It wasn’t easy for Asha Claxton to walk away from the life she had made for herself in the corporate working world. But a notion to begin executing on the many ideas she had was something she could not shake and soon began to instead, embrace. She believes that the gift of purpose can quickly be uncovered if we too maximize on our “100 ideas a day” and bring to life the being that we are yet to become. This is her story.
From very humble beginnings Claxton, now 39, didn’t know that her life would transform into what it is today. “We grew up in a little board house on a hill that was to us a palace of hope, having moved from place to place with our mother because we didn’t have a home. At one point in that transition, we lived in an abandoned house with holes in the floorboards and ‘pipers’ all around. God remained faithful because we weren’t left in the darkness due to a kind neighbour extending a light,” she recalled.
“My brothers, Akil and Anthony and little sister Anna were my world and caring for them became my priority above school” she explained. “I believed that better would come...I just didn’t know from where. From an early age, we had to go many things alone, we had to figure things out and we simply didn’t have the ability as children to always make the right decisions.” Having little to no choice, Asha left the little board house at age 16, but her family remained top of her mind. She began to live on her own and work so that she could continue to help her brothers and sister while at the same time attending school when she could, to complete the last term of her first year of A-Levels. It was at school that her A-Level teachers understood and worked with her to ensure she was never left behind. But what she didn’t know was that her home room teacher had decided not to sign her up for her A-Level exams – despite showing her academic fortitude the term earlier and at O-Levels with eight passes. She was to find out that she wasn’t registered for the exam on the first day of the exams.
“I was never given the opportunity to finish my A Levels because one teacher thought that I should not be given the courtesy afforded to others in the class,” she noted. "At that point I was heart-broken because I had no control over my circumstance and what she did, without even knowing it, fuelled me and removed the myth we are taught of school being our only ticket to a good life. She helped me see that I needed something more – determination towards a better life for myself and my siblings.”
Claxton didn’t give up. She went on to work at various stores in Port of Spain and at 20, had her first child, her daughter Jordan. Little by little, life began to turn around, starting as an oral transcriber at the University of the West Indies she would in time work her way to become a senior administrative assistant and gain experience across all departments of the University. During this time, she also completed a certificate in Public Administration, a degree in Communications with Honours and a Masters in Marketing from The Arthur Lok Jack Global School of Business with the support of a person she considers pivotal in her life to date: her uncle Patrick Watson.
New opportunities arose. Claxton took on additional responsibilities as an Open Campus tutor and Communications lecturer at the Trinidad and Tobago Hospitality and Tourism Institute before moving to a new role as head, Corporate Communications at the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs (AGLA) in 2014.
Having spent the last five years at the AGLA and with the last decade of her life spent sharpening her skillset for the corporate environment, deciding to leave it was not an easy decision – as she was also now the mother of three. “I have immense admiration for our attorney general and I learnt so much working there. He doesn’t even know it but he gave me the encouragement to be more. I had started seeking out the old truths through masters like Dale Carnegie and Earl Nightingale and one quote from Nightingale stayed with me – he said we have more than 100 ideas in a day and asked the question: how much more our life would be if we capitalised on at least one? And that is what I began to do. Whatever idea came to my mind, I attempted to do it until they just began adding up,” she pointed out.
Claxton got to work. “I started writing songs and connected with local studios to work on writing soca. I love children and having been writing stories since my eldest daughter Jordan, now 19, was a child, so I continued with those as well. I even continued a short novel that I am working on now,’ she highlighted.
Realising her work resonated so well in her capacity at the AGLA office, she also began to offer consultancy services for political campaigns in other islands. “My two candidates in St Maarten both won their parliamentary elections and given my current independence I am assisting one, pro bono in their final phase at present,” she noted.
Then came the baking. “I always liked baking and had fun in finding ways to make cakes a little healthier for us – whether it was by swapping out fondant which is just full of sugar for a marshmallow topping instead, or manipulating cinnamon for sweetness while reducing added sugar, I really enjoyed experimenting in the kitchen,” she pointed out.
"Soon enough my daughter recommended that I start selling by cakes and Cake Poppin’ by Asha was born. But my goal is not to simply making money in all these endeavours. I go to great lengths to offer cakes that have the best ingredients in them – and that people can enjoy – but business is not and should not be all about profit either – it should be an experience,” she said.
“There are many kinds of wealth and monetary wealth is just one aspect. We can share our time with people, our advice and counsel and that is a form of wealth too. I ensure that my children, now six, eight and 19 also understand this so instead of buying them gifts I got them access to online masterclasses which is an annual subscription that I pay for so that they can learn from the best and become the best versions of themselves too. Whenever I closed my eyes when I was younger and spent a few moments in meditation or prayer I would see a woman who was not me or rather who I had not yet become. And I knew I had to work to become that version of myself so that I could in turn help others,” she advised.
With a background in communications and marketing, Claxton has became adept at using GAP analysis to determine what needs exist in the market and gearing her time to filling those needs not only on a business level but also on a personal and societal level. “What we see lacking a lot in today’s world is empathy and love. Our true growth comes when we learn that all the things that we are and the things that we become are not only for our benefit. Sometimes, what we are is not for us – but for someone else. There are people out there who need what you have to offer and we all have something that we can give to make someone’s life better. And it can start with simply acting on one idea. In so doing, we can all become the valuable contributions to life that we are purposed to be – once we do it all with love.”
You can also follow Claxton’s blog on Facebook through @sagaofasinglemom.