Ups and Downs of Starting Up a Business. [Entrepreneurs from 4 Countries Talk About how Did They Start]

Lately I have invested my time and money in learning different business approaches, reading several books on this topic (such as “4-Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferris , “Launch” by Jeff Walker) and exploring the possibilities of e-commerce. So I decided to go a bit deeper into the subject and actually talk with some people who have already launched their businesses. Below you can read 4 interviews with entrepreneurs who have launched their own businesses. Some have done it alone, some with the team, but all of them have gained some experience they can share with everyone who would like to start their business but doesn’t know how. If you read carefully, you will find some real important steps to take prior starting a business…

1. ALEXANDROS, Greece. [Check out the website]

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1. What kind of business do you have? (brief description of your business)

Funky Doggy Store is a place for dog lovers and run by dog lovers! We are a small, family run business and our mission is to offer dog fans with the cutest dog themed gifts and apparel.

2. Why did you decide to start it up? What did inspire you?

First of all, thank you for sharing our story and showing an interested in how we started up. Three young people with different backgrounds each of us decided to create our business in E-commerce world. All of us have participated in many start-up events. Seeking the next step we found the digital area interested to be engaged. Then, our passion to create something new from scratch lead us to FunkyDoggyStore. On that point, the inspiration behind a project is something really important. The continually challenging environment on e-commerce, the flexibility of time, the potential to work with 2 friends and the low starting budget were some of the factors we chose the field of online marketing.

3. What were your biggest fears prior starting the business?

Because of we are three on the project, I would like to answer on the question above as Alex. So, I think that setting this project as a priority and spending lots of time on this was my biggest challenge I had to face. That happened because in the digital world you can succeed with the lowest budget you have. What matters is how strongly you believe in your idea!

4. What did your family/friends say when you started out? Were they supportive?

‘’Work hard in silence and let your success be your noise.’’ I strongly believe this quote because I did avoid sharing with others something that was in an early stage of creating, however, my parents supported me as much as they could, because I had previously proven that I am trustworthy and want to give meaning to my life.

5. What do you love the most about it? What is your favorite part of your daily job?

I love to solve a puzzle as a team. There are 3 of us: Tolis – a Web designer, Dimitris – the man behind the scenes. He has done much research about what tools we should use to improve our branding. My part could be called Digital Marketer. I love that every Monday we have a Skype meeting to refresh and review the previous week. I Like the way we are working on the project. Exchanging ideas for improvements with my partners and seeking new content to post on social media is that kind of thing I like the most on a daily basis.

6. What would be your suggestion for those who are planning to start a business?

Once you have found the idea, you have to Determine the Problem your Solution is actually Solving.

1. Use the existing competition to your advantage and use their performance data to better understand the market, the clients, the product, and the price structure. Then,

2. Gather the Details of Your Business Idea. What you need is a simple and concise summary of your business concept, a one-page document that you can refer back to anytime you need to get in touch with your original idea.

3. Trim down your business concept. Your goal here is to reduce your business idea to its’ most important core feature (highlight it on your business model canvas!).

4. Build a website for testing. In today’s world, many new business ideas are online-driven. A simple but attractive website with some basic marketing around it can help you gauge the potential of your business idea. Examples of this: WordPress, Magento etc.

5. Create your Marketing Plan. What you need to do is find people who love your product and your company. You need to find people who will choose your brand over another, people who go out and tell others about how great you are.

6. Set Goals, work on them and evaluate the results. Once you’ve got your product defined, your basic website set up, and your marketing plan laid out, don’t fail to determine your business (test) goals.

Last but not least: Never stop changing yourself!


2. KRISTĪNE, Latvia [Check out the website]

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1. What kind of business do you have? (brief description of your business)

A charming cafe in Riga Old Town, with homemade kitchen, two floors, and great atmosphere.

2. Why did you decide to start it up? What did inspire you?

I had this dream about opening my own coffee a long time ago, and God showed me through different ways the gifts He had given me, so 3 years ago I understood that this is the right time to do that. And I started to make this dream come true. Last year was the time I opened my cafe.

3. What were your biggest fears prior starting the business?

I feared that my ideas for a good café as they appeared on my mind, will turn out to be wrong. I feared that the whole idea could fail.

4. What did your family/friends say when you started out? Were they supportive?

Yes, they were supportive, but a lot of people were also skeptical and they asked me rhetorically if there really is a need to risk so much.

5. What do you love the most about it? What is your favorite part of your daily job?

I love that the customers are coming in, enjoying the atmosphere and staying for several hours. I love to welcome guests and speak with them. And I like to find solutions for new difficulties that may appear.

6. What disadvantages did you notice about starting a business in your country?

The institutions require too much time to receive documents and permissions.

7. What would be your suggestion for those who are planning to start a business?

Do what you love and do it from all your heart. Step by step, not everything at the same time.


3. AFINA, Moldova [Check out the website]

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1. What kind of business do you have? (brief description of your business)

Our project is MedicalTourism.Review. It’s a community platform for patients worldwide. Basically, all you need to find about treatments, medical institutions, their treatments, prices and stuff. Also, we want to enable people to discuss in a safe environment, to share.

2. Why did you decide to start it up? What did inspire you?

Well, I traveled nonstop for several years since 2008. I’ve been to over 40 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, North and South America. I worked on the road and sometimes I would get sick or someone from my team would. I had to find a hospital and to go there… I have a lot of stories that end differently, some of them are great, some really bad in “I almost died” bad… I felt it was unfair that people can find a hotel, a restaurant, things to do in any country and there is so much information about it… But getting sick on the road or travelling for treatment is one of the realities that we deal with sometimes and this issue was really hard to solve for me… I had to research for hours, finding information that is outdated and not valid, or is wrong… 3 years ago I decided to try to solve it. I was talking about this more here.

3. What were your biggest fears prior starting the business?

Ummm, fears? Starting was easy, starting is full of hopes and dreams…. In the beginning we were too busy figuring out what is the problem and which solutions are best. We had sooo many things to do, research and decisions to make… No time for fears… But in 6 months time fears start to catch up… Will it work? Will it help? Am I able to give the best chance for this project? These questions were not answered any time soon and I still have them till this day. Accepting the fact that I know nothing and keeping an open mind to see the reality of this problem and reality of the solution is hard, because it’s so easy to fall into illusions and misunderstandings… Some illusions take years to realize and get rid of. It is easy to see the speck in someone else’s eye, and not to see the log in my own… But persistence, patience, and asking the question “How?” instead of “Why?” works for me. Oh, I remember the scariest was the realisation how complex two things are: the medical domain and people… I sometimes catch the vastness of these two things and realize that maybe I could grasp the medical domain on global scale in the future, but understanding people in order to help them, is an ocean I will never be able to get to the bottom.

4. What did your family/friends say when you started out? Were they supportive?

Our project is a “Family Project”. I am doing it together with my husband and this is how I see it: I involve as many of my closest people as I can into my idea. And in the end it’s not about great idea but about convincing and exciting the people that are close to me. It is the first exercise, I think. It’s easier to convince people I know, because I know how to talk to them so everything I say makes sense. Strangers are more complicated to convince, and I believe biggest and hardest part of any project is actually convincing people, exiting them to participate in any way, to support, buy and use your product. So every relative and friend I have is not left alone until their eyes sparkle when I tell them about my project and they are my first supporters, but in a subtle way. I’ve never been a pushy person. I prefer to let people realize the problem by themselves and come to me for the solution. I know realizing the problem is half of the solution, but if you don’t invest yourself in that part then the second part will be of no use. But I believe, there is always a way to relate to people, especially when you talk to them from their point of view.

5. What do you love the most about it? What is your favorite part of your daily job?

Daily… I think it is hard to enjoy something every day, only if I have a perspective and comparison… I enjoy learning and building something, I enjoy seeing opportunities and implementing them. Also, I enjoy sharing my experience with others. As I went through something myself, I can help somebody else to go through with it making it easier for them. But most I enjoy making a concept of something and seeing it become a reality. And seeing how it is being used by other people… I like to see how it impacts and changes peoples’ lives hopefully for better…

6. What disadvantages did you notice about starting a business in your country?

So we were thinking long and hard where we want to open our business, so it has all of the advantages. This is what we had on our list of options:

1) Moldova – we have a company and an NGO there, we can easily hire people in Moldova, and we know all the bureaucratic ins and outs. But Moldova has bad banking systems (especially after billions of dollars were stolen from a bank) the legislation is vague and gives too much opportunity for corruption, even small government officials have too much power over your business. The unstable political situation, and weak and corrupt legal system. Unless you can outsource IT services in Moldova, other IT businesses do not make sense to us in Moldova. We still plan to have outsource company in Moldova to deliver IT services to our main company if we will find no country can match the skill and price ratio to Moldova. Especially because from last year all IT companies moved to “IT Parks” which means 7% taxes for everything. And employees do not lose their social benefits. Combining this with lower wages it makes it very convenient for IT startups. There is one problem though: lack of professionals. Until now we solved that with community support. We had opened Drupal Moldova Association that trained and supported local IT community to grow and excel. Luckily today the support is bigger, the government and private sector is pushing projects and programs for IT sector with events that attract and train new professionals, so today the lack of professionals is not that acute anymore. (You can find more information about this here: TEKWILL , ICTGirlsGoIT )

2) US – we have visited San Francisco and participated in Traction Camp where we had Startup Professionals from San Francisco explaining us all the benefits, ins and outs to have your Startup in the US… We got convinced. In the beginning we had decided to register the company in the US. There are many adventages for it, such as access to professionals that know how to build and grow big scale international projects, access to investment and bureaucratic process that is easy for startups. The legal system has good experience in precedents and it is much more internationally recognized. I mean, if you say it’s US company it sounds more convincing to anyone.
But as we talked to our friends we realized that with the money we have we could not afford to live and have a startup in the US. We had to find investments, and listening to people who had experience or themselves were investors I realized that my dream to make a project that is focused on helping people is not necessarily what investors invest in. Although their experience will help us grow the project fast and make it successful. But it felt like the goal I had to help people would change its’ course and focus on making money instead. This purpose made no sense for me and was not worth my time. And last but not least, I was not sure the US is my type of country. I mean, I can see myself staying there for a year if I have to, or visit from time to time but living… I felt it’s not for me. And flying often to the US from Europe is not an easy and cheap trip to do.

3) EuropeUK, Estonia, France and at last – Spain – we have considered that we want to move to a country with warmer climate yet in Europe. So after one year of research we chose Malaga for a try – and we came here in October last year, and for the first time in my life I did not want to say “ I love this Country but I prefer traveling…” Spain feels like my place, at least for now. So we decided to look for opportunities to integrate into a local business community faster, easier, better.
We did some research and applied and were accepted to a Malaga startup pre acceleration program supported by Andalucia Government, Málaga Ayuntamiento, and Telefonica. This program is good for us in sense that it helps us to navigate through local bureaucracy, and connect to local professionals and companies faster and as at first we wanted to register our company in the UK and work on Autonomo from Spain, it made sense. Flights from Malaga to London are under 50 euro, and London has amazing startup friendly situation, bureaucracy, legal and banking is set to work, and is cheaper. And at first glance Spanish bureaucracy seemed ridiculous and very unfriendly to startups, I mean the fees and all process did not feel like the right choice. In the process we have found out that there is Andalucia Program that works to support local startups and helps them register, and to navigate through legal and tax system with minimum damage to time and pocket. So as we still lived in Malaga we decided to go through and register the company here in Malaga with the support of this program. If it would not work we could fall back to our previous 2 options (US or UK).
Now if you do this by yourself you need to spend minimum 10 000 EUR for the whole process in the first year, maybe even more, which we don’t have. With this program we plan to spend around 2 – 3 000 a year first year. It includes expenses related to one year of private medical insurance for two which is needed for NIE, Autonomo and work permit and also the CEO of the company has to be Autonomo.

Disadvantages having our startup in Spain – bureaucratic process and taxes are harsh for beginning companies – you’ll definitely need money to start. Investment scene is also as we heard not keen on investing in beginning projects without traction. Legal and Banking system does not have the benefits and experience for international businesses compared to US and UK. If my expectations will come true we’ll gonna have to grow our project and relocate our business.

7. What would be your suggestion for those who are planning to start a business?

Try to fight your illusions and opinions about anything that is related to your business. An idea is worth nothing, implementation is everything, focus on having an effective and strong team. Remember no matter what you do, do it for the people. The human factor is the basis of everything and thinking from this perspective makes it easier, more focused and effective. The focus is the most important part, have an end goal and stream all your thought, time and energy into that – then you will achieve results faster, better, easier. And be aggressive with prioritization, what will make this project exist and function and build from that. Fear of failing seems strong but fear of success might be the real subconscious sabotage you never will expect to have because success comes with so many challenges and responsibilities and this might be the real barrier that will stop you from giving yourself the results you deserve. Deal with the problems you have at this moment! You will deal with the rest when the time comes. Yet talk to those who are few steps ahead, this will help you overcome your issues easier. Do consult professionals to avoid future mistakes and problems especially lawyers, try to implement solutions to avoid future problems.


4. ALEXANDER, Austria [A former co-founder of TimeLack]

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1. What kind of business do you have? (brief description of your business)

“Timelack” was all about saving time by giving work to people who are well educated, have a lot of time and want to earn money from home. You could easily outsource your digital work.

2. Why did you decide to start it up? What did inspire you?

We did that because at that time there was nothing comparable in the web – so we thought of ways how this would work.
At first, our main goal was to “change the way we work”. It was the book ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ by Tim Ferriss, that inspired us in the end.

3. What were your biggest fears prior starting the business?

I wouldn’t say we were fearless, I think we were just naïve at some point… so we didn’t really think about it that much at the begging and just did what had to be done. That’s also my main learning: Just do it.

4. What did your family/friends say when you started out? Were they supportive?

At first, they thought it was more of a joke. I think most of my friends laughed at me behind my back (until we were successful; then it quickly changed). My parents were very supportive, at least they never said anything negative.

5. What do you love the most about it? What is your favorite part of your daily job?

That’s an easy one: I loved to speak and present in front of people. So when I got the chance I took it and could not stop presenting our company. – What I loved most about the daily job, the work with our team and to find new people.

6. What disadvantages did you notice about starting a business in your country?

Austria has a lot of rules, that was a disadvantage at the beginning, but sometimes these rules turn out to be something good for you.

7. What would be your suggestion for those who are planning to start a business?

People plan and overthink way too much. Test your product, talk to the people, ask them what they really want. Just fucking do it.


Read more articles: 

Should You Become a Photographer People in Latvia lv

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