I love driving around, it’s like walking in the forest or meditating. Being alone every once in awhile with your thoughts is extremely helpful. When I was driving back home from Tallinn and listening to another podcast, it got me thinking about how much have changed in the past two years in the direction I’ve always dreamed of. I’ve been my own boss for almost a 3 years now and decided it’s time to do a brief recap. If you are in a wantrepreneur phase, like I was just a few years ago, then this post will definitely inspire you.
So what is my dream?
To work wherever and whenever I want to. To do something that puts a smile on my face every morning and won’t make me hate Mondays.
“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”
– Seth Godin
Work is going to fill a large part of your life – approximately one-third. Several studies have shown that only 2 people out of ten are doing something they love. I wasn’t going to be one of the 8, who hates his job. I felt how the stress carried over to my personal life and relationships. I needed a change! After 10 years, doing something I didn’t love wasn’t an option anymore.
People who are facing the same dilemma today, know what I’m talking about and that the hardest part is taking that first step.
In university, I met with Teet, who became my best friend immediately. We both were eager to do our own thing, so in 2013 we made our mark. We bought a domain and WordPress theme for 60€ and started to build Estonian version on Yelp for restaurants.
Our vision was certainly bigger than us because we had no idea how to do it or what would come out of it in the end. That was also something that excited us – jumping head first into the unknown. What is the worst case scenario? Going back to doing something we don’t like? But what if we succeed?
I can go back to doing something I don’t like, but I couldn’t have lived with myself if I hadn’t at least tried to fulfill my dream.
Desire, vision, and problem
Have you ever wondered where should I go to eat? There are 3-5 cafés and restaurants circling around in your head, but you’ve already been in all of them. You want to go somewhere new, but where? Problem – check!
Eleven was born when I was away from Estonia for 1,5 years. A year in Australia and some months in Asia. Walking around Thailand and Cambodia, with your backpack, and building an online business at the same time. A real dream-come-true, isn’t it? Actually… today I thank God, that I crashed the first version of Eleven in Thailand, one beautiful April morning. At the time I was obviously mad – 4 months of hard work gone out the window.
What the hell, there are far worse things than that. I breathed in and out, put on my bamboo t-shirt and fake Ray-Ban sunglasses, jumped on a scooter and drove around Koh Pha Ngan. The same night I started again, from scratch. Take 2.
It is interesting how working on something you really like gives you more energy and willpower to actually go through with it. It’s called flow and it is magical state. Almost the same feeling as being in love. Your senses and focus start working on a whole other level.
You’ll never get that feeling if you go to work just to get paid.
Half a year later I landed in Tallinn, and just a month later we launched Estonian biggest restaurant database. This was already the third version of this site, which we ordered from Romania and we found these guys through Upwork. After first few months, it became clear that people were interested in what we had to offer. So we decided to build a new page, which we designed from scratch. We re-entered all the eating places manually… for the third time. In one week. 50 restaurants and cafés a day. Photos, phone numbers, email addresses, opening and closing times. Everything. One by one.
There is a saying that if you’re not embarrassed by your first product, then you started too late. As humiliating as it is, I’ll now show you the second version of Eleven (click here). And this is the second version… you can only imagine how bad the first one was.
You don’t need much to get started:
- Website domain – 10€
- WordPress theme – 50€
- Logo – make yourself in Photoshop
100€, Wi-Fi and a dream
As you can see, you don’t always need thousands of euros or dollars to start your own business. Better yet – come up with a plan, how to do it with minimal expense as possible and see do somebody needs it, do somebody finds it to be useful.
If you are still looking the green light then don’t. You have to start somewhere and my advice is to do it sooner than you’re actually ready for it. For years I read books, googled, watched videos and online workshops. I prepared, prepared and prepared until the material started to repeat itself and I was still preparing… and then I got pissed at myself that I still in the same place.
I never lacked motivation and ambition, I did lack courage on the other hand. Courage to start. Because everything new and unfamiliar is scary at first.
All you need to start your own business is one step – first step – beginning. It’s the most important step, because after that everything slowly falls into place. You just have to be ready to work for it. Only thinking about it doesn’t change a thing. Execution changes.
And when you start, remember that ambition has to be balanced with patience.
Many laughed at us and Eleven at first – what are these two idiots trying to do? But we didn’t care, we were too excited and only 6 months after launching our third version, we sat down with Delfi (big ass media company in Estonia) executive director, with whom we discussed the possibility of uniting. How about that? That moment made us feel really proud of ourselves and confirmed that you can do anything… if you really want to. No matter who you are or where you’re from.
Luckily there were more of those who cheered us on. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
You have to be ready for the possibility that people are going to make fun of you. You have to be bad at something before you can be good at it. No one can ride a bike right away. In the beginning, you fall and get bruised, but you’ll get better with each try!
I think it’s much more ridiculous to not try at all and then whine about how pointless everything is. You’re the captain of your own destiny, so change the course! If you want to.
“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”
– Zig Ziglar
To win, you have to be ready to lose and there’s no reason to be frightened by it. You shouldn’t also be afraid of what other people think, neither wait for an approval from someone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I know what I’m talking about because I was one of those “opinionated assholes” once. Today I’m much less opinionated because with each day I realize more and more how little do I actually know about things.
I advise you to ask for an advice only from people, who have done something in their life. They have the experience, which is far more valuable. Don’t listen to the noise and trust your gut.
I’m not sure in the value of all the macro economics and accounting classes we had together but meeting with this guy 8 years ago in college was the biggest value for me. Sure you need to understand your numbers and see the big picture but you cannot learn passion, motivation and dedication in school. You need to have it in you and you have to be willing to work hard because nothing happens overnight. Except overnight oats. Hustle makes the diffrence.
What happened to Eleven?
We sold it. Not for 150 000€ and to Delfi, but still. We got back the developing costs that we transferred to Romania, but not the time and effort we put into making it. Still, the experience was totally worth it though!
One thing led to another and so Boost Yourself grew out of our first venture. Boost Yourself was born out of my passion for smoothies and Teet’s idea of putting the super foods together into one package, so it would be easier for people to make smoothies at home.
We do it very differently (in Estonia’s concept), making an online shop, social media and customer service our priority. Our first full year has been a success in our opinion (we did over 120 000€ revenue, all online) and we’ve gotten orders from all over the world – Canada, Singapore, USA, Thailand and of course other EU countries.
The experience we got from doing Eleven (WordPress, photography and social media) have come handy in doing Boost Yourself.
Yes, when you start a business with only 100€, then you have to do everything by yourself. The good news is – it teaches you, god… how it teaches you. Before Eleven I had done one mediocre homepage, took pictures with the most ordinary camera and knew nothing about social media marketing. But that’s the beauty of it… you don’t have to know everything from the start, just make sure you show up and give your best each following day. By doing you get better. That’s the secret if you were looking for one.
You know what’s ironic? 3 years ago, when we started, we had two ideas on the table. One of them was related to smoothies, the other with eating places. At the time, we chose the second idea but still ended up executing the first.
I know it sounds cliche, but everything happens for a reason. Would there be Boost Yourself without Eleven? I think not.
Dream more and do more!