How to run a revolutionary start up with your dad while studying

Interview with Diane Levy, who is Co-Founder of Woollip and runs the business together with her dad next to her studies. We talked with her about what it means to run a family business and how to create a skyrocketing crowdfunding campaign. We also discuss how to be a real problem solver and about why conviction and courage will bring you wherever you want to be. Let´s dive into it!

So Diane, what is Woollip and how did you come up with it?

 

Woollip is a unique travel pillow that allows you to find multiple comfortable positions for your head so you can rest and sleep during flights and journeys.

During my first exchange semester in China my Dad came to visit me in and we travelled together through China for some days. We travelled with low cost airlines –and whoever travelled with low costs airlines in China before, knows that the standards are not comparable to European low cost airlines- so we had a incredibly hard time to get even a little bit of sleep.

This was due to two things: Firstly, the condition of the seats and secondly because we could not manage to find a comfortable position to sleep for our head so we could rest or sleep.

Woollip Crowdfunding 2

Later during our travels my dad saw a girl sleeping in a very rare position, kneeing on the ground with her hands folded over the chair and her head put in the small gap between her arms. My dad told me “Look at how this girl is sleeping” and after some brainstorm we realized it would actually be great to enable people to sleep in this position.

We got our first inspiration from massage chairs where people lean with their face downwards on this bench. Prior to our trip my dad, who had worked for an international media company his entire life, had quit his job to find a new challenge in life. Inspired by our talk and the idea he told me: “Diane, I want to be an entrepreneur, build something great and turn this idea into a business!”

As I had gained some experience in pitching and communications during my entrepreneurship course and my internships we decided to do this project together using his network and experience and my skills to develop a revolutionary travel pillow. Woollip was born! 🙂

Wow, so you started a company with your dad. How did the next months go?

 

While I was still in China my Dad started evaluating the idea in Paris, considering engineering and production and he created the first prototype. I came back and started an internship in Paris and we started working fully together. We met people who could help us and push our idea forward. 9 months later I moved to Washington for my second exchange semester and we coordinated our work via Skype from two continents. Communicating from the distance wasn´t easy. Also my dad and me a lot of temperament (must run in the family ;-)) , which causes some conflicts now and then.

But we managed it well and actually I have to say we never worked as efficiently as we did at that time. I guess this was because of the fact that we that we didn´t need to work at the same table in the living room anymore…

 

Speaking of which, please give our readers an impression of what it means to run a start up with your dad. How did Woollip change Family Levy?

 

Once you start your own start up, this becomes your main focus in life. As my mother says: You wake up Woollip, you breath Woollip, you eat Woollip, you live Woollip. (Please do not eat Woollips…it´s not good for you!) So Woollip was everything we did, and that´s why it became an issue sometimes. Consequently we were actually more efficient when I had my own separate private and business life in Washington.

 

Diane and her dad

Diane and her dad Franck

 

How much time did you allocate to Woollip during your exchange semesters and how did you manage to still get the most out of them?

 

I worked on Woollip on a daily basis. In China I travelled a lot in the beginning when classes had not started yet. Generally people and students work a lot there so I could work while others were working as well. Also in the States students do a lot of internships while studying. So while my friends where doing their internships I worked on Woollip and mostly at nights and weekends we went out for dinner and to have fun.

Once you start your own start up, this becomes your main focus in life. As my mother says: You wake up Woollip, you breath Woollip, you eat Woollip, you live Woollip.

 

And then you decided to launch a Crowdfunding Campaign. How did you go about that and how did you get all the support?

 

Once we decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign we contacted a small communication agency to help us. I did a lot of the marketing but when it came to design we had no skills at all. All people in our network gave us a hand in this adventure, from my mother to the University and even the CEO of the New York company I did my internship at.

He managed to get an article for us in TechCrunch, one of US’s most highly regarded start up blogs. Through the mum of a friend who moderated a TV Show we even got promoted on French TV. It was a lot of work and not everything worked out as we had planned but in the end I learned that if you are passionate about your idea and don´t keep it secret, people will help you and support you, no matter what.

If you have an idea, share it with the world. Nobody will put the time and effort in stealing your idea. In fact, the more people you tell about your idea, the better. People will either like it, you´ll get positive feedback. If they don’t like it you will probably get important improvement feedback and if people love it as much as you do, then they will spend money on it.

 

 

Note: When we conducted the Interview Woollip  had just raised 75.000€. The initial goal was 55.000$. In the end Woollip reached a total funding of 250.000$ through the online crowdfunding campaigns. Check out their crowdfunding campaign on kickstarter here.

 

What is your advice for other people in our age, who think “yes actually I have this idea, BUT…”

 

First of all, trust your ideas! Secondly once you have an idea, see every problem as a challenge. Be a problem solver! See what is every obstacle to achieve your goal as something that will be a great experience and as an opportunity to learn new competences.

For example we knew how the form of the pillow should be but we could not figure out how to connect the pieces. So we had to find another technology and it took us many emails and talks with suppliers all over France until we found and convinced the right one. In the beginning I though it was impossible to do it and we got a lot of NOs. But in the end I developed my ability to pitch.

Trust in your ideas! Secondly, once you have an idea, see every problem as a challenge. Be a problem solver! See what is every obstacle to achieve your goal as something that will be a great experience and as an opportunity to learn new competences.

It doesn´t matter how old you are you always need to know how to pitch your product or idea. This is something you don´t learn in school. In the beginning you need to convince people to trust in your idea without being sure that it is going to work. So pitching is everything.

It is important to always have a positive mindset and being a problem solver. You simply can´t see a problem as: O fuck, I am giving up. Instead think: Oh yes! I am gonna solve that!

If it all ends up being a failure, it will be a great experience anyways and you will no matter what draw important conclusions from it.

You don´t succeed in a start up until you have failed seven times before.
Having that in mind you can never lose. If it works out the first time, perfect! If not go on and you will learn more every time.

I don´t regret any minute of work that I have put into Woollip so far. Even if it won´t become a great success, I have learned everything to define my own path in the future. It also made me aware of my strengths and weaknesses, which is very important. Also, if you want to launch a business, don´t choose for your bff…or even worse: Your dad! ;-). Instead, look for a Co-Founder who has a similar mind set but different core competences (actually this was the case with me and my dad).

In the US people see failure as a success. This is why there is the saying: You don´t succeed in a start up until you have failed seven times before.

Having that in mind you can never lose. If it works out the first time, perfect! If not go on and you will learn more every time.

For you personally, what are the most important takeaways of the experience of starting your own thing?

 

I learned that I can do much more than I thought I could do. I am not a superwoman, but close to being one. 😉
And everybody can be a superwoman/superman! If you have the will and the conviction to do it, you will make things happen. This doesn´t mean that you alone can do everything yourself, but you can engage others, and if they like your idea they will help you happily. So never be ashamed of asking for help! Lastly, start small and don´t think you have to do too much at once.

I for example contacted big US bloggers at the beginning of our campaign, but after not getting any responses I realized I had to contact blogger with a smaller reach but who would be enthusiast about the product.

 

I learned that I can do much more than I thought I could do. I am not a superwoman, but close to being one 😉 And everybody can be a superwoman/superman! If you have the will and the conviction to do it, you will make things happen.

 

To wrap it up, please give us an outlook on Woollips and Diane Levy´s near future.

 

Soon we will launch the production with the money that we have raised during our campaign. The Woollips might be sold in shops and in airports by the end of 2016. From that point on we hope to conquer the world and to make the travels of all people less painful.

Personally I am about to finish my studies and I am aiming to do a Masters abroad in a few years. In between I will work on Woollip and try to find an exciting job as well. In my dream I will do my masters at Berkley University. I also want move to the US west coast on the long term, to dive into the innovative tech scene over there. Let´s see if these dreams will come true.

 

Daniel: We thank you so much for this interview Diane and wish you all the best for Woollip and for you personally. May all your dreams come true!

Diane: It was a big pleasure. I would like to invite everybody to add his or her remarks or questions in the comment section below. You can always message me directly through the community for all other questions you may have. I will be happy hearing from you. 🙂 

 

 

Diane
Be proactive

From Amsterdam to Marrakech, Shanghai and back

As our bus reached Marrakech, the first thing I noticed was the heat that hit me when I stepped out. It was cool on the bus and I had spent the previous days in the coastal town of Taghazout, a real surfers paradise where there´s always a nice sea breeze around

It was dark too. Marrakech’s old town is a labyrinth of little streets that are full of vendors seling colorful spices during the day but can be pretty intimidating at night.

Balcony around Jemma el-Fnaa, Marrakech´s main square

Balcony around Jemma el-Fnaa, Marrakech´s main square

While I stood there and tried to figure out where to go next, a local in traditional Berber clothing approached me and asked where I was headed. In poor French, I gave him the address of the hostel I picked and he offered to show me the way. Why not, I figured and followed my guide through narrow red walls where every turn we took looked exactly like the one before.

Had I really just decided to spend at least 2 months in this city without knowing anybody?

I walked ahead and started thinking about what got me into this adventure.

The journey after Uni

While I am not actually a student now, my story begins at a business school in Amsterdam were strict guidance of lecturers gave me a feeling of being back in Highschool.

That and thinking that I was learning more from the books I was reading myself made me feel quite depressed at school. I wondered how I was going to pull off a successful 4 years there with that mindset. Transitioning to university would have meant starting all over again and so I decided to drop out to see if I would be able to do what I wanted without having finished the study.

What I wanted was working and learning in a real company, outside of a safe school environment.

I don´t know about you but I find that real success generally comes from happiness and loving what you do. That really became true for me after leaving that school and things fell into place fast. I soon found a job in a big international company and to compensate not being in school any longer, I self studied with entrepreneurship and startup related books that really intrigued me.

I find that real success generally comes from happiness and loving what you do

Working in a large company on the other hand was a little like sitting in lecture halls: Quite stagnant. I didn’t renew my contract to join a startup, but instead of picking up my new working life right away I wanted to do an internship abroad. The prospect of joining a cool young company got me in that state where anything seems possible. Have you ever had that? When you have that feeling and go with it, anything really is.

Since I had lived in China for 1.5 years after high school, it seemed like a perfect idea to go back there to work on my Chinese and my network. Maybe I would even find a China related company once back home!

To not miss out on an event in Germany mid summer, I decided to look for a project in Europe for a few weeks so I could easily return to Germany and take off to Asia from there.

I looked for tourism jobs in southern Europe but nothing was working out.

Frustrated, I focussed on China instead until it occurred to me that Morocco was just as reachable as Spain too! Friends gave me advice on destinations and messaged hostels and hotels on facebook, asking if they needed help throughout summer. Within one day, I got two positive replies. I couldn´t believe it, I was going to work in a surfer hotel in Tagazhout, Morocco!

When you´re about to give up, just hold on for another day. That can change it all.

Morocco – Nothing like I expected

Once I had finished my contract, I went to Germany to grab some French books and catch my flight to Agadir, finally on the road again.

After a major culture shock about how rough morocco seemed outside of the neat airport, I was excited by the different surroundings and a familiar traveller’s high made me instantly happy.

When you’re in a new and exciting country, even things likes bus rides or visiting the local supermarket are a thrill.

Taghazout. The place where you can ride your camel to the beach

Taghazout. The place where you can ride your camel to the beach

When I arrived in Taghazout though, the next shock was waiting for me. The guesthouse I was supposed to work at, was absolutely run down and nobody actually knew I was coming. Though I was offered to stay I just left to meet fellow travellers to get an idea what to do next. I was stranded on Morocco’s coast.

When you’re in a bad situation, all you can do is stay calm and try to make the most of it. For 2 days, I went surfing and approached other guesthouses but it became clear that I wouldn’t find anything that paid my stay. The town was just too small. When you feel your location is limiting you, I´d suggest to do everything you can to move to the nearest major city.
The biggest opportunities usually lie in the biggest cities and so I took off to Marrakech too, just a few hours east.

I had nothing to lose and and always appreciate an adventure. ¨In movement, there is blessing¨ is a moroccan proverb after all and following that has never let me down.

Discovering Marrakech, jewel of the desert

In Marrakech I immediately tried learning everything I could about foreigners in town and arranged interviews with hotels. Since foreign interns are not common, this got disappointing fast. I didn’t want to give up anyways. When you have a vision, you’ll always get there as long as you don’t stop.

Through a cafe where expats and tourists mingle I met a British entrepreneur running boutique hotels in town who took me under his wings. The beauty about life in other countries is that people with a similar background that have already succeeded there are often happy to share their knowledge.

My new mentor hired me to work on a German version of his Marrakech app and so I began exploring marrakech like a travel journalist and writing about it.

If you want to work abroad, you can often just utilize your language skills! I should´ve thought of it earlier.

Not only exploring the city was fascinating, the cafe also allowed me to meet and talk to locals from all ages and background who came there to improve their English and French which was incredibly interesting and rewarding. I also became friends with the cafes staff who introduced me to the Marrakech of students. Among them, I experienced the Moroccan culture of companionship and felt right at home.

School kids in the souks.

School kids in the souks.

I was glad that I had just come to Marrakech without any plan. Sometimes you have to just go with your gut and push through to find something that you never would have thought of.

The quest for China

The first part of my mission was complete, I had found an exciting project in Morocco. Now I just had to find an internship in China and a startup to join once I was back in Amsterdam. When you need to work on something, you also need something to keep you motivated For me, that was Marrakech. The motivation I got from this magical place was amazing..

In China, most jobs are landed though ¨Guanxi¨ which means utilising your network, a principle I found to be working great in the rest of the world too! No matter where you want to go, if you really think, you´ll find that you often have some connections already, right?

Since I couldn´t find a short internship through my friends in China I sometimes spent hours in my Riad to cold call companies

In the end, I found a an agency that had great internship opportunities on offer. I suggested I would work on their website for free if they connected me with an internship. Outside of Europe, informal deals like that are usually possible

After finishing my project in Marrakech and a short stay in Germany just long enough to get my visa done, I took off to Guilin China, the area where I lived after high school. The great thing about staying abroad for a while is that you create a second home for yourself. I had just been in Morocco a week earlier and suddenly, there I was on the bus that I had taken quiet some time before, chatting with the local sitting next to me. Even my Chinese got back!

I felt incredibly blessed for this.

Yangshuo´s karst mountains, famous scenery and a rockclimber´s paradise

Yangshuo´s karst mountains, famous scenery and a rockclimber´s paradise

Shanghai life between hotels and startups

2 weeks of travelling later, I took off to Shanghai where I was going to be a trainee in an international hotel to learn about hotel operations and be a point of contact for European guests.

Like I had learned in Marrakech, I first reached out to other foreigners and a friend connected me to Shanghai´s startup scene.

Presentation by Shanghai´s startup community at The Node event and coworking space

Presentation by Shanghai´s startup community at The Node event and coworking space

Where ever you go, there is something you will take with you. Be it Moroccan comradeship or Chinese business hussle. In Shanghai, besides talking to the business travellers in our hotel, I learned a lot from networking events and presentations I attended at various startup spaces and business spots in town. I had no intentions of finding a long term job in Shanghai but simply having a conversations with people from all over China and all over the world that had come to this vibrant city was just inspiring. If you try to be around inspirational people a lot, I think you´ll find thy´ll shape you too.

Smoggy morning view of Jing An business district from my window, Pudong skyline in the distance

Smoggy morning view of Jing An business district from my window, Pudong skyline in the distance

It also turned out that an internship would have been easier to find right here instead of trying beforehand from Morocco. To find something, just arrive and take it from there if you can!

3 months of living and learning between skyscrapers and tea houses later my internship was already over and I took the night train to Beijing. Beijing was the first big city I ever lived in and I had been looking forward to returning for a very long time. The feeling of coming home when meeting old friends and seeing my old apartment building again was overwhelming me.

From Beijing, I returned home, calm and optimistic about the future in Amsterdam. That is the kind of energy that you get from China’s bustling financial cities. When ever I get back from there, I feel motivated. I also felt I had grown up a bit more. After every struggle, especially in different countries, you’ll come out smarter.

From Beijing to Amsterdam and my conclusions from the experience

Back in Amsterdam I did exactly what I learned in Shanghai. Join presentations at startup hotspots and ask friends to connect me with founders.

It took a few weeks of looking around but eventually, I had a handful of interesting startups to speak to.

Since going with my impulses led me to great experiences the past months in Shanghai and Marrakech, I immediately joined a company with a great vision that seemed like a perfect cultural fit from the start.

Marrakesh Sunset

Marrakesh Sunset

What I took home from my time abroad: Whatever makes you happy and excites you, Go for it. Passion gives you the determination to overcome everything in your way and eventually, you’ll make it!

….

Thank you for reading my story! If you´d like to add something, have questions or feedback or if you have travelled to Morocco or China too, I´d love to read about it in the comments! You can also talk to me through the Student Generation community anytime (:

Daniel
I am the Co-Founder of Fypster.
Hope you guys are having fun here! Always happy to connect ?
So a little bit about me: I love entrepreneurship, traveling, diving into different cultures and languages whilst having football as another big passion. I love to be surrounded by people who encourage me to think beyond my limits. I also like reading (non fiction) books and to enjoy culturally diverse food. A lot of it. (if I can afford it)
When I am not working on some projects I love to spend quality time with my loved friends and family.
Fun fact: I am German/Brazilian which means I have to deal with two very opposing forces in me.
Before you ask: Even though I grew up in Germany, I always supported the brazilian national team a lot. So I witnessed the 7:1 in a Brazilian Restaurant having to drink many caipirinhas to be able to deal with the game.

One Year In – A Point Of View On Starting Your Own Business (Part 2)

This is the second part of an interview series with Daniel from The Student Generation, taking a one year perspective on how Luuk, Josanne and I started RandomRecords. If you haven’t read the first part, here’s the link. For this part, we talked about the personal side of things. What does it do to you to start a small business while studying? What do we know better now? Let’s dive into it!

Let´s get more personal.What are your biggest takeaways, personally and professionally from the journey?

 

Falco: In the beginning it was just a thing we had to do for our course to get our credits. But then it evolved to something, which was just so much fun and more like hobby, then a school project or a business. Also from a professional point of view, RandomRecords was and is something where everyone could actually learn what he or she always wanted to learn. It was like a playground. This by the way is something you don´t get working for a big company where you are more or less stuck in your department. It definitely helped us discovering our greatness 😉 I for example learned how to build a website and many other things necessary to run e-commerce platform. Adrien always wanted to do something with video, so he created a video blog for us. His story is great, he started reaching out to people and nowadays he has more requests that he can handle.

Adrien: Exactly. This entire experience had a great impact on me. Through Random Records I discovered my passion for people and communication.

Falco: Especially professionally, I benefited a lot form this experience. Without RandomRecords I would not have gotten the internship that I wanted at one of the hottest Start Ups of San Francisco, DoubleDutch. It is a lot easier to work for a start up if you have your own small one. One the other hand it is a lot more difficult to apply for a marketing internship if you have never done it before. Through my experience with RandomRecords I was able to get into DoubleDutch and my experiences in San Francisco were amazing. I am still working for them today. So the experience was a massive door opener.

Luuk: Like Falco said it’s a playground. I never had any experience managing a business or running social media campaigns before. For me personally, RandomRecords had a huge impact in my life. Before the project I was always really nervous and bad at presenting. So I just decided to go out of my comfort zone. I wanted to get better at this and told the others I would like to do all the presenting. Josanne and Falco supported me 100% and gave me all confidence I needed. Guess what, I presented two times and we won both contests. Today the stage is my home 😉

Awesome! Did you also manage to get some small income out of your venture?

 

Falco: Actually last week we did the numbers and in total we arrive at zero. In the beginning we all invested a couple of hundred Euros, which we managed to gain back. We never paid ourselves a salary. Currently we also shifting away from the Subscription business, as it is not profitable for us anymore. We needed to invest more to keep this running and at this stage we are not able to invest the time in money to do so, as we are too busy with other things like work, and graduating.

Luuk: Now we want to make a creative platform out of RandomRecords and keep it running as a hobby. Who knows what opportunities will arise out of that and probably there are many new things to learn, which us is actually more important than the financial aspect.

Falco: We were thinking about going fulltime for RandomRecords after graduating, but we decided against it. The profit pressure was reducing the fun factor significantly for us.

So in other words you chose for fun over profits?

 

Falco: Well in our case, it was more looking realistically at the opportunities we have to make a living, out of our current business model. We planned to pay us a salary of 900€ each and for this we needed about 1.000 paying customers! Looking at a current customer base of a few hundreds and taking into account that one article in one of the biggest Dutch newspapers only brought us about 15 new clients, you can see how risky the whole thing was.

Luuk: The next question was how would we scale the operations to such a level that we could actually cope with all the orders?

What about funding? Did you actually consider to only focus on RandomRecords at some point?

 

Falco: Well, that’s an option but investors will probably also ask, if an article in one of the biggest newspapers gives us 15 clients, where will the other 985 clients come from, and where is the profit in the end?

Luuk: Some advisors actually told us at some point, stop studying to put all our time into the start up.

Falco: However, as mentioned before, we were not convinced to be able to actually turn this into a profitable business any time soon. Also, taking into account that I had an Internship in San Francisco coming up and Luuk just got accepted to a very good master program, this lead us to say no to that proposal and to continue it as a hobby. I mean in the end you have to weigh for yourself where you see the bigger opportunity.

Luuk: Last but not least, how do you justify to yourself and your parents that you throw away what you have worked for three years, in order to pursue a risky business opportunity.

So what is your advice for young student entrepreneurs, who are in a similar position and actually consider pausing their study to pursue their project?

 

Luuk: In the end it differs from case to case. We loved what we did and still do it. However, it really depends on the potential of the opportunity. For some people it might be a completely different case and probably you can always go back to study. In our case besides the limited scalability of the business we also did not know how long the Vinyl market would actually continue to grow.

So as the most important advice I would say, look at scalability, current and future market and profitability of your business in order to decide weather to go for it fully or not.

Falco: I think this is also not a easy decision as you always tend to think that this is the one and only opportunity and that a similar one will never come again.

But I think for early projects and businesses it is the same with relationships and in life in general. Be realistic and keep in mind: Where one door closes another one opens, and opportunities will always be there. I guess we also asked ourselves the questions about scalability and profitability pretty late, as the fun aspect was more important for us. Looking back we do not regret it as it we learned so much and we are still enjoying working on RandomRecords a lot!

 

To wrap it all up: Please give us your last thoughts on starting early, passion&work and the future:

 

Luuk: I think for me the biggest motivation to always keep going was the passion behind it. The skills I learned were amazing, as I can apply them now to things I like and things I like less, which is equally important. But let´s face it: In the end everybody dreams about working with and for something you are passionate about. In my perfect future, I am definitely working with something related to music.

Falco: I believe, what happens a lot is that graduates get a normal,regular job and after two years they realize that’s not what they want to do. If you have started something earlier though, you might think back to this experience and maybe you will end up doing it again. To be honest most of the jobs today are highly compensated but many people still don´t consider their job as meaningful. I hope at some point we will all find the right combination of passion and work.

On the flip side, it is also not fun to work with passion but not to earn anything and to live on the streets. So let´s see what the future brings. The past showed us that work and fun go together pretty well and that we can create our own path.

Falco
It’s all about learning. I believe in trial-and-error philosophy and the potential of people. I love startups that do good.

One Year In – A Point Of View On Starting Your Own Business (Part 1)

About a year ago, together with Luuk (business student) and Josanne (medicine student), we took a stab at learning about entrepreneurship through starting our own business in the market we were most passionate about – music. That brought us to RandomRecords, the world’s first secon-hand Vinyl subscription business. Now, a lot has changed, we’ve learned more than we ever expected and have taken a remarkable journey together. I hope you enjoy reading the interview below about running a 4 people startup from 4 different timezones, the boom in the Vinyl-loving world and much more!

IMG_1125

What is RandomRecords?


Falco:
 Random Records is a subscription for second hand records, which you can order in form of surprise packages.

How it works is you sign up and chose either between a one month, three month or six month subscription model. The cool thing is, that you never know what you are getting so it´s actually every time a new story.

Initially we focused on a few genres only but we added new genres, because we realized that people who like metal don´t really want to listen to the beach boys every month… 😉

We added many things to RandomRecords over the time.

This year we added a pretty awesome video blog to our site, which is done by Adrien. Adrien joined Random Records after I had met him in Montreal during my exchange.

Adrien: Yeah! I met Falco before the guys created RandomRecords after I had seen what they were developing I decided to write an email to ask if I could join their team. I love music and I also produce my own. Initially I was responsible for social media. Now I am adding a video blog to the site, called Random Stories.

At Random Stories I talk to people and artists about their passion for music. I do this to bring back the human interaction between people, which matters so much when you buy a record, for example in a record store and you talk to the owner about your passion and preferences. I started off with one video and today we add videos on a regular basis and have up to 3000 views on them.

Very Cool! So let´s talk about how you guys came up with your idea?

Luuk: The idea was founded during the Entrepreneurship course of the University of Amsterdam.

We came up with it during a weekend day trip organized by the Entrepreneurship minor in order to get to know each other and to evaluate ideas. Me and Falco had already talked about our common passion for records, but we did not really know how to turn this passion into a start up. So we sat down had a couple of beers and sketched out some possibilities. Eventually we thought why not sell second hand records online? To make it even more fun we thought of the surprise packages, and so the Idea was born. Then Yozana, another course member joined the team. Yozana was usually studying medicine in Leiden but wanted kind of a setting change for a semester. She shared our passion for records so she became our team member.

What did you do to evaluate the idea?


Falco:
 The same day we returned to Amsterdam, we went to a used record store and checked if we could find records that are being sold for less than there actual value and online purchasing price. We also talked to many people and friends to see if there was actually an interest for our idea.

Some days after that we had to pitch our idea in front of a jury, and our MVP  was basically to wrap some records into a paper and gave it to the jury to unwrap it.  They liked it so we actually starting working on it.

Random Records 1

From that point on to actually selling your first records, what was the timeline and the steps you took?


Luuk:
 So actually it went really fast. The idea generation happened by mid February and we sold our first record only some weeks later. So first Falco sat down and painfully learned how to code and after a lot of trial and error he had our first basic website ready. (Back then the site looked horrible, now its awesome). We started selling the first packages to friends and after a month we also had our first 10 to 15 shipments abroad.

 

Was it hard to get your surprise packages sold to people outside of your network? 


Falco: 
To our surprise it was not. After we started posting a lot on Facebook and other social media channels we actually got many people contacting us to get to know more about our product. Another surprise that we got contacted by newspapers and two radio stations very soon, who wanted to write and speak about us.

This year we even got mentioned by a Dutch TV show for two seconds (without us knowing about it) when they were talking about subscription start ups in the US, and after the questions about Dutch subscriptions start ups came up. One guy said hey yeah, there is RandomRecords. This was crazy as we were just a bunch of students selling records online and they mentioned us next to other companies who employ about 50 people.

Though, most coverage was during the entrepreneurship minor though.

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Most of the companies founded during startup courses do not continue afterwards. Why was it different in your case?


Luuk: 
Well, everything was going really well. Everybody basically wanted to talk about us and write about us. We also had more and more orders coming in. We also one some pitching competitions and the Entrepreneurship minor kick out, so we had a little cash to get started. For this we eventually rented a small office in a house, that was meant to be destroyed soon so it was very cheap.

Falco: On the other hand the decision was not easy as most of us were going abroad. I was leaving for my internship to San Francisco and Josanne for a six-month travel to Asia. Adrien lived in Montreal. However we decided to do it anyways and ended up coordinating our start up from 3 different continents. Doing this from four different time zones was a hell of a job.

 

Wow, that’s impressive. How did you manage to keep the operations going? How did you communicate?


Adrien:
 So when I joined, the others made super easy for me to get communications done smoothly. I handled the social media channels and the guys introduced me to communication tools like Slack and Hootsuite. (social media managing tool) that I did not know before. Through these tools we managed to communicate well even across the globe.

Falco:  By using those tools, I think we pretended to be a bigger company than we really where 😉 Besides that it was very difficult to get all people to be online at the same time for Team Meeting via Skype. Initially we tried to set up a weekly meeting, which eventually happened twice. All of a sudden you realize: Oh shit, we haven´t actually spoken in a month.

But what kept the operations running is that everybody knew what their task was. I handled the website and payments, Luuk the shipping and Adrien the social media channels and Josanne helped preparing the shipment and managed parts of the communication.

Luuk: It was really tough sometimes as I also was doing my masters. What helped as well, was also that we only shipped once a month and we communicated that clearly and honestly to our customers. That made it easy for me to keep an overview. That´s probably the good part about a Subscription business.

 

And how did you guys manage to get all the Vinyl supply?


Luuk:
 Firstly we went a lot to second hand stores and bought big volumes. Secondly we had many older people messaging us after newspaper articles, asking us to drop by at their place, as they wanted to get rid of their collections they did not use anymore.

Falco: What we also noticed is, that people actually preferred giving their old records to us than to commercial stores. This was because they were still emotionally attached to the collections and we actually talked with them about their stories that are connected to their records. They liked our vision and the purpose of our start up so they happily sold them to us to fair prices.

 

Who are the people that are most interest in Vinyl today?


Falco: 
For us it was mostly people up to 40. If you collect Vinyls for decades already and have hundreds of records of a genre, the chance that you get a duplicate from us is obviously very high. Most of our clients are actually young people who are re-discovering Vinyl. People, who get Vinyl from their parents, buy a record player and start their own collections. For the younger generation we are the perfect partners, as they often have difficulties to choose from a record store as the music is from so far back.

Adrien: I´d like to add that we live in a time where people buy more and more vinyl. I feel it is really rising; especially younger people in our age start getting into listening to records again.

Luuk: The initial idea was to bring old music to young people. However we also see many old people ordering with us as they like the surprise effect and buying stuff outside of their “music comfort zone”.

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There will be a second part to this, where we’ll discuss what it means to start a business as a student, how it changes your view on most things business and much more!

 

Falco
It’s all about learning. I believe in trial-and-error philosophy and the potential of people. I love startups that do good.

The meaning of Travel – Volunteering and Backpacking in Central America

“So I’m really doing this. I’m actually going to Central America! That’s literally what I thought to myself as I was waiting at my gate at the airport.

It started out as an impulse. The impulse of wanting to escape my daily routine and throw myself into the world, into the unknown.

Representatives from GIVE volunteers, the organization I ended up volunteering for, came to my university to look for new recruits.

Acting impulsively once more I signed up that same evening to commit myself to it, without having the opportunity to back out later. This was just the stepping-stone. Once I signed up I thought that 2 weeks of volunteering would not be enough to get really get out of my comfort zone and that is why I decided to travel another 5 weeks through Central America.

I started fundraising with a platform called GoFundMe, where I described my intentions and motivations behind this trip. I wanted people to know that it’s not a holiday but rather part of a journey for self-discovery. I didn’t expect much to be honest, but I ended up raising more money than I initially thought I could. I was quite overwhelmed by the positive feedback and support I had gotten, which made my motivation grow even more. I’d like to think that the reason for this support is the genuine human consideration and empathy for another persons dreams and goals. We live in a society where it is very much common to bring another person down in order to feel better about yourself, but through this initiative I learned that not everyone has been infected by this particular toxic mindset, which made me quite content and all the more confirmed that this is something that I needed to do.

I started fundraising with a platform called GoFundMe…I was quite overwhelmed by the positive feedback and support I had gotten, which made my motivation grow even more. I’d like to think that the reason for this support is the genuine human consideration and empathy for another persons dreams and goals.

Fast forward 5 months and the time finally arrived to leave for Nicaragua. My flight was supposed to be 18 hours long, with two transits but that didn’t happen. I missed flights, flights got delayed and cancelled and after 33 hours I had finally arrived in Managua, which was without the additional 4-hour bus ride to the small village of Jiquillio from the airport. Obviously not just I, but all 30+ volunteers were beyond tired arriving at 4am, but I honestly didn’t care. “It’s part of the experience,” I thought. All I could think about was that I was in a country, even a continent I have never been before and I want to take in and absorb every second of it.

When volunteering, you meet people who share the same values and mindset like yourself and you call came here for one purpose. For me it was to explore the countries, cultures and different way of lives, while getting to know myself better and helping others in the process. 

Working hard! :-)

Working hard! 🙂

I instantly connected with my peers there, because the environment enables you to open up much quicker as you would back home. Everyone is eager to get to know one another and everyone just kind of skips the unnecessary and frankly, superficial small talk.

The locals were very welcoming. They instantly recognized us from the green T-shirts we were wearing, since GIVE has been in this area for quite some time working on sustainable projects. Seeing how children, with very little means, can still be this happy makes you think about your own life and the western society as a whole. The more you have, the happier you are. That is the common narrative in developed countries. It’s very much a lie, and many people know that, but only a few do something about that.

Thumb wrestling with one of the students of the primary school at jiquillilo

Thumb wrestling with one of the students of the primary school at jiquillilo

Happiness comes from within; it comes from how you feel about yourself the actions you take in your life. It comes from your surroundings and the people who influence you the most.

Anyway, what I noticed though is that it doesn’t really matter what you do but what attitude you have while doing it and with what mindset you approach it.

The more you have, the happier you are. That is the common narrative in developed countries. It’s very much a lie, and many people know that, but only a few do something about that.

Sure you can go developing countries and work for a few weeks and go home, but that is not the point. My motivation to specifically go to Nicaragua was because it was furthest away from home. I don’t speak Spanish, unless it’s something like “hola” or “como se dice”. And even then, the locals didn’t know what the hell I was saying since my pronunciation is very “modest”.

Some people thought I was crazy, other’s thought it was a really cool thing to do. For me it was something that I had to do. Before the trip I sort of felt lost. I felt like I wasn’t quite living the life I wanted to live. There was too much routine and too much certainty. My intention was to escape the known and jump into the unknown. Not knowing what is going to happen was something I desperately needed for the development of myself as well as for the enhancement of my happiness.

Traveling, meeting new people in hostels, on hikes, everywhere really, and hearing their stories opens your mind to great extents. You always read inspirational stories on social media or anywhere else for that matter, but experiencing and meeting people who have gone through extraordinary things on this planet first hand, is just the truest inspiration there is.
It made me want to be one of them.

Sunset on the beach of Jiquillilo

Sunset on the beach of Jiquillilo

I wanted to share my stories and experiences just like they did, and have an impact on these humans just like they had an impact on me.

Traveling, Backpacking, exploring, adventuring, …these aren’t just words.

They are mindsets and values. Only if your intentions are right and you embrace the world with an open-mind, and I mean as open as it can possibly get, only then you can understand the true value on exploring, only then can these experiences influence you on a personal as well as a psychological level and further your development as a human being.

So if anyone of you reading this has an inspiring story to share or you want to leave a comment or get in touch, please do so. That’s what this community is all about.
And if you are looking for further inspiration please visit my personal blog www.sidneytrompell.com
I look very much forward to hear from you 🙂

Sid

Daniel
I am the Co-Founder of Fypster.
Hope you guys are having fun here! Always happy to connect ?
So a little bit about me: I love entrepreneurship, traveling, diving into different cultures and languages whilst having football as another big passion. I love to be surrounded by people who encourage me to think beyond my limits. I also like reading (non fiction) books and to enjoy culturally diverse food. A lot of it. (if I can afford it)
When I am not working on some projects I love to spend quality time with my loved friends and family.
Fun fact: I am German/Brazilian which means I have to deal with two very opposing forces in me.
Before you ask: Even though I grew up in Germany, I always supported the brazilian national team a lot. So I witnessed the 7:1 in a Brazilian Restaurant having to drink many caipirinhas to be able to deal with the game.