B2B or Beer2Beer, that is the question…

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Frankly, I’m having mixed feelings after Grow Up Start Up event that took place on 19-20 June in Warsaw, Poland. I’m not gonna talk about the things I didn’t like though. I’ll focus on the positive outcome instead. Because THERE ARE a couple of excellent take aways for me after these 2 days.

First of all, contacts! I truly believe I found myself in the right place at the right time. We decided with a colleague of mine to skip a discussion panel and go for a beer. There, we figured out how our visions of running our own start-ups are similar. Suddenly, a bunch of people joined us at the table and we continued our inspiring conversations in a bigger group (have a look at the photo above, it speaks for itself ;)). What I noticed was the fact that they were all open-minded people who go for such events from time to time and who know what networking really is. Yep, most probably that’s why it was incredibly easy for all of us to communicate so well and take advantage of that opportunity. Continue reading

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Go Creative!

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It’s time I told you about my latest big adventure. Big in a sense that it enriched my professional life.

A couple of months ago I applied for a business contest. It was a local initiative supporting new creative businesses. Together with other 21 wonderful entrepreneurs and their teams we made it through to the last stage after a very careful selection. Several weeks of trainings, workshops and integration events were offered to us as a preincubation process.

The trainings included such aspects as social media, e-commerce, marketing, finance, accountancy, business model canvas, creative solutions, effective presentations, among others.

To my surprise, the group turned out to be extremely friendly and not competitive at all. Moreover, we started to help each other by sharing useful information one may need to run their specific business.

I created a closed group on Facebook where we could easily communicate during those weeks of intensive preparations. Let’s only hope we do stay in touch for longer than that 😉

It’s worth mentioning that we had a pleasure to work with very experienced trainers, many of them being actually entrepreneurs themselves.

What I found extremely insteresting was the fact that the best feedback on our businesses we were getting was coming from… the members of our group! I was happy to see people sharing their opinions, ideas and best practices amongst the group. And we still do. This is something priceless indeed. What’s more, two girls surprised us with their decision about joining forces. They both had a similar idea for apparel design. What a great example of combining strong assets! With a competition! 🙂 In my humble opinion, they do match and have all the complimentary skills to build a strong brand. I wish them best of luck. Great story, isn’t it? 🙂

So when the workshops finally finished, it was high time to work on our business models. I remember how sad I felt because I knew something was coming to an end. It was an end to a great chapter of my professional life where we had loads of fun with the group. So now is the time to start serious hard work on the projects. No excuses! Time to act.

Working on my business model helped me realize all the gaps and what was still missing in my plan. Good business exercise, I have to say.

I spent a lot of time thinking on it and planning the strategy. It’s not easy when you are doing something for the first time 😉 But I love to learn new things so it was a great opportunity for me to grow.

After we sent our business models for evaluation, there was one more task to be performed: a creative presentation.

I spent 3 days designing the slide deck, preparing infographics, reasearching data and adequate images, and practicing my speech. No special effects though (such as people jumping around or kids playing with my product – these were applied by my competition ;)).

I did very well in the morning while pitching in front of the jury but I didn’t expect to be chosen as one of the 5 finalists at the end. The reason being my project was very much different from all the others (I’m building an online social platform while others are doing more tangible business, such as carpets, bags, apparel or coffins – yes, you heard me :)).

So when we all gathered in the evening for the final Elevator Pitch contest where 5 finalists were supposed to picth in front of the jury and various guests and my name was announced I almost fainted. Seriously, I didn’t see that one coming… I was totally lost, till the point I forgot how to start my presentation. All the folks were laughing… I can imagine my confused face 😉

But I made it. I pitched and said everything I wanted to say. 3 minutes is not much to present the whole idea of your project nevertheless if you focus on the main aspects you’re able to explain what it’s all about.

I got the 4th place. Which is absolutely AWESOME. The jury said everything was well thought and planned but the project is in its early phase (agreed!).

It made me really happy and gave a boost to continue my work. I know that thanks to hard work and patience I will be successful one day. It is just the beginning of my start-up journey. As a reward, I got Waterman pens (see the picture above), 8 business English classes and accountancy services for 2 months.

I’d like to tell you one thing. I got my prize earlier than that: it was the knowledge gained during the workshops and trainings, contacts and relationships I managed to build throughout all these weeks. This is something I value more than anything else. And this is the main reason why I wanted to take part in this competition.

Thanks to everyone who made this experience so special. Big thanks to the organizers and the creative group. And a very special thanks to my brother who works with me on the project! You guys rock! 🙂

Also, something special to share with you… a trailer of my project. Feel free to share any feedback you’ve got. Thanks! 🙂

Start-up? Whazzz that?

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In fact, most of us have brilliant ideas. Some of them are indeed innovative, some have the potential to change the world. We just lack the courage / time / resources to start implementing these ideas. And after a while we discover that the solution we have thought of already exists or that someone is actually working on it. How come? Damn it!

Well, it’s simple. The ideas flow. If you think you are genious because you have invented an incredible product / service / solution, bear in mind there is at least one person who is thinking about something similar. So… start doing it! But only if you feel strong enough though. Work your butt off to get it done if you think it’s worth your time, money, effort…

Don’t be afraid to talk about your idea with others. You may be surprised how useful it is to gather people’s feedback (your potential users / clients / brand ambassadors?). Most probably you’ll change your concept ten times before you start implementing the plan. And then get ready to do it far more often… No worries, it’s ok. It is even better to verify your idea no. Better sooner than later! The later you gather the feedback and comments, the worse. Why? It will cost you money. Oh, you haven’t spent a $ so far? Well, you have spent your time and time is money. Think about it. Remember that nowadays everything happens faster than 2, 5, 10 years ago. We have to be agile, flexible, responsive. 6 or 12 months of “doing nothing” may cost you. It may cost you lossing the opportunity of doing awesome things simply because someone will soon introduce the same product / service or because it will no longer be needed on the market!

So act quickly! Put a landing page in place. Collect e-mail addresses of users interested in your service. Prepare your MVP, a prototype, you will show to your potential customers. Ask them to test it and get the feedback. Improve the service or pivot the idea. Sometimes 180° changes are necessary. Once happy, launch your product (app or web service… whatever it is). If you need (additional) funding, go and seek investors / business angels. Actually, do it no sooner than your prototype is ready.

Now… Don’t build your start-up, if:

  • you haven’t done any market research and you don’t have any figures in front of your eyes – we all think our idea is bright and that it will change the world, but seriously – will you have clients? that’s what it’s all about after all, isn’t it?
  • you are not convinced that it will work – well, if you don’t believe in your own idea, how will you convince your team / clients / investors?
  • you do not feel motivated – working on a start-up means a lot of work, sleepless nights, weekends away on some start-up events, such as Startup Weekend, various barcamps, Startup Sprint etc.
  • you’re too busy with other projects – as I’ve mentioned, in the fast paced environment it is extremely important to pay attention to all the changes around you and start acting quickly, a start-up project needs your focus
  • you’re alone – unless you are rich enough to outsource the components you need, such as web or app design, graphic design, marketing strategy, project management etc. Believe me, a one-man show in this case is not going to work. Moreover, the investors will never invest in a single person. They want to see a motivated team with all the necessary skills to run a start-up and complete the project. After all, you guys will be doing it all, not the investors… Find a co-founder, if you are on your own. The other person greatly helps. Get someone you really trust though.

So why am I doing all this? Simply because I believe in my idea with all my heart and I have verified my solution to a global problem with hundreds of people from various countries. They are waiting for me to implement it now 🙂 What’s more, I’m ready to sacrifice my time and effort and work on my own enterprise (in fact, I’m already doing it). The good thing is that I’m working with my brother (IT brain) whom I trust and who supports me and tells me whenever my ideas suck. I attended a startup weekend event some time ago where it all started. Since then I’ve been gathering feedback and comments, thanks to which I have modified the concept many times. I am conscious there is A LOT to be done but I’m all excited to go ahead and make sh** real! Oh, and one more thing. I am not afraid to fail 😉

If you’re willing to help from the graphic design or marketing perspective, let me know! 🙂

Enough for now. I’m getting back to working on the landing page…

I’m going my way!

It is no secret that I’m planning my own business.

That’s actually one of the main reasons why I left corporation I had worked for during the past six years.

It all started in November 2012 when I accidentally popped into one of those Startup Weekend events. Wow! What an atmosphere! Frankly speaking, I had no further idea about the rules. I just knew the event was dedicated to smart people with brilliant ideas. I didn’t have any idea myself. I just went there to meet interesting people and build up my network. Ok, I mean I previously had had a lot of ideas in my mind but no plans to share them nor talk about them. In addition, usually it turned out my ideas had already been put in place by someone else! It may sound as if I was a genious, right? 😉 Well, I wish! Today more or less everyone has smart ideas. It’s not about having one. It’s actually about making it happen. It’s about creating the reality.

So I was sitting there, listening to all the 15 pitches of young entrepreneurs when I suddenly thought of something. I truly wanted to go out there, on the stage, and share the idea I’d just had. So I did it. I think my pitch wasn’t perfect. I shared what came to my mind and it seemed that the audience liked it 🙂

The weekend was great. I had an awesome team who worked hard on this project with me. I somehow wanted to win. I felt like I was already doing this for real! It was such an incredible feeling. I remember I told the guys I would quit my job if this turned out to work out (a prophecy… yeah, I know ;)). I told them that in secret but it looked like everyone I was meeting on the corridor was well aware of my “plans”. But then again, I didn’t care anymore. It only showed how much I believed in the idea and was committed to it. Right?

Nope, I didn’t officially win, although was very close to it. But you know what? Deep inside, I feel like I won. I won self-confidence. And I finally believed in myself. I received an amazing feedback over just two days which helped me understand what I was really made for. It took me a couple of months to start acting though.

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So here I am now. Four months later. Planning my own business. Believing in it. Looking into the future, full of joy and happiness. Because it’s mine, because I can design it and because I can also learn and grow. More and more. Day by day 🙂 I wish you such a personal development opportunity as well. There is nothing better than a deep dive into something big. If you want to achieve great things, think BIG.

“People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Steve Jobs

Screw it, let’s do it!

I am re-posting this from my blog on jux.com where I will not be writing anymore.

Recently I have been attending great workshops and networking events; reading blog posts, articles, books; checking out workshops on Youtube and – last but not least – talking to people about my startup idea. Oh, and yes, I would have forgotten: there is also Facebook! The most evil thing ever 😉 It has never occured to me that thinking and learning is such a time consuming process 😉 Oh well, better to realize it late than never!

A couple of weeks ago I attended a very interesting series of workshops dedicated to startups. First of all, I learned about the US market entry strategies (i.e. what works and what doesn’t), then I refreshed my memory about the art of the pitch and also got to know how difficult it is for a woman to become a senior level manager in the US. I had a pleasure to meet Natasha Kurtova French who works for an American non-profit which helps non-US companies expand globally with a focus on Silicon Valley, San Francisco.

Thanks to the International Women Day, I happened to attend a bunch of other amusing workshops… Not sure why but I accidently popped into a lecture about how diets are strongly connected to our psyche. I felt like giving some advice on the healthy style myself since I lost 7.5kg half a year ago and haven’t gained since then 😉 I did enjoy a lecture about the influence the colours have on our well-being or audience though (if you’re a trainer, for instance, you should know those rules!). I think I’m going to apply some of these ingenious techniques in the near future 😉 Believe me or not, these meetings are a great opportunity for networking. Not only have I met new interesting and truly inspiring people but I have also bumped into some former colleagues and people who went to the same camp in the mountains as I did two weeks ago. How awesome is that! 🙂 Yep, I do love catching up!

In the meantime I’m reading and adoring the book I got from one of my best friends. She brought it from London so I can fully enjoy it written in the original language! I’m a huge fan of Richard Branson (but hey, not necessarily agreeing with all his ideas), would love to meet him in person one day (heard he was in Warsaw some time back, where was I during that time??). Anyway, the guy is a genious, IMHO. He built such a powerful organization, without even finishing great school. He believes that work should be fun and your employees will treat the customers the same way you will treat them. Seems logic? Yep, now tell me how many CEOs you know who truly follow that rule… That’s what I thought 😉

Incredible, how people tend to be super serious in their businesses because they think it’s required to be perceived as a professional. I agree with Branson that you should bring some fun to everything you do. People – you should enjoy what you are doing! When there is no energy, humour nor passion, how would one expect the project to be truly successful?

Obviously, sir Richard describes numerous cases when he accomplished something or failed. What I value in his book is this honesty and openness. The pieces of advice he gives could be well taken by both young entrepreneur and experienced CEO. In fact, let me share with you some of his thoughts (without any specific order):

  • I agree that a strong personality is a great asset when starting u por running a business, but ‘strong’ doesn’t have to be equate to ‘aggressive’. The key skills are confidence in your ability to follow your vision, the ability to listen to others and the art of delegation.
  • One of my key lessons over the years has been to surround myself with great management teams who complement me and ensure that we have the all-round skills to make our businesses succeed.
  • Remember that it is impossible to run a business without taking risks. Virgin would not bet he company it is today if we had not taken risks along the way. You really do have to believe in what you are doing. Devote yourself to it 100 per cent and be prepared to take a few hits along the way. If you go into something expecting it to fail, nine times out of ten it will.
  • Looking back on Virgin’s history, our ability to adapt quickly to changes has helped mitigate reverses. You must be quick to accept that something is not going well and either change tack or close the business. We run our companies lean and small with very little red tape and certainly no bureaucracy. Using our mantra ‘Screw it, let’s do it‘ we invariably make and implement decisions quickly – usually before our competitors have held fifth meeting on the same issue.
  • Sir Freddie Laker once told me, ‘Richard, never forget that only a fool never changes his mind.‘ Not wanting to be foolish, I took his good advice. At Virgin, when our customers or crew tol dus they didn’t like something, we’d drop it and quickly move on to the next idea.

2013-03-05 14.56.47 I’ll be sharing with you some more thoughts once I finish reading the whole book. Happy to discuss in the meantime! 🙂

Have a great rest of the day!!!