How I started a new business in the midst of a global pandemic
This article was originally published on livhansen.net on December 26, 2020.
Recently I received a phone call from a friend of mine in London who wanted a bit of advice on setting up her online-based yoga business. We talked at length about the challenges of running a business (in my case currently three) during these unprecedented and unpredictable times.
Establishing and continuously growing a business as a serial entrepreneur does by nature come with a truckload of unpredictability and unknown variables. While we test, examine, improve, and learn, some aspects of growth require listening to our gut feeling and stepping out into the unknown. We must have a clear vision and continuously stay connected to it, in order for us to follow through and execute an idea. This philosophy, of course, applies regardless of circumstances.
Where I grew up, in the suburbs of Copenhagen Denmark, the genius idea of leaving home at 18 to study acting in Hollywood, without any knowledge of this city or contacts to call upon, caused many people to glance in my direction displaying an expression of heartfelt concern.
I don’t think I felt fear, however. I simply wanted to study acting abroad and felt very grateful to be accepted into the Lee Strasberg Film & Theatre Institute in Los Angeles. The months preceding, I would visualize myself receiving a letter of acceptance, packing my suitcase, boarding the flight, and sitting in class surrounded by other actors. I even saw myself sitting at the local coffee shop (how I imagined it looked) reading a script and sipping my morning coffee. Essentially mentally rehearsing what I wanted to experience and I felt very happy when the letter of acceptance finally arrived.
Having made the move from Copenhagen, Denmark to the tiny town of Willow Creek, California during my Sophomore year in High School as a foreign exchange student, I knew a little bit about stepping into the unknown and my ability to handle a variety of circumstances. These earlier experiences I think help me in business.
The idea becomes a business.
When I branched out into starting one of my most recent businesses – I picked photography. I remember reading an article about a female photographer and thought this would be a fun venture. I purchased a camera and started looking for clients, sending out emails, and cold calling businesses to see who might want to hire me. It’s worth noting that I had no photography background other than continuously snapping diary-style photos for my Instagram and Twitter accounts, communities I also put daily work into growing.
Nonetheless, I quickly found myself receiving a nomination in the “Behind The Scenes” category of the Event Photography Awards in London and would pick up work photographing everything from high-profile events for the Danish Embassy – to film sets and fun subjects – such as tv actors, entrepreneurs, and phenomenal architecture. Through my work; editing, visual merchandising, and meeting other creatives, I decided I wanted to try out a new business idea and develop a new homeware and travel accessories brand, which became Eighteen Valley – a brand name I thought up randomly quite a few years earlier and where I already owned the domains and various social media channels.
I started learning a thing or two about importing and exporting and started working with suppliers overseas in early 2018. By spring I started selling salt and pepper mills through Amazon whilst continuing to learn how to use this particular platform, its parameters, and navigating the experience of building a brand online. Since then, we’ve now expanded to several products across multiple categories and are working on steps for the upcoming year.
Most recently, I launched MINIMALISTNOTEBOOK.COM, a notebook brand I founded three months into the pandemic, as the lockdown happened in London.
I studied how to make notebooks and launched them through Amazon. My previous experience with the platform helped me tremendously with the practical side of running the business through the different Amazon platforms worldwide. MINIMALISTNOTEBOOK.COM currently offers around 300 notebooks and counting, all of which I designed myself.
Staying focused while diversifying the business.
As a serial entrepreneur, the scenario where we start one business only to neglect the first one when we think up the next one – can happen. Working on several businesses that are in some way aligned, can help maintain focus and drive the businesses forward to a point. As an example, I love the minimalist aesthetic and approach to design and life overall. This outlook does not only transfer to my notebooks but also to the products I select for Eighteen Valley and I find it helps with cross-promoting and gaining interest from a similar customer base.
Diversification aside – if you decide to start something – whether it’s a fitness goal, a business goal, or just something specific that you decide you want to accomplish – get in the habit of following through. Keep the promises you make to yourself.