaled with intros from Sandboxers Rahaf Harfoush, Kane Sarhan, Bel Pesce, DJ Saul and Fraser Doherty. The week ended with a Sandbox retreat, with about 50 members trekking our way to Downings, Co. Donegal, one of the most beautiful places on earth where we had one of the most wonderful experiences. After the most enjoyable 7 hours I have ever spent in a car (none of the high achievers knew where they were going) we arrived to the Singing Pub and over the next couple of days met Goldi, Locks, Mama Bear, Papa Bear and Baby Bear (brought to life by the enigmatic Stephen O’Leary in a rousing production of Bear B ‘n’ B), we ate, drank, sang, danced, played games (drinking or otherwise), barbecued, walked, hiked, got tattoos (not real ones) learned about each other, revealed our greatest challenges and happiest moments, watched the sun set and a paper lantern rise and for us newbies discovered the real value of what it is to be a Sandboxer, to be part of a group with a unique vision to change the world in which we live and who know that with mutual support and understanding that is wholly possible. The past few weeks have been some of the most inspiring and gratifying of my life because of the amazing people that I have met and the friends that I have made. I have learned that in order to be the best you can possibly be and achieve the most that you possibly can achieve you have to surround yourself with people who are better than you, cleverer than you and braver than you, and that’s what this serendipitous encounter has provided for me. Through all of this I was constantly reminded of one of the greatest challenges that I had to face during the period while I was setting up the gallery, and that was the loss of my gorgeous good friend Dan Egan. He was a dreamer and a believer who wanted to make a difference, loved passion and diversity in people and places and was often lost but always smiling. I have thought about him a lot through this recent journey, and he will always be amongst those who propel me forward. Here’s to many more happy, fun and revealing Sandbox experiences!