I was 16 when I started being an entrepreneur
Besides studying for school, I needed to earn money. I had never had a well-paid job, so I started my own business. The main reason why I started a marketing agency is that I believe people who can do sales will always make good money. I knew this profession and skills will always be needed by someone else. I decided to learn marketing and sales because it’s worthwhile in the long-term.
First I started with materials on the internet: e-commerce books, online courses, programs, etc. And actually, this week is the launch of my own course on my social media channels. It’s about paid-advertising for beginners (individual or small companies) who can’t afford external service and want to do marketing themselves because marketing service is quite expensive, at least 2,000€/ month for the service fee only. So my course is a step-by-step guide for everyone who wants to learn marketing from scratch to in-depth knowledge about marketing on Facebook, Google, Instagram. Some videos made by my mentors will also be included.
My journey has been amazing so far. I think age really doesn’t matter. here are many other people much younger than me that have achieved even more: run more companies and create more value in this life. However, in general, I’m feeling great for where I am today.
In each area of expertise, I have different mentors
I have several mentors in different areas (marketing and investment) whom I admire, follow and learn from.
One of them lives here in Finland, he was my first mentor when I was 16 and started my marketing agency. Right now we are still working together and share a couple of clients. He is a self-made businessman and one of the most important mentors of mine in the online marketing area. Another mentor of mine is from London, although he is one year younger than me, he does make a lot of earnings and success.
Finding mentors was difficult for me at first. Since I was really shy, I never took the initiative to start a conversation, especially with strangers. But thanks to Instagram, I can make my way to reach out to people. Actually, I think Instagram is a great tool to network. It plays a major role in helping me to gain the connections I have today. I just message the people who I’m interested to learn from on Instagram. Then we chat and we meet. It’s that simple. But one thing to keep in mind is that you always need to bring values to people. My advice for you when reaching out to people is to do research about the person to find out the common interest you have together.
I always define a clear purpose about what I want from them before sending a message to anybody. For example, when somebody sends me a message saying “Hi!” and nothing else, I think it’s a waste of time. You should have a brief introduction about who you are, what you do, how you find them, what is your interest and what you expect them to do. And always try to offer some values to them. Show them what benefits they may get by giving you their time.
Four years ago when I first started, I wondered what would be an appropriate approach to contact all the interesting entrepreneurs. I came up with an idea to invite them for an interview, just so that I can have a chance to start a conversation. So I set up a Youtube channel as the platform for my project. Then I made phone calls to the “target interviewees” to persuade them to join and promised to give them a shout-out. This project helped me meet really interesting people. Some of them became my good friends up until now.
I closed the second deal with my friend’s parents straight away that night
It was not easy to get the first client. Even though he is one of my friends. I had to step out of the comfort zone, try to overcome worries and shyness to pitch about the benefits my service can offer.
Finally, we closed the deal successfully. We were so happy that we decided to go to his home nearby to spread this good news to his parents who actually own a big company in Finland. And what I did not expect is that I closed my second deal with his parents straight away that night.
My third client has a clothing shop. I just walked across the store and had an idea of how to bring more customers to this place. I came inside and talked with the owner, asking him a lot of questions about their sales and marketing situation. I went there several times to persuade him how my service can help. In the beginning, they were not sure if they needed my help or not, but on my fifth visit, we closed the deal. I was thankful that they finally gave me a chance.
I turn everything I see into a motivating force
I felt like giving up so many times. When struggling with finding clients, I pondered having a normal job, being an employee. But at the end of the day, I had to move on. I changed my question from “Why can’t I get any customer, should I quit now?” to “What I can try to gain new clients?”. The answer is, I just had to reach more people. So I kept making phone calls promoting my service. And I realized that if I keep trying, at some point, I will figure out the best practices to do sales and gain clients for my business.
I always hit the gym when lacking energy or having a bad mood. It’s relaxing and it can free your mind. Your body then releases chemicals called endorphins which trigger positive feelings and reduce stress. I never recommend using cigarettes and alcohol to solve your problems. You can forget about them for a while but in the end, it just makes you feel more miserable.
People around me also have an important impact on my thinking. Not only those I frequently spend time with, but also random people with their achievements can inspire me to try harder and make the change to improve the status quo. I believe that we all have the capability to turn everything we see into a motivating force. It’s our choice.
Having an international family background gives me advantages
My mom is half Estonian – half Russian, my dad is Russian, and my grandfather is Finnish. I took the DNA test, I’m 76% Russian and 23% Finnish to be correct. Having an international family background has some advantages in terms of language. It gives me access to more opportunities and resources. For example, I spent two months in Russia attending a business seminar where I learned a lot of useful knowledge which may not be available in other languages.
When doing business, of course using the mother tongue of your partner is considered a plus to some extent. It still depends a lot on people. But if you know English, you sure will be fine.
Another good point is that I can spot different cultural norms and choose how to apply them in a suitable situation.
Three simple principles to follow to have a good life and a successful business
Adapting these lifestyles won’t guarantee an instant effect. Following one of these principles every now and then can’t generate any immediate result. It’s about the consistency that matters. If you commit to always do the following, there is no doubt that your personal and professional life will change for the better.
1. Always keep your words
Do what you promised. If you don’t follow what you said, your words won’t matter anymore. This will lower your credibility and strongly affect your relationship, which prevents you from golden opportunities. Especially as a business owner, you need to build trust with your employees, partners, investors, customers. Without trust, a leader has no willing followers. Keeping your words helps you earn authority.
2. Take good care of your personal brand
This is something I have learned from my mom. Your self-image is like trust, it takes a long time to build but can be lost in a moment. Even just a small negative action you take can ruin your whole reputation. That’s why I never talk nonsense or gossip about others.
3. Be kind to people
Say thank you, open the door for others, congratulate your friends and contacts on their birthdays, etc. Just little things but it makes a big impression on people. Behave equally to everyone and treat people the way you want to be treated. Kindness is powerful. Like Kahlil Gibran once said: “Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution”.
Three activities to invest the time in
1. Do exercise
We need good health in order to perform our best at work. Take all the chances you have and do some exercise whenever possible throughout the day. Play some sports, hit the gym, go out for a walk. Any physical activity is good.
2. Nourish your close-knit relationships
Personal problems make a big impact on business. If you have a lot of problems with your family, relationships, health, etc. it will distract you from work, which reduces your performance. Try to make time for your loved ones and make sure everything is going fine.
3. Never stop learning
It’s nice to listen to music but you can also listen to audio-books. Take advantage of the internet – information and resources are much more available and easy to access than ever. At the same time, the world is changing so fast now with all the technology and innovation, so keep yourself updated!
Graduating from school did not promise you anything
If I could go back in time twelve years ago and study myself, I believe I could have gained even more success, achievements, and connections. Twelve years for education is too much since you can do a lot more instead of going to class. I can’t think of anything taught in school that I can’t learn myself.
I got my first job before finishing school, and they did not ask for my certification. I called them to give a pitch about myself followed by a couple of meetings and I got in. So in my opinion, school, in general, is not necessary. Especially in countries where people have to pay a lot for education and even get into debts, I feel sorry for them because graduating from school did not promise them anything, they still don’t have practical skills and they share the same knowledge with others studying the same things.
Owning a business is more stable than being employed
I don’t get the idea of a “stable job”. To me, being an entrepreneur, owning a business is more stable than being employed. If you are employed, your boss is always the one who makes the decision and has control of your employment status. In a time of economic crisis, you can easily lose your job if the company has no money left to pay you. And we have seen so many cases when layoffs happen. How could it be considered stable then?
Meanwhile, if you have your own business, you have more choices and freedom to take actions, you have different income streams from different clients. As an employee, you have only one person paying you, who is your employer.
If you have ever thought about being an entrepreneur, get the ball rolling right away, don’t wait or hesitate, because the sooner the better. If you start your business early, you have fewer responsibilities (marriage, kids, family expenses, etc) to take care of but more time, more energy and more freedom to build your empire.
Failure is unavoidable and it’s important to fail. So don’t be afraid of failure, be thankful instead. Because if you think of all failures as lessons, it just means you’re getting better. You are actually learning, which is something to be proud of. Don’t care about what people think or judge when you fail. Focus on the lesson you gain from that failure.
I was informed that I owed the Tax Office 10,000€
You get an accountant to calculate the finance or you do it yourself. For the first year of my business, I thought that It was too expensive and decided to handle the accounting myself. In the second year, sometimes I got busy and procrastinated to do the calculation on my income and expenses. And this year, I got an invoice from the Tax Office that I owed them almost 10,000€. This was a big mistake of mine to neglect this. This would be my most valuable advice to people starting their own business: hire somebody with accounting knowledge to help you every month for tax and financial issues.
My top ten investment tips
1. Don’t spend your money on unnecessary things. Even for one euro, you should spend it wisely in a way that it creates true value for you.
2. Try to maintain your savings by taking out a part of your income and commit not to touch that money. It can be 5%-50% of your income but totally depends on your lifestyle. Choose an amount that keeps you live daily life comfortably. Pay yourself first when receiving the income by using a part of the savings you make.
3. Even when your (active) income increases, don’t “upgrade” your spending habits. It makes no sense to earn more and spend more. I know it’s not easy to rein the desire for something, but it will be worthwhile. When you earn more, make more investments. Invest to generate money and also invest in yourself, pay for tools and means that make you a better version of yourself physically and mentally.
4. For my banking, I have separate accounts for spending and safety. The safety account will only be used when I have zero in my spending account and in an emergency. This helps to keep my stress level lower. Depends on your lifestyle, you can decide how much is good to keep in the safety account. As long as it reassures you to run your business without feeling insecure about finance if something unexpected happens.
5. Number one rule when investing: Never touch that amount of money unless in an emergency. Because if you make an exception once, there will be the next time. Your investment cannot grow if you keep withdrawing frequently.
6. For beginners, start learning about the stock market and real estate – the two most common in the investment landscape. The sooner you start learning and trying these, the better.
7. One purchasing tip which can be applied in your daily life or stock market: Buy when others sell, so you actually earn good money at the moment you make a purchase.
8. Rent as much as possible, especially apartments and cars. The more you own, the more problems you have to deal with. It makes no sense to work hard for 20 years and spend all the money on properties. The same with applying for a loan to buy properties and working years paying off debt. However, if you buy a house for rent instead of simply living in, it’s another story because it generates cash for you like an investment.
9. If you really want to buy unnecessary or luxurious things, don’t pay for it by your active but passive income. It doesn’t make sense to spend the money earned from your hard work on something you don’t really need.
10. Be patient and willing to pay for “learning money”. Investment is not a piece of cake. It takes time to research, learn and practice until you can make the right decisions. I paid 23,000€ for learning money once. However, I believe it’s good to lose thousands at a young age than millions when older. The best scenario is that you fail early and fast. Like John C. Maxwell has put it beautifully: “Fail early, fail often, but always fail forward”.