How to start a business with no experience

This is a very bad idea, starting a business in a field where I have no experience. I’ve thought about it, over and over and each time the need to do it gets stronger. This is how I felt before launching my business. Just AK is an eco-friendly, ethical, street-wear fashion label, predominately specialising in menswear. I am a female scientist, with no fashion training and no formal business training. It got to the point where the feeling was so strong I had no choice but to do it, but how was it going to work?  Below are the key steps that I followed to launching a successfully growing business. But, before you continue reading ask yourself if the business you intend to launch is what you really want. For now don’t worry about whether it’s worthwhile, if you have enough money, or if it’s a good idea. It’s important to understand that the following points will only help and work for you, if you truly believe that this is what you want. Once you have that belief you can achieve any goal.

Step 1 – Ask for help

There is absolutely no shame in asking for help. Your biggest resource are the people around you. So, tell them your proposal or at least part of it. There will be those who will give you ideas on how to begin and as always there will be those who will have something negative to say. Use that negativity to drive you forward as it’ll either contain the truth which will be an obstacle you will have to overcome or it’ll be a diversion where can prove them wrong in the end. Over ten years ago I mentioned to a family member that I wanted to start a fashion business. The negativity I received put me off completely, but here I am today with a growing fashion business. Unless the person you are speaking to has been in exactly the same position as you, they have no idea of what can or cannot work. Seeking help not only gives you an initial direction but you will also gain feedback on your business idea. Which in turn can help it grow. In passing I spoke with a friend about how I wanted to start a business and she told me about a company that guides those who are under thirty into entrepreneurship. My friend herself had never been with the company but rather her sister had used them. See how these things work…

Step 2 – Research, research and research some more

I can’t stress enough the value of research. This is how you can gain experience and better understand the field you are going into. Coming from a scientist background I had no idea of what was happening in the fashion world or the market. I had no idea if my product was viable or sustainable. The only way to find out is to research. Some key questions to research and answer would be, what’s the current state of the market? who is my target market? what’s already available and how am I different? who are my competitors? how much money do I need to start? This list is not exhaustive and the research never stops, even after launching, but it does become quicker. Apart from everyone’s favourite, Google, a good place to start is the City Business Library. Here you can gain access to all kinds of business information including market research, financial data and business contacts.

Step 3 – Educate yourself

Yes, it’s true, I have no formal education in either fashion or business. However, I do not recommend going into any business venture totally blind. Researching the field and developing your business idea will inevitably throw up some questions. To answer some of these questions requires expert knowledge, which like me, you may not have. It was at this point I decided to attend a short course on fashion design and read a well known book on how to start a business in fashion. I’m going to say this in bold because it’s important but I’m only going to say it once…There is no need for you to get a degree in your desired field or in business. Educating yourself simply means gaining some understanding of the processes, terminology and available resources. You decide how, what, when and which method is best for you. Once armed with this knowledge you should be able to communicate effectively with others in your desired field.

Step 4 – Networking

And that brings us nicely to the final step, networking. By now I had identified my market, confirmed my business idea and had an understanding of the field I was getting into. I felt confident to discuss my idea and obstacles with others who may be in a similar position. Now, that being said, I did it this way but networking can take place at any point. Networking can easily be part of steps 1- 3 you decide. Once again, you chose how, what and where is best for you. There are so many options and I started with meetup. It took a while before I found one suitable for my needs but eventually I got there. The business library also held lots of social events that I found very useful. When it comes to networking, do not be afraid to put yourself out there. It sounds cliche and cheesy, but it’s true that you never know who you may meet and how you can help each other.

Aliya
I’m a mixed bag of treats!
After studying clinical physiology I become a professional Clinical Scientist at a large teaching hospital. Although I enjoyed my job and I progressed since starting I came to realise that this was not my only passion. That’s when I decided to start an eco-friendly fashion label, Just AK. Without any formal training in fashion design or business management I was terrified. Starting in 2014, I sought help where I needed it along the way and finally launched in May 2016. Climbing mountains, facing obstacles and jumping hurdles have been a challenge but the progression and success I have had thus far as surpassed expectations making it all worth the while.
If you have a passion or idea but you’re unsure of how to begin, remember why you want to do it and then DO IT. Get out there, talk to people and start. The rest will take care of itself.
Feel free to get in touch if you’d like to hear more about my journey and how I get over those hurdles!

My Exhibition

I broke bones because I can’t do it. I went to the hospital because I can’t do it. I got fired because I can’t do it. I jump bridges because I can’t do it.

It sounds like it’s awful but I will argue the contrary. It is inhibition. If you open up a dictionary, you will find the following definitions of inhibition:

“a nervous feeling that prevents you from expressing your thoughts, emotions, or desires”

“the act of preventing or slowing the activity or occurrence of something”

Inhibition is in the way when you’re going out, it’s in the way when you want to say what you think and it’s in between you and your dreams. Inhibition is what keeps your from achieving what you really want and thus what keeps you from being truly happy. Inhibiting less will make your life (and the lives around you) better. When you’re among your friends you usually inhibit less, you speak your mind and do things you wouldn’t have done alone (like swimming at -2 degrees with your Danish friends or ending up alone in a dark Brazilian favela at 5 in the morning having spent all your money and no way to get home (spoiler: begging a cab driver to take you)). As you might already imagine, my level of inhibition is below 99% of the normal population. That leaves me in the 1% that does things on the fly, I don’t stop to think. I believe it’s a valuable one percent to be in, just like the other one percent you should be in. Just do the following yourself; recollect the 10 best stories of your life and if you’re like me, at least 9 of them are because you or someone else didn’t inhibit. Like that time you were hanging upside down from a chandelier chugging a beer (it’s called a “hangende aap adt” or in English: “hanging monkey chug”) or when your friend took a shit out of your apartment on the fourth floor. Those are the great stories, but there are two sides of it. I remember and regret that one time I woke up without a shoe, a broken toe and no recollection of what happened last night. And that’s just one of my many embarrassing stories. The great thing about these not so great experiences is that they are the real school called life, this is where you learn. Sure, you break some bones and hurt some feelings along the way. You’ll feel guilty because of it and you’ll regret some of it. You will fail and fall hard more than once, but these experiences teach you valuable life lessons that would leave you normal inhibitors untouched yet unsatisfied. If you do decide to battle through some short-term regrets, you will reap the rewards. The downsides are necessary investments that will pay large dividends in the future, if you’re willing to take that risk.

We think people that inhibit are boring; I’ll call them inhibitors from now on. We think they’re normal, and we rightfully associate normal with boring. I wouldn’t want to be insulted with “normal”. Politicians are notorious inhibitors, that’s why we think they are fake and boring. Inhibitors stand against the wall with their drink whilst the exhibitors are on the middle of the floor doing dance battles. The greatest companies of the past and the future aren’t built on inhibition, they are founded on exhibition and courage. The following, cheesy yet accurate, quote is a great example of the power of exhibition.

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Exhibitions are called that for a reason, they are places that show inspiring, unconventional and talented work. Sometimes I wish I was more like this illustrious group of people described above. I wish I could just leave things behind, saying “fuck you” to the status quo and doing what I think is best, expressing zero inhibition to what I want for myself in life. Truth to told, often times I can’t. Fear for the future, inability to learn from the past and the difficulty to break with conventions are the most prominent reasons for my inhibition. With that being said, I strive to think, act and reflect differently. Being aware that you can venture from the beaten path is the first step in changing your life for the better. Acting on your inner desires is what comes next. Exhibit your thoughts and feelings and you’ll never look back with remorse about the things you didn’t do. Go work on that great idea you have, book that flight and do that one thing you always dreamed about but never dared to execute. You should see life as an exhibition, filled with your best stories. See what you can do to make your next exhibition even better. Be abnormal, regret nothing and showcase your talent. You’ll end up with an exhibition that you can be proud of, that others envy and that, if you’re crazy enough, changes the world.

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.

What do you seek in life?

Never judge a book by its cover… With this idea we approached him, the strange, confused man that was kicked out of the Starbucks we were just standing in because of his wild rants and uncontrolled shouting. He was sitting there, just outside the same Starbucks on Times Square when we approached him and asked him that one question: “What do you seek in life?”

At first he was skeptical. He didn’t trust us, thought we were maybe from the police. After we gained some trust, he opened up to us. He explained that he sought liberation. He sought to be liberated from the police. He believed that we are controlled by all that we see. He elaborated on his answer by using mice, science and the New York ‘system’ as his examples. “We are all slaves of the society…”

Although his answer was pretty odd, it was unlike anything we expected. He was truly interesting, and we would’ve never said so. He was someone who had a story to tell, someone who needed to express his thoughts. Of course, he was mentally incapacitated to a certain extent, but he wasn’t taken serious by anyone. He was a book, constantly judged by its cover.

I hear you thinking: Why this question? Well, we had been philosophizing the night before and we (jokingly) concluded that we considered this question the most interesting one to ask. A question that captures your personality and makes you think about yourself. Once we heard this man shouting in the Starbucks, we knew we’d have to ask him. And so we did. But it did not stop with only this man…

We decided to move on with it, ask more people on Times Square. We got the most beautiful answers that night. We got so surprised and inspired by all the wonderful things that strangers had to share that I knew I wanted to continue with this. I brought the question home and wanted to explore the thoughts and ideas of one of the most open-minded, culturally diverse and crazy cities in the world: Amsterdam. And that is how Declenimo was born.

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Declenimo derives from the old Gaelic word ‘Declan’, which means ‘Full of Goodness’. We changed it into Declenimo in which we indicate a moment that is full of goodness, referring to the small talks we have with the strangers. I approach complete random strangers and ask them what they seek in life. The idea is to get inspired by an answer or inspire one to think of an answer. At first, I would keep the interactions always short. I would take the answer and then thank them for their time and that’s it. But as I progress in this project, I have longer and longer conversations with the strangers. I get to know where they’re from, what their story is and every now and then I even make new friends. I’ve learned many life lessons from the strangers that I meet. And it is not (only) the white-collar high-end people that taught me valuable lessons, but people from all over the society. From students to homeless people to street artists. Everybody has their own story and we learn from our own experiences and memories. Sometimes, the most inspiring words come from the people that you would expect the least.

The goal is to ask 101 people in Amsterdam what they seek in life. I know, why that number? Well, the idea is that I ask 100 strangers what they seek in life. At the end of the adventure, I will be asking myself as the 101st person what I seek in life. This project has already changed my view on people and my life so much and I can’t wait until I have all the answers collected and to read them back, thinking about what I seek in life.

“So, you just approached them and like… ask them?”

“I wouldn’t know how to talk to someone just like that…”

“Wouldn’t people sometimes get angry? I think it’s scary to just go and talk to a stranger…”

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All I need is another stranger and around approximately 15 minutes. That’s all it takes. Nobody gets angry if you ask them for their time. What is the worst that could happen? They say they don’t have time for you and you leave them alone. Obviously, you always need to be careful when it comes to people you don’t know. It’s a learning process and you’ll teach yourself how to approach strangers and how to talk to them. If you’re standing somewhere on a busy square, to almost everybody around you, you are a stranger too. A stranger is a stranger until one of the two says hello.

It took quite some courage for me to approach the first few strangers in Amsterdam. The weird thing is that once you ask these people and you start to have an actual conversation, it feels so natural. It feels so comfortable and normal. And then you realize that he/ she is just a human. You realize that this interaction between human and human has nothing to do with race/ nationality/ skin color/ sexual orientation/ hobbies or whatever. It is just one stranger, telling their story to another stranger. And after you talk about their story, discuss certain elements and perhaps share a good few laughs, you are suddenly no strangers anymore. This warm feeling of connection, kindness and humanity. That is what we mean with Declenimo.

All the stories (so far) are published online. The difficult thing is that no matter how hard you try to document a conversation, it never gets as close as the real experience. You can’t describe accurately enough how the emotion on their face looked like, or how the cracking in his voice sounded like or how beautiful the smiles on their faces are. Life is beautiful, and so are the people. There are so many stories out there and all we see are the covers. Never judge a book by its cover. So ask yourself, or even better; ask someone else: What do you seek in life?

Declenimo

 

So far, I have asked 35 strangers of the goal of 101 in Amsterdam. Be sure to follow the progress on www.declenimo.nl. Ask a man a question, and he’ll think for the moment. Make a man ask you a question and he’ll think for a lifetime.  

 

Nour
Graduating student International Business and Management. Interested in marketing, football and tech but interested the most in people and asking them what they seek in life! Lived in Canada for a bit and planning on studying in France after my bachelor’s. Currently on an adventure to discover the beauty behind anonymity of strangers in Amsterdam. Follow the adventure on www.declenimo.nl.

Becoming Location Independent – 10 things I wish I knew beforehand

Building a work-from-anywhere lifestyle, better known as ‘being location independent,’ is not a task for the faint of heart. Whether you choose to find remote work, forge your own path as a freelancer, or build your very own online business, the challenges you’ll face will be new and often overwhelming.

In the very same breath, there aren’t many things more satisfying than building a lifestyle in which you feel 100% in control—of your time, of your resources, and of your successes. The Internet has brought with it a world of possibilities for those willing to think outside the box. No longer do young people feel obligated to choose the common career path which inevitably involves a cubicle, a commute, and a corporate slog.

More people are choosing to work for themselves, leveraging an online presence in order to create something uniquely their own, work on their own terms, and travel the world at will. Location independence offers a new kind of freedom that didn’t even exist just a few decades ago.

When I graduated from college in 2009, I had just finished up a degree that I thought I was passionate about. I studied nutrition, and had a one-year unpaid internship still ahead of me before I would enter the professional world. Yet, somewhere deep in my heart, the desire to travel still lurked, and I would eventually realize this desire simply wouldn’t be outgrown.

The internship came and went and I moved to New York City, still dreaming of something different, something bigger. By that time, I’d given up on the idea of continuing on as a dietitian, and much to my mother’s dismay, refused to even take my registration exam. Instead, I plotted my first foray into international life, a year of teaching English in Southeast Asia.

That period of my life came and went just as quickly, and I itched to continue exploring. I found my way to South America only to realize I now had a strong aversion to staying put in any one place. It wasn’t a commitment issue; in fact, if anything, I was extremely committed to my dream of seeing the world, and I didn’t want it to come to an end just because of a drying up bank account.

fuerteventura-dunes-11Becoming location independent was the natural next step for me, although it certainly didn’t happen overnight. I’ve been at it three years now, and I still have so much to learn. Thankfully, I no longer have that lingering fear of sulking back to a 9-5 job; I’m in a stable place that I never truly thought was possible until I started to put in the work.

Having built a location independent lifestyle for myself over the last few years through a combination of blogging and freelancing, I could go on singing its praises. There are many good reasons to defy society’s expectations by choosing this path. It’s anything but the easy route, though, and I’ve made many missteps along the way.

So now I’d like to share some of the wisdom I’ve gained through the trials and triumphs of my formative years as a location independent entrepreneur in the hopes that others can avoid the same mistakes and heartache I experienced.

 

 

Here are the 10 things I wish I knew before becoming location independent:

Some people will never understand your lifestyle choice.

Being Location independent is a lifestyle choice that most people cannot even begin to fathom. Either they have no similar desire to see the world, or they are enough of a cynic to believe building a viable business from the road simply can’t be done. Rest assured that despite how quickly this lifestyle choice is gaining attention and notoriety, location independents are still a minority worldwide. We are anything but mainstream. This shouldn’t be seen as a disadvantage, however; it is simply a fact that it’s best to reconcile with early on.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t support it.

It’s worth noting that most people you encounter, even though they may not fully understand or empathize with your desire to forge your own unconventional path, will still support your decision wholeheartedly. My closest family and friends are some of my biggest advocates, despite how rarely we are in the same area code and despite how utterly confused they are about what it is I actually do. I don’t blame them for their confusion—I wear a lot of hats and even I sometimes lose track of it all. But I explain what I can and they enthusiastically nod along, and will even brag about me to people they know, even if they still don’t get it quite right.

Seek a community of peers and mentors early on.

Because this lifestyle is so unusual and there are an infinite number of ways to go about it, having a community of other people going through similar struggles will be one of your greatest assets. When I first decided to become a travel blogger, it helped me immensely to have a close friend who’d been at it for a few years and could act as a mentor to me in those early stages. When I realized I needed to bolster my business acumen, I sought out online entrepreneurs who were absolutely killing the game and followed them closely—I signed up for their newsletters, I bought their courses, I attended their webinars and joined their Facebook groups. The worst thing you could do in the beginning is assume you’ll just “figure it all out” on your own. It’s okay to ask for help—you’ll get much farther that way.

Never pass up an opportunity to network.

cantimplora-travel-leah_215_1_25-resized-2This goes along with my previous point. Networking is absolutely essential to your success, both for the purpose of finding mentors and guidance and for building friendships that have the capacity to become strong alliances. The people I’ve met through networking events like the TBEX Conference, for example, are the ones most willing to go to bat for me, to refer me a client, to send me opportunities and to share my work. And I do the same for them in return, not just because they do so much for me but because I genuinely want to see them succeed.

Teach everything you know, even when you feel like you know nothing.

The best way to test your understanding of a new concept is to try explaining it to someone else. Knowledge is the true currency of this world, and the more of it you give, the more will come back to you in return. No matter where you are in your journey, there is someone who’s a few steps behind you who will really appreciate your insights. This is why many digital nomads publish their income reports publicly—they are not bragging, but rather showing others the exact steps they’ve taken to achieve their success. Withholding what you learn from others will leave you in a “scarcity mindset,” where you believe there is not enough success to go around. However, once you realize that there IS in fact enough room for everyone and stop thinking of everyone else as your competition, you will have arrived to the “abundance mindset,” which will in turn serve to create more abundance in your life and career.

Nobody actually works on the beach.

The undying cliché of the digital nomad is that we all spend our days lounging on the beach with a laptop and a fruity cocktail in hand. But let me tell you something—in reality, the people who actually achieve success are the ones busting their butts behind closed doors, grinding through work day in and day out and not flaunting visions of “the dream” on social media before they’ve even achieved it. Sure, many people choose to set up shop in low-cost countries where they can get by on far less than we would in our home countries, but very rarely does that mean the hustle grinds to a halt. To succeed as a freelancer, a remote worker, or an entrepreneur requires discipline and dedication to the cause. If the beach is your priority from the beginning, you’ve already lost.

It’s okay to slow down or stop traveling altogether.

Travel has always been my greatest passion. It’s what lead me to become location independent in the first place and the reason I knew early on that this lifestyle choice was right for me. I wanted to keep seeing the world at my own pace, and on my own terms. But when I really started digging deeper into building a business, the traveling started to feel like a burden. My goals shifted and traveling full-time was no longer a priority. It took away too much of my mental stamina, creative energy, and physical energy from what was most important to me. When I first stopped traveling regularly, I almost felt like a fraud. But as it turned out, the expectation to continue traveling just because I thought of myself as location independent was entirely self-imposed. Slowly but surely, I’ve come to understand that whether I’m traveling or not has nothing to do with my ability to be location independent. Even if I’m not traveling to a new country every couple of months, the fact remains that I could if I wanted to. I’ve finally realized that it’s not just about the travel, but about having the freedom to do what I please. Travel or don’t travel—the choice is up to me.

leahdavis-3_25-resized-2Celebrate every small victory.

The road to a successful online business venture is long and winding. You will rarely have a clear picture of what lies ahead or when certain milestones will be achieved. That’s why it’s so important to celebrate small victories along the way rather than focusing on the distance you have yet to travel. When I started a blog, it was impossible to imagine the amount of traffic I have now, so instead, I celebrated my first 100 visitors. I celebrated my first piece of sponsored content, my first sponsored tour, and my first freelance gig that paid $10/hour. Had I started comparing my progress to those around me or those much further along than me, I likely would have been so discouraged that I’d have thrown in the towel right then and there. Compare yourself only to yesterday and celebrate small wins as they come, and you will find the motivation to keep going.

There is no such thing as failure.

Of course, there will be plenty of missteps in your journey to becoming location independent, but this is not only par for the course, it’s a necessary component of the growth process. Rather than thinking of setbacks as failures, however, try to reframe them as opportunities to learn. We learn far more from what goes wrong than what goes right, after all, so don’t dwell on the mistakes—think of them as lessons, apply what you learn, and move on.

You will want to give up—often. Don’t.

My final piece of advice to anyone who’s interested in going the unconventional route is to keep on keepin’ on even when you most want to quit. If this is, in fact, what you feel will bring you the greatest happiness, it’s a battle worth fighting. Every time I stop to question why I’m walking through this particular fire, I think back to the moments and decisions that led me here in the first place. I think of my distaste for corporations, my aversion to rigid schedules, my desire to let my creative freak flag fly. I know the alternative—I’ve been there and done that—and the idea of giving up all I’ve been working for (here’s another moment when it helps to remember how far you’ve come) seems like a disservice to my heart’s true desire and a victory for my fear. And I simply cannot let fear win this war.

 


If you would like to learn more about Leah, be sure to check out her interview with Women Digital Nomads or simply visit her website here.

Leah
Hey, I’m Leah! Originally from Washington state, but intent on traveling the whole world slowly and thoroughly. I blog about my travels and share my best business advice on my blog, thesweetestway.com 🙂

How we founded a NGO in Uganda next to our studies

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

– Nelson Mandela

Inspired by the saying of Nelson Mandela, my friend Laura and I founded the organization Health for Uganda/Africa e.V. in 2014 with the purpose to share our knowledge about health in order to increase living standards in Africa.

In December 2013, I met some old school friends in a local café to talk about everybody’s stories and happenings of the past six months. A lot had changed since we went off from school. I started studying geological science after few months of traveling and working in the UK. Laura, who was about to start studying medicine, went to Uganda, Africa. During that time, she did a voluntary internship in the dispensary of Bugema. She asked herself during this time, “How would doctors in Germany be able to work and improve without access to electricity?” She was sure that if she wanted to be a good doctor someday, she would have to know how to work without electricity and technical devices that help us to perform daily tasks. Within a few weeks, she had extended her six week stay to almost three months.

It was incredible to talk with Laura and our friends about their experiences. I honestly never thought about that issue until I heard her personal impression. Laura said, “The work in the dispensary was incomparable, and I learned so many interesting things. I was welcomed by everybody so kindly. For me, it will always be my second home, the place where I feel welcomed and comfortable.”

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Lauras stay in Bugema in 2013.

After our conversation in the café, I couldn’t stop thinking about Laura’s stories. We wanted to do something!

Laura had the idea of setting up a charity organization. Laura and I, her friends and family members, and others interested around our town, decided to establish a Non-Governmental Organization called “Health for Uganda/Africa e.V.” We had to write a statute, open a bank account, and finish all the paperwork before we finally got the approval to become a charity organization in March 2014.

(If you would like to know more about Laura’s time in Uganda, please click here)

What I took away from starting this NGO was that it doesn’t really matter how old you are or where you come from; it is about the dreams that you should follow. We are a diverse team representing many ages, yet we all have the same mission in common.

The mission of our organization is to optimize living conditions of people in need. This includes both preventing diseases and helping to promote health. We plan to achieve our mission through the use of medical supplies, treatment, water supplies and enlightenment on the subjects of infectious diseases, hygiene, and nutrition. For us, capacity building in the communities is very important. The organization’s projects have to be sustainable, and they have to be able to continue without our presence in Bugema.

My experience was that it doesn’t really matter how old you are or where you come from; it is about the dreams that you should follow.

After funding the organization, many questions arose, such as what are the main constructs? What is the best way to achieve our dream together with friends and people in Uganda? What is the best way to contact and communicate with people around the world? How should we collect money? How do we best structure the organization? Everything seemed overwhelming! But we had to get started…

After funding the organisation, many new questions arose, e.g. what are the main rules? What is the best way to achieve our dream closely with friends and people in Uganda? What is the best way to contact and communicate with people around the world? How should we collect money? How is the best way to structure the organisation? Everything seemed overwhelming! But we had to get started…

Over one and a half years ago, we structured the teams and organized different kinds of events in order to raise money for our projects in Uganda. The organization is spread into three working groups: promotion, health and hygiene, and water and technical supply. Laura is the contact for the health group, and I am the contact for the water group. I realized that this kind of group dynamic is successful only if everybody works together and performs their tasks. When it comes to communication, being open-minded yet critical are the most important factors for an organization working closely together. It is great to go to fairs, talk with people about your mission, have fun with your friends in the organization, and collect money for the projects. You have to love the work, otherwise it will be hard.

The first trip began in 2015. I had never been to Africa, and I was excited to meet people in Uganda and learn about their opinions, feelings, challenges, and visions of life. We had been preparing projects in Germany for almost a year by collecting money and trying to broaden Laura’s network in Uganda to implement our projects.

So the first trip started in 2015: we prepared projects in Germany for almost a year, collected money, and tried to broaden Laura’s network in Uganda to implement our projects.

Laura and I flew from Frankfurt to Entebbe, Uganda, on October 2, 2015. We implemented our “Hygiene- Project.” The German working group “Health” (which includes nurses, medical doctors, paramedics and hygiene and nutrition specialists) spent a lot of time writing a Hygiene-Handbook for the dispensary of Bugema. The organization “Health for Uganda/Africa e.V.” equipped every toilet on the campus ground with a soap dispenser and liquid soap. We also printed posters that said “Wash your Hands!” and “Disinfect your Hands” for the soap dispensers and toilets around the campus

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At the Health Centre Bugema.

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At the Health Centre Bugema.

Moreover, we printed posters saying “Wash your Hands!” for the dispensary and the toilets around the campus, and also printed posters saying saying “Disinfect your Hands” for the dispensary. The organization “Health for Uganda/Africa e.V.” equipped every toilet on the campus ground with dispenser and liquid soap. The dispensary was equipped with liquid soap, disinfection for patients and staff members.

Not far from there, the solar project at the Health Centre in Bugema began. We wanted to ensure that a possible electrical breakdown would not damage the vaccine by creating a break in the cold chain of the vaccine. By setting up an efficient solar system and buying a new fridge, the vaccine remained safe and cold. It took us almost the whole month to fulfill the project with the help of the University Bugema. There was always something unexpected happening, and it was a really exciting time. I learned that everything will work out at some point; you just have to be patient.

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Installation of our second project “Solarpennals” with the team and engineers.

After talking with interested members of Bugema University, the Local Council, and the Health Inspector (who were all a part of committee for our organization), we made the first decision about the water supply project for 2016 during the last week of October.

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Looking at a borehole, which is not functioning close to “Baps” Primary School.

A special day

During mid-October 2015, we walked with the Local Council to two primary schools in the area of Bugema. I saw for the first time the real nature and villages of Uganda’s bush land. We met head teachers that showed us the school ground and inoperative boreholes, and they explained to us the water shortage situation. In the beginning, it was hard for me to understand that the inoperative boreholes meant there were many people without access to water.

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A meeting about disease prevention and health promotion

We learned a few more details, for example the fact that one borehole was drilled on a hill and the water aquifer was too deep to pump up the water. After our eventful morning, we visited the Hope Orphanage Centre, where there are around 500 orphans. Because we had heard stories from others about the orphanage, we knew to bring food and hand it out to children at the “Hope Orphanage Place” in Kiwenda with family and friends of Bugema University. Representing “Health for Uganda/Africa e.V.”, Laura and I gave them a short lecture about how to wash their hands. The orphanages were happy about the food and very interested listening to our presentation. We got a thank-you letter saying the children still remember it well, and they are now washing their hands before eating. It really motivated us to keep going to fulfill our projects and work in the organization.

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At the “Hope Orphanage Centre” in Kiwenda.

We were sad to leave Bugema in November of 2015, but we had a wonderful time with the community of Bugema University. We flew back to Europe highly motivated and with many new ideas for our projects. We are looking forward to working together with the committee at Bugema University in the future and returning to Uganda.

Now, it is easier for me to understand different cultures and opinions. I’ve learned to approach all things with consideration and to take everything in stride. It was a lovely journey with ups and downs, but also with wonderful people who made it prosperous and a lasting memory.

Returning to Germany, motivated with our experiences in Uganda, we met with members of our organization and shared our experiences. Right after we returned, we participated at many charity events and markets in November and December of 2015 and began planning the next projects for 2016.

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At the source of the river Nile (Victoria See) in Jinja, Uganda during a day trip with friends.

I am really amazed at how much things change and how fast our organization is growing. I am grateful for the support and encouragement from all of the people around me, and especially Laura. It is fascinating to see how interested people are in our projects, but at the same time how hard it is to find more new members and sponsors who are committed to our mission.

Our mission right now is to expand our organization and take the next steps. I am looking forward to working with our team. Working with something you are passionate about is fun, keeps you going, and broadens your horizons and skill sets. Don’t dream about tomorrow, do it today! After all of my experiences, I recommend to reflect on the old and have courage for the new! And to try your best at all times. 🙂

Don’t dream about tomorrow, do it today!

Thank you for reading my story about founding the organisation “Health for Uganda/ Africa e.V.”! If you got curious about our project, please feel also free to contact me in person e-mail: evaflorina.kaminsky@yahoo.de.

Best,

Eva Kaminsky

Co-founder of Health for Uganda Africa e.V.

Health for Uganda/ Africa e.V. Email: info@health-for-uganda-africa.org Homepage: www.health-for-uganda-africa.org

Bank account: IBAN DE65830944950003291111 BIC GENO DE F1 ETK Ethik Bank

Eva
Studying geology and co-founder of the NGO “Health for Uganda/ Africa e.V.” (www.health-for-uganda-africa.org). A culture & science interested and open person.

How to wake up stoked every day by living your passion

Miriam Tymiec is a freelance graphic designer/art director/kite-surfer and professional fun-haver. We had an awesome interview and she is someone who, in my eyes, perfectly embodies the spirit of being a digital nomad. You can check out all of her design work here and if you’re into kite surfing check out her kite surf blog Wake Up Stoked.

In this interview we focused on topics such as:

1) How to connect with like-minded people

2) The essentials of being a traveling freelancer

3) The impact of traveling on one’s personality

4) How to get over your fears and get out of your shell

Enjoy!

S: Tell me a little bit about your journey. How did it all begin?

M: At first I worked at an agency as a graphic designer, but my goal was to become a freelancer and location independent. My ultimate dream was to kite-surf more. So I decided that I was going to adjust my job to my kite-surf life. Pretty much what I do now is look up different destinations where the wind is the best and where I will be able to work as well.

S: Awesome. At what point in life did you figure out that you didn’t want to work in an agency, but chase that kite surf dream and still focus on your work in the process?

M: I studied abroad in Italy and I always loved traveling. So after my studies, I went on a kite-surf holiday to the Dominican Republic, where I learned kite surfing. That’s when I was around 24 years old. It was during that holiday I decided that I didn’t want to get a job right away. I needed something in between and I wanted to travel and explore various things. At this point, I decided to book a one-way ticket back to the Dominican Republic and stay there for a few months, which turned out to be a year. I started working as a kite surf teacher and also started to freelance as a graphic designer. However I didn’t make enough money from that, so after a year I was very broke. That was the point where I decided to get a proper job that I can make a living of.

In spite of having no money, that year really changed my perspective on life and I can safely say that it was THE best year of my life. I can only recommend either after school or university to just go out there explore, travel and see the different lifestyles there are in this world.

So I started to work at an agency. I enjoyed that but I felt that I was not as happy as I could have been. It felt like there was always something missing. I think that idea was born because of my travels to the Dominican Republic and my passion for kite surfing, so it took me a long time to figure that out. Finally, after 3 years I realized that this lifestyle wasn’t for me and that I needed a change.

 

S: It must have taken a lot of courage to leave everything behind to go to the Dominican Republic because that’s where you felt your heart is. What impressions or reactions did you get from your friends and family once you told them that this is what you wanted to do?

M: The great thing in my case was that I got a lot of support and encouragement from my brother. It actually was his idea to go and he really wanted me to go with him. I was very scared at the time. Statements like “I have to get a job now”, “What will my CV look like if I just go travel for a year or for however long it will be” were constantly running through my mind.  I would have never made that decision myself and it was my brother who pushed me to do this.

My friends back then thought it was a little weird, they didn’t say too much but I felt that they thought it could take me a step back career wise. My parents are very easy going and were very supportive. They even told me that if they had the opportunity to go, they would do it too.

I think it was more of a passive thing, that people or society in general, will think I’m some sort of a failure if I do that now, so that was the bigger fear behind it.

S: It’s very common that people are afraid to fail and that they are afraid of what other people might think. For example there’s always that fear of judgment by people in your environment, that when you have an idea, which you want to realize but fail to do so.

In this case it’s always good to see the upside, which is that you actually did it! You don’t have to constantly ask yourself “What if?” And this can be a pretty huge deal, even if it doesn’t work out the way you want it to be. There’s always some kind of lesson, which you learn in the process that will bring you one step further in some way.

Would you consider yourself to be a Digital Nomad? If so, can you describe from your point of view the most important characteristics of a Digital Nomad?

M: Yeah, I would consider myself a digital nomad, but that’s because it is a really broad term. It’s simply defined as a person who

  1. Works wherever they want to

  2. Need internet to work

It’s a nice word to describe my lifestyle since it is easy to understand without going into any further detail. However it’s not a job description. You can’t go around saying your job is being a digital nomad. It’s more about a way of describing yourself as a person. Generally I feel like it’s a hard term to define simply because there are so many different ways people live life on the road.

S: There are so many people who dream of a more independent lifestyle, to not be bound to any specific location or to work while traveling and adventuring. What advice can you give digital professionals who want to achieve that lifestyle? Can you share a few points or life lessons that you learned while being on your journey?

M: I think the most important point is to have a vision and to know why you are working towards achieving this lifestyle. You really have to have a goal and to “feel the dream”. What I haven’t done at the time, and what I recommend everyone who still has the chance to do so should do, is to start building it next to your day job. It takes time to build that foundation. So start slowly and when the time comes when you can actually make a living off of it, then go quit your day job and 100% focus on your independence.

Another advice I can give is to generally save money. Just to have something to live off in the beginning, in case it’s not going so well. But basically, I would really recommend to everyone to work on it on a long-term basis and to really go for it, because like I said, for me, it was the best decision I ever made.

S: How have your travels and the whole digital nomad lifestyle affected you as a human being in terms of personality and mindsets?

M: I think my first travels were the ones, which affected my personality the most. Traveling makes you more open-minded. The more you see, the more you can think of, the more you can dream of. I’m also a bit of a shy person so it makes me more open towards others and to meet new people. And I think the most important thing is it really keeps you in the moment. You always experience new things and by changing places and working that way you’re always grateful and happy for what you have. For example, when I came back to Germany from South America I started appreciating the little things, and if you’re in another country like Dominican Republic, you just appreciate nature so much, so you’re really in the moment and very grateful for that. So I think I became more present personally and concerning my work life I think I’m way more focused and productive because I know what I am working towards. I’m living my dream and my motivation is way higher to work productively in an effective way so that I can enjoy the rest of the day at the place where I currently am.

 

S: That sounds so cool. Coming back to the freelance graphic design work you do, how hard is it to establish a client base? Do you think it’s easier or harder to find clients while traveling?

M: I think it’s way harder to get clients on the road. On that note, another important advice I can give is to get your clients before you travel. I had zero clients, completely started from scratch. My first clients were actually my family and friends and since some of my friends were graphic designers too I got some jobs from them. Even today it’s still hard for me to get clients since there’s always a certain distrust about the fact that I’m traveling constantly. So the best thing to do is establish a connection with your clients from your home base and show them that you do good work and later let them know that you’re traveling but still can accomplish all the work that you get from them. I also know some people who don’t tell their clients that they’re traveling and they don’t even notice that they’re gone. It’s just important that your travels do not interfere with the quality of your work.

S: You hear a lot about people who love traveling on social media and other platforms but are still to afraid or hesitant to make that final step. How can you give them that push which takes them over the edge and to get started? What would you say to them?

M: For my first ‘push’ when I traveled to the Dominican Republic I had my brother, but for my second push I actually went to a conference for digital nomads. For anyone looking for additional motivation, I would highly recommend that. The one I went to is called DNX, they have a national event in Germany and also an international one in 2017 in Lisbon. I am sure they are tons of other events and conferences, but for me, this was the one which was really mind-blowing. 

I think the most important point is to have a vision and to know why you are working towards achieving this lifestyle. You really have to have a goal and to “feel the dream”. What I haven’t done at the time, and what I recommend everyone who still has the chance to do so should do, is to start building it next to your day job. It takes time to build that foundation.

I would really recommend to go there and to just talk to people, feel the vibe and explore the many ways you can live this lifestyle. It’s such a big community and people are so helpful and open-minded. What you can also do is simply join Facebook groups for digital nomads and talk to people through there. They are very active groups and you get so much advice from people. Those two different communities really helped me a lot and made my vision bigger and constantly provided me with new ideas. Get to the beginning of the path and with the help of these communities see how many possibilities there actually are, and you’ll find your way on your own just by listening and taking it all in.

S: That’s very true. If you have a goal or a dream, doesn’t matter what it is you always have to get together with like-minded people and support each other, give advice and get motivation from one another. That probably also makes the whole experience a lot easier, especially at the beginning when you’re trying to figure it all out.

 M: Yes exactly. There’s this one saying “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. So even if you don’t have these like-minded people in your friends or family, look for them online or on conferences, watch YouTube videos, read quotes. The more you surround yourself with these things and see them constantly the more natural it gets for you. 

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.

It’s not about your age, it’s about your determination.

“Young entrepreneurs look at the world with fresh eyes and such lively determination. Some of the modern world’s greatest ideas and innovations came from people like you. Don’t ever let other people use your age as an excuse to not take you seriously”  (Sir. Richard Branson)

And he is so right. Richard Branson, is one of the best examples of our time for somebody who started his entrepreneurial career when he was a student, and turned out to be one of the most admired business man in the world.

Don’t use your age as an excuse not to start something. It’s a limiting self belief. Programme your mind.

Richard Branson’s words should be enough motivation for anyone who has an idea or a dream, but postpones taking action because he or she thinks they’re “too young” or not “experienced enough” to start something.

Turn it around! Your age is exactly the reason why you should start now. Your age is your strength. Use this advantage!

Starting a business young (no matter which scale) will be the best way to get to know yourself, discover your talents, and to becoming a skilled professional, or an entrepreneur.
You will see how skills and enthusiasm will always count more than age. Moreover, it is not even about what you do but more about what you learn from doing it. I’d like to share my story with you:

Three years ago at the age of 19, I started working in a market research call center, knowing very little about business. In the following semesters me and a great team of fellow students tried to turn our student company project into a real business. I lead a team of 6 people, developed the business, got customers, got an investor, and failed eventually. The plan did not work out, but in the end it was a fantastic experience. I had no idea how much it would impact my life.
Empowered by this experience, I got several exciting jobs including my dream job when I was only 20 years old. It was a 3-month internship at Metrica-Sports a Start Up that developed an awesome tactical analysis software for the biggest football clubs in the world. Being a football enthusiast and a player all my life, this job felt like having reached my life goal. Something I had never dreamed about (well actually I my dream job was being the best football player in the world…but that’s another story).
A few months later, I ended up being the youngest and first part-time Account Manager at one of the fastest growing start ups in the Netherlands at the age of 21.
Half a year later, I also almost made it into Chelsea Football Club when I applied for an internship as a first team Analyst assistant. Despite being a business student, I made it to the final round where I impressed the analysts, but eventually they chose a candidate who was better than me. So be it: I tried it, I went for it, and it did not work out…this time. (Feel free to send me a PM if you’d like to know more about how I managed to do this).
Today I am Co-Founder of Fypster, which I run with 2 other fantastic people I met when working next to my studies in Amsterdam. We manage Fypster remotely. In my case I do this while working for one of the leading tech start ups in London called Onfido.  A company founded by 3 Oxford graduates in 2012. (another fantastic example of where you can achieve by starting young).
I love the job and work with people of over 40 nationalities in the heart of London, where I get to speak 6 languages a day. And guess what…I am the youngest employee out of 140 people, so I want to stress: Your determination is what counts, not your age! Looking back all of these opportunities were linked, and one opened opportunity opened the door to the next one. Each time a bigger one. Currently I am Co-Founder of Fypster, hoping to establish a meaningful online community to empower millions of  youngster in the future.
Looking back, I can say that these opportunities arose thanks to the experiences I had made when trying to start my own business. It taught me the skills, persistence, and proactive thinking necessary to create extraordinary opportunities for myself.(and others) Furthermore it helped me understand how I could use my talents to succeed in the marketplace. An understanding that I would never have gained by just reading and studying about theories from books provided by University. I´d like to emphasize that I am not different to any of you. I am just like you and I hope by reading this you understand: If you´re determined to create your own path, you can achieve whatever you want to achieve! It will not be easy, but its fulfilling.  Eventually all will fall into place.

So, if you have an idea and the drive in you, don’t hesitate, start young. Your determination will take you where you want to be.

Now is the time to take risks

If you are honest to yourself, there is no risk is there?
When do you think that failing your venture/project/plan will leave a bigger impact? When you are 40 settled with family and kids with many (financial) responsibilities, or when you are a independent teenager or in your twenties?

 

Get Ready

Get Ready

 

Many young people think they will be judged when their project will not become a big success. In fact, I have experienced the opposite, and after having spoken to almost 100 young entrepreneurs across the globe, I can tell you the following: People will respect you for your courage and actions. The skills that you acquired will help you professionally and personally so you can become whatever you want to become.

Fail young. Fail often. Learn fast.

I failed not only once in my life. And I will fail again. But I realized that failure can be the biggest win, and the trigger for new amazing opportunities. So can it be for you. Don’t let anybody limit you. Don’t care about what your parents or friends think is right or what your school tells you to. (My parents never knew what I was actually doing whilst some of my friends called me a freak)

In fact, I have experienced the opposite and after having spoken to almost 100 young entrepreneurs across the globe, I can tell you the following: People will respect you for your courage and actions. The skills that you will have acquired will help you professionally and personally so you can become whatever you want to become.

Do your thing and do it whenever you think the time is right. Most importantly: Enjoy what you are doing. Enjoy the possibility of being able to realize your dream. This is a privilege! And when it get’s tough or you think you’ll fail, remember this phrase from a man that has changed the world:

mandela

 

Going after your ideas and becoming skilled (for the rest of your life) as a consequence is without a doubt easier said than done. It requires hard work and determination. But trust me, it’s worth it. The countless hours that you’ll invest won’t even feel like work. You will enjoy seeing every progress you make. It will bring you joy and fun!
If you are determined, convinced to make it, and not afraid of failing, there is nothing that can stop you. And who do you think will not take you seriously after you have shown that you take your own ideas seriously?

 

At Fypster we want to give you all you need to be able to realize your ideas and dreams when you are young. Young people all around the world come together in our social network  to empower each other and to share their stories and adventures.  I hope this blog has inspired you to take action. I’d love to get your feedback and to hear about how you have used your determination to achieve your goals in the comment section below. Also, feel free to send me a personal message in the community at any time  for questions, help, advice, or just to say hello. If you haven’t joined our social network yet – register today and be part of our community. Change yourself through us. Change the world with us. 🙂 

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.

Interview with Thomas Williams: The fascinating life of a creative Solo Entrepreneur

We met the young English Designer and Solo Entrepreneur in Barcelona this year and were fascinated by his story and the beauty of his products. In today’s interview he gives insights and shares learnings from his adventurous life that lead him to create extraordinary things, disrupting current product designs. Check out Guapa CO and Williams Bikes for more information.  Let’s dive into it!

Hi Thomas, first off – please fill us in about your background- where are you from? What are your passions in life? Where do you live right now?

I am from a small town near to Bath in the South West of England called Devizes. I have grown up there and went to University of Bath where I did my Masters in Mechanical & Electronic/Electrical Engineering. My background is quite varied, in a previous life I played tennis professionally – competing both at home and abroad on ATP circuit. Recently I made the move to Barcelona, having been here a few times I couldn’t keep away and finally made the move in January this year.

 

What did you study and what was your professional career like so far? When and why did you decide to do your own thing?

I studied my masters in Mechanical & Electronic/Electrical engineering at University of Bath in England. During my studies we had to participate in a year placement in industry.  I was sponsored at the beginning of university by Npower (a large power company in the UK) and was supposed to spent my year in industry with them; however after 2 months of a not so enjoyable first spell at a power station in South Wales I decided to look outside the norm and focus on finding a placement that would be meaningful, provide me with a new experience and also work in something that interested me. I applied directly to every single kitesurfing / watersports companies I could find on the internet and was accepted by one after negotiations. It happened to be in Thailand and I moved out that summer – my time spent with Airush ended up totaling to around 3+ years working out of Thailand.

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Professionally I have worked mainly for the watersports company called Airush Kiteboarding & Starboard Windsurfing in Thailand and then later on moved to Cape Town in South Africa where I helped set up a new R&D center and office.

The job with this company taught me a LOT, I lived in Asia, learnt to speak Thai and travelled frequently to manufacturing sites across China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Thailand. I was working as lead design engineer across 3 brands of windsurfing, kitesurfing, Stand Up Paddle and would visit to suppliers and implements my designs into mass production. The move to Cape Town enabled a new experience of living and working out of South Africa, I was very autonomous in my job and at times it felt like I was going way beyond the call of duty – sleeping nights in the airport, stranded downtown HK with 6 surfboards and not being able to get a cab, flights every other weekend and building up an R&D center. This I suppose gave me the confidence that I was able to do all this myself and had the skills and grind necessary to go it alone.

I then moved back to the UK, had a few stints in what I call mainstream engineering.  At the same time I was developing a bicycle which I used my background in watersports manufacturing to develop. I left my job not to fully engage in this project and naturally found my time being taken up developing this new design and getting working prototypes rolling.

 

You worked in three different continents in the surfing industry. Sounds like an exciting and crazy experience. How did it change you?

I learnt a lot during my years working in Asia and S.A, I had never thought of Thailand or going there before I did, so I didn’t have any expectations. I find it very easy to integrate into cultures; I have learnt that smiling, being open and having the ability to assess people and situations is key. I learnt Thai and this helped a lot, it created a stronger connection and allowed easier integration. Learning about how the western business has set up offshore manufacturing some 15-20years ago so that it has become the “norm” was very interesting; realizing the scale first hand of the manufacturing industry in China is quite eye opening. Most products of large brands are made in Asia; but driving for hours and only seeing factory after factory you start to realize the scale –  its hard to explain how vast it is as it doesn’t exist in Europe that I am aware of.

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I learnt how to conduct business there, how to approach situations and gaining a lot of great connections across many industries. How to get things done, how to negotiate and how not to loose face with the Chinese –this is something pretty important as generally speaking they hold the keys to what your looking to do.

Living in Cape Town is somewhat different to Asia, it’s a very beautiful place indeed. Again integration is key and I put a lot of what I learnt into practice in Cape Town, an arguably harder more “real world’ place to be than say Thailand.

I have learnt that smiling, being open and having the ability to assess people and situations is key.

Please tell us a bit more about your own projects, Williams Bikes and Guapapeaks. How did you come up with the ideas? How did you get started and what is your focus nowadays?

Williams Cycles is really a very special project, we are very proud to create what we believe to be something people want, desire and have never seen before. I set about to make something I would really want, the best components, simple operations, clean, minimal but extremely capable in terms of performance but understated. We know it’s the best wood composite bike in the world and proud to have build it by hand out of a small workshop in England using our own designed tooling, manufacturing machinery and designs.

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Guapa Peaks started out as a way to fund the bicycle project, we ran a Kickstarter which we completely didn’t prepare for and almost launched it in desperation to gain some quick cash injection – we didn’t do the product justice and had no engagement before launching. We failed the kickstarter.

I knew it could be great if we had the right engagement and I changed a few things around, found a new factory, made better peaks, outsourced manufacturing, bought the pricing to an achievable level for consumers where we believe they would be mad to choose another hat as in comparison ours are superior. They have the same passion, design credentials & premium feel as a Williams Cycles bike, however they are caps.

Let´s talk about Guapa CO. Guapa CO are the first only wooden head wear. That’s fantastic. Was it easy to get the first clients for fashion that was practically not existent before?

Early adopter products don’t scare us, big brands maybe don’t have the flexibility or innovation to see potential in different design idea. What we love is we are able to come up with an idea, prototype it and make it quickly and have no one to answer to but our customers. It is much harder to innovate and make new products, it’s much easier to just re-brand a t-shirt or backpack but changing how it’s made or its process of manufacture using unknown materials is quite challenging!

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What does it mean for you personally to run your own business? What do you want to express with your work? (passion&work)

I want to express my own personal path – the interactions with different cultures, people I have met along the way, places I have stayed, learnt knowledge through past jobs and bring it together to make something extraordinary. We really like making something that hasn’t existed before, we know we have the background and skills to make something no-one has thought of and we are not scared of trying something a little out the ordinary.

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You are an engineer and designer. How do you manage the business and technology part of your business? Are there challenges you come across?

I started the business with my brother who is luckily an ace when it comes to finances and excel! He is often the one thinking way bigger than me and I kind of rein it in and then we meet somewhere in the middle. We now still find the online world very large in terms of avenues for sales; we are focusing both on physical stores as well as online. We believe it is very important to get the products in the hands of our customers by having retail, also we love working and talking to them as they know best when it comes to customer base in their respective countries.

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I want to express my own personal path – the interactions with different cultures, people I have met along the way, places I have stayed, learnt knowledge through past jobs and bring it together to make something extraordinary.

 

What should young designers who want to sell their own productions take into account? What are the first steps they should take?

This is a difficult one to answer, we do everything ourselves initially we design, market, do the graphics, package etc… With the bicycles for example we made a product that looked like it was built by a team of professionals, in a facility with as much machinery as you would ever need etc… Whereas we made it in my grandads old workshop at my grandmother’s house with a small budget and a lot of attention to detail & passion.

Start small, do as much you can yourself and be active in the whole design build phase as much as possible. Get a protoype early and then use this to gauge if it seems a viable concept.

 

Why did you move to Barcelona and how is life there compared to England?

It is a great place to be, it is very multicultural and has a great scene of entrepreneurial people! I wanted to move there to be somewhere that emphasizes what our brand is about – it is about travel, mixing with our customers and experiencing life and those who live it. Barcelona is a great city to shoot for photography, it is very accessible and cheap and means we can access our design office in the UK very easily. We want our brand to be internationally minded and global, being between the UK and Barcelona gives a blend of cultures for inspiration.

We made it in my grandads old workshop at my grandmother’s house with a small budget and a lot of attention to detail & passion.

 

What are the most important characteristics one should have when being a young solo Entrepreneur?

It is not so much fun doing everything on your own, at the beginning it is hard to finance another person on board. Unfortunately my brother had to leave to begin his Pilot career, however he is never far away to get advice and we still collaborate a lot on major decisions.

Thomas and his brother Harry

Thomas and his brother Harry

I will  begin working out a dedicated office space as being alone at home is not fun or motivating for me, I like to bike around and be active before and after working and not conform to a 9-5 time frame. Networking is key and being open to new ideas and peoples input is great, I listen a lot.

Thomas
Hello Community!

I am a 29 year old innovative and creative type of guy, i like to believe anything is possible and go out and try make things happen. Previously used to play tennis professionally, now fuel this passion into designing great products and creating something thats memorable!

Live between Barcelona and the UK and trying to make the dream happen..

From tourism studies in Austria to a webshop for camera accessories: Interview with the two founders of DESIGNSTRAPS

Hi Anne and Christina, please tell us a little bit about you. How did you meet? And what are your personalities like?

 

Hi. We got to know each other during our studies in Austria. It was (so to say) a friendship at first sight. We studied entrepreneurship & tourism. It`s funny how life changes your plans and you see yourself working in a business field that has little to do with your study background 🙂

 


You made your passion your job. Since 5 years you run a successful online webshop called DESIGNSTRAPS. What is DESIGNSTRAPS and how did you guys come up with the idea?

 

DESIGNSTRAPS is an online shop that offers unique camera accessories. We work with a choice of small, but fine designers from around the world and discover camera bags and straps off the mainstream. Our portfolio holds items made out of leather or with unique patterns or features.

It was really funny how everything started….After we graduated I decided to travel to India. At the same time Anne was in Frankfurt figuring out whether she should dive into a trainee program at one of the big players or whether she should start her own business. She chose to start working part time for an advertising agency and for the rest of her time she worked on different business ideas.

ciesta

She then saw one of Capturing Coutures camera straps in the InStyle magazine and was immediately drawn to it. She ordered a few straps, fell in love with them and realized that there is no such market in Europe.

Then everything went stroke upon stroke. She called me while I was still travelling and told me about the straps. Then she asked me if I want to start a business with her. And I said „Why not?“

So I came back in February 2011, 5 month after graduation and after a brilliant trip to India, Thailand and Vietnam and we started the whole thing.

 

Did you always want to be Entrepreneurs?

 

Let’s say yes and no. I come from an entrepreneurial family so it was apparent to start an own business. At the same time I saw the the huge amount of work my family put into their businesses and I always wanted that to be different for my life. It turned out that being an entrepreneur and not work hours after hours is possible too. But more about that later.

Anne was always wild at heart and never could really imagine to work for someone else for a long period of time. So it was her who poked me and gave the starting shot for the whole business.


How did you separate the roles in the company and how do you combine friendship and business?

 

It was never a big deal for us to separate roles. We always wanted to be the same person in business as in private life. So we took our values and integrated them into our business. We always wanted and still want to follow our flow so the roles and field of duties came naturally on the go.

DESIGNSTRAPS Online Shop

And our secret to combine friendship and business is to not avoid blocks or unpleasant situations or task but always try to figure everything out by clear and authentic communication with each other 🙂

 


How did you learn all the skills needed to run an online business? Did what you learned at University prepare you for the job?

 

Well, we were total newbies in running an online business. We just followed our flow, talked to friends, googled hundrets of websites and learned everything on the go. It kind of all came together naturally at the end.

Our studies gave us a basic understanding of to create a marketing plan or a budget plan. But further than that it was all autodidactic. All the technical and operational part like choosing a shop software, a fulfilment partner and the wide range of seo, usability, customer relationship, etc. was learned through experience.

University can give you a sense of what you should to when xy happens but real life always is totally different. For example we never learned really practical things in University like how to register a business or how to start a business with 0,- budget.

 

 

What advice can you give to youngsters, who want to start their own online business? What are the first steps and where can they get information and help?

 

Surround yourself with people that believe in you and uplift you.

There are so many peoples out there who project their own fears and insecurity on you and your business ideas. Don`t let yourself be distracted from that.

There is a great quote by Steve Jobs saying exactly the same:

„Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.“

And what are the first steps? Well, start! Don`t think about it too long. Just try it out. Do it. So that at the end of your life you don`t have to torture yourself with questions like “What would have been if I would have started xy….”

And the second step? Get the information you need. Talk to people, watch Youtube tutorials, google things, talk to the uncle from your friend’s neighbor, whoever. Just go step by step and follow the flow. It will all make sense at the end. Don`t be afraid of not knowing everything. You are willing to learn and that is your power!!

 

How does a typically day look like? Do you always work from your office?

 

Well, the main goal we had while starting this business was the 4 Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. So everyone who has read the book and tried to start a business upon that knows that it is not that easy. You always have to invest more time at the beginning and then step by step work towards that goal.

So at the moment we are at a 15 hours workweek. We had an office in Frankfurt but Anne became pregnant and has a little baby girl now so we quit the office and I am now back to home office. I am planning to go to Bali for a few months so I am more flexible without an office.

A typical day? Anne is on maternity leave so she has different days these days. And for me every day is different.

capturing-couture-blue-bell-scarf-camera-strap-kameraband-blau-5

I do Yoga in the morning, then after breakfast I check my mails and try to take care of all the work for DESIGNSTRAPS.

After that I dedicate my time to different projects where I am involved. Like my mums hotel, my yoga class that I teach, or a NGO I work for, etc.

And apart from that I have time for my family, friends and the sweet side of life.

What are your best productivity tips?

 

1) Organize your tasks with the Pareto principle and do the most important things at first.

2) Get up early in the morning. What you have not finished by lunch will give you a hard time in the afternoon or the following days.

3) Stay focus on one task for 30 minutes. Don`t let yourself be distracted by your phone, emails, colleagues, etc. Just focus on one thing for 30 minutes and you will see the magic 🙂

 


Some thoughts on what it means to be a female entrepreneur in a predominately male industry:

Well, there is still a bit of road to travel. It was hard for us in the beginning when we were quite young just after graduation. Being in your early twenties and female brings you in typical stereotype situations like IT meetings where everybody treats you like a naive little child.

And it still happens on the phone every now and then when people ask for the CEO and you tell them its you. I think especially in the photo branch for some people it is still strange hearing a female voice as CEO.

But there are also great experiences where women and men came towards us and empowered us to keep going. And of course our customers who always keep us going. We let our good work and professionalism speak for ourselves. Not our gender or age.

 There are so many peoples out there who project their own fears and insecurity on you and your business ideas. Don`t let yourself be distracted from that.


I read about the concept of „Sharity“ on your site. What is the idea behind it and how can people support this?

 

Sharity comes from the word share and charity. From the beginning on it was very important for us to also give our company a social character. So we searched for a project that we wanted to support and ended up with a project in Bangladesh who helps kids fighting blindness and its consequences. We thought that there is a link between photography and our eyes – I mean, how would you react if you go blind and all the pictures around you start to vanish?

The great thing about the project is, that we can easily help. With only 40 EURO a child can successfully be operated and we have already rescued the eyesight of more than 40 children.

 

University can give you a sense of what you should to when xy happens but real life always is totally different.

 

“To wrap it up: What has entrepreneurship taught you, personally and professionally and what is your main advice students and graduates thinking of starting starting their own thing.”

 

Entrepreneurship gives you a certain freedom. You are not dependent on anyone but your own skills and knowledge.

You learn that in life you either get what you wanted or learn something if you don’t get what you want.

So the question is if you thinking of starting your own business, ask yourself: What meaning do I want to give my life?

Because in the end it doesn`t matter what you did and if you have worked hard for it and if you have earned the money you have wishing for.

In the end the only things that counts is that you did them.

So my advice is…start. The rest will fall into place.

 

 

 

Christina & Anne
As founder and owner of DESIGNSTRAPS, Christina & Anne are building an online business focused on photographers while escaping the 9-5 job mentality and living a life in flow.

#earlytobedearlytoshred and The Ethos to Turn Your Passion into Your Job

Anyone that knows me, thinks of how far I often go on the bike and closely associate cycling with my work. Sure my legs have gotten me places but my network has gotten me further.

I’ve made a living out of connecting and helping people. Without the many people I’ve met and those that have helped me along the way, I wouldn’t be where I am today. 

When Daniel & the Student Generation team asked me share my story of how I got where I am + to share some lessons learned over time, I immediately thought about the post I wrote about the importance of being dropped for Vulpine last year.

Whereas this article is about incorporating your a passion into a vocation, the Vulpine post is about perseverance, tenacity & resilience. In fact, it has been nearly exactly a year since that post and nearly a year since starting my newsletter & 9 years since starting my own bike shop. But let’s go even further back in time…

Pre-History – first job to odd jobs | 1999 – 2006

  • First job 1999 – employed at 15 years old washing dishes, bussing tables & catering at a BBQ joint.
  • Summer 2002 – I spent my senior year of high school in Germany on a scholarship
  • Summer 2003 to Summer 2004 – I worked  landscaping & in a grocery store + finishing high school
  • 2004 to  2006 – got into GA State worked as a waiter in fine dining, brunch places & as a barista

Key lessons:

  • Show up on time, do what you’ve got to do, stay until it’s done right. This sets you apart from the start.
  • Learn from your managers. Helping them with tasks beyond your job descriptions. Listen to their stories.
  • Quit for new opportunities. It’s easy to stay in a job. Don’t let opportunity pass you by for the sake of job security. (protip: leave on good terms & take a good reference with you)

My Own Bike Shop |  2007-2010

When I share my story with people younger than me, it goes way back to undergrad. Working as a waiter and later as a barista. Back then, I was into the urban cycling scene in Atlanta. I competed in and ultimately helped organize alleycat races with bike messenger buddies of mine. We all liked riding track bikes but bike shops in our city didn’t sell the kind of gear we wanted. What the hell, we thought, let’s open our own bike shop. That was July 7, 2007.

Key Lessons:

  • Starting a business with your buds can rule! I learned so much back then from running the business to working on bikes, brand collaborations and negotiations + everything in between.
  • Establishing a network globally and in your community are equally vital. I lean on bonds made then still now. I learned the value of a strong network.
  • Starting a business with your friends can suck. Spoiler alert! Here is an old post about it.

Office Jobs |  2008 – 2014

Not even a year into starting the shop and nearly done with my undergraduate degree, I got an internship helping with Web Content & Promotion at a translation agency. My online work for my own shop got me in the door. I did that then project management and, later, sales for this agency. After that, joined a small Ruby on Rails shop that, a year later, merged into full stack software development and developer training company. The merger was my ticket to Amsterdam but that office closed only 5 months later. Three months later, I got a job working at a Dutch startup for 6 months before the next chapter.

Key lessons:

  • Pay it forward – advice, favors, introductions, etc. Don’t keep count. Just help how you can. You’ll become the person people turn to for help, insight to share opportunities with.
  • Overdeliver – don’t just do your job (like i did in the pre-history section) Do that but more: new ideas + higher results = impressed managers & colleagues
  • Be nice. – do I even have to say this? Even if people suck, are dumb, mean etc. Be nice. Thank me later.

My Own ‘Office’ Job | 2014 – Current

AT WORK

By the winter of 2014, I had been in Holland for just over a year. I felt confident that I had what it took to start my own consulting business and re-applied for my and my family’s visa’s with a new incorporation. I began to slowly taking on clients. The pace began to pick up quick in the spring.

Now 1.5 years into starting my second company, Twotone Consulting. We’re an Amsterdam based agency stoked on where sales & PR meet. We…

 

  • empower clients by building targeted lists of ideal customers & show them how
  • qualify leads, run automated outbound campaigns and generate new business
  • offer lead gen appointment setting + shared know how and 1:1 coaching
  • develop PR strategies to tell your story to the right people in the right way
  • create brand events and activations: sales pro meetups to casual rides

Key lessons so far:

  • Trust your team – 5 months in I hired Headroom, then 6 months later my first employees. Communicate well and you won’t have much to worry about execution. Track progress and hold people accountable.
  • Trust yourself – from long bike rides to publishing regular content. Make a name for yourself that people can comprehend and share with their network. Be confident about your decisions. Follow through.
  • Wake up early – #earlytobedearlytoshred is more than my most famous hashtag. It is really hard. So most people skip it. Give yourself a headstart. It is that simple.

In closing, it might be easy for readers and even myself to see how my “life turned out” in a logical way

But combining work, fun and passion whilst finding time for my family hasn’t at all been intuitive, straightforward or easy at all. Despite bumps in the road, the bicycle has been at the core of each, major professional era for me, the foundation of my closest friendships and the first thing my wife and I had in common ; )

For this reason I do often go back to the early decision to open the bike shop and how it impacted my life. I often say “it always comes back to the bike” but what does that really mean?

The essential formula for me: find a consistent passion that keeps you stoked and keep pushing on that. Over the years, that has meant going faster, further and on new terrain with new people. This dedication impacts how you hold yourself accountable and how you push yourself personally and professionally. Not to mention a constant stream of new contacts and adventures.

Keeping a routine of perpetual improvement that’s fun + remembering lessons like those above that you learn along the way will make all the difference!

I hope this story contains some concrete and actionable tips on how to go incorporate your passion into your job! In case you’d like to read more: I share weekly insights + interesting articles here: bit.ly/Subscribe-to-my-newsletter

Thanks for reading!

Featured image by Ian Matteson for Enve Composites.

Jon
❤️️ #ottogram #miragram @drbabyguns. I’m an ex-bikeshop owner, #earlytobedearlytoshred @rollcallams, co-organizer of @saleshackerams & founder of @twotoneams ✌️
I write about cycling, startups and sales weekly: www.twotoneams.link/newsletter