My clients in Hong Kong told me before I moved to Denmark: wherever you are, you will create new things. It was a compliment that I often remind myself: “I can do it.”
But sometimes I ask myself whether Denmark is a good place for an expat to be an entrepreneur? Looking out onto the horizon, do you see limitations or opportunities? How can we make a difference to achieve what we want?
Coping with a new language in a limited market with conservative banking, whilst developing a network and resources … you will always hear a familiar negative voice as you face the challenges on your journey – don’t let them be your limitation!
Learning in Legoland
When I arrived in Billund, the small Lego town with a population of only 6,000 (in fact smaller than the skyscraper where I lived in Hong Kong!), I worried at the beginning, but I soon became optimistic and saw the difficulty as opportunity.
I realised that I needed to offer something Lego could not offer and find the gap in the market. After all, it’s not until you’ve taken that first step out of your front door that you can see the state of the roads.
I recalled a memory of being eight years old and attending piano class. Back then I told myself I wanted to be my own boss and have a better concept than the one presented to me. Since then I have always wanted to create something better.
Before Denmark, I was used to being self-employed. It’s exciting to monitor your progress: increasing sales, hitting targets, creating a business. I get a big sense of satisfaction when I see the figures are moving in the right way.
Family first and foremost
As a mother, I have taken full control of my destiny, as I want to ensure I can give my daughter a good life. Having sole custody is a big responsibility that I take very seriously.
Furthermore, I want to be a proud foreigner: a role model who has built up her own business in what can be a challenging country!
So naturally, I need to run a profitable business I can control. With more earnings comes more freedom!
We all have different formulas and goals as to how we can find our path. And here are some of my thoughts and experiences that I hope will be useful, and perhaps even inspiring, to CPH POST readers.
Think big: desire it all
There are many challenges when establishing yourself in a new country. You must be a bit crazy to pursue a big dream of what you want to achieve. Seeing the big picture is the fuel you need to overcome the challenges along the way.
And you really need a big desire to make it happen. If you’re lacking in passion and not excited when you need to think on your feet, you’ll too easily give up when faced with challenges.
Your passion will shine through: when you grow the business, when you make customers happy and when you have breakthroughs. Sometimes, I would even find myself screaming in the middle of the night when a new idea came to me. Entrepreneurs are a crazy breed!
True, all such obstacles, along with voices of negativity, will frustrate you at times, but you can always depend on your big desire picking up again and saving your dream.
Get excited to create ideas. It’s exciting to see the growth of business. Get excited by happy customers. This drives me to be curious to learn and to improve.
Nothing can kill my attitude. This is essential. You will be surprised by how many people respond to a big heart – sometimes in the most unexpected situations.
Sometimes people helped me without even asking for anything in return. When I asked why, they told me they would not have helped me if I had been a complainer and too quick to give up. They wished the best for me because they could see that I am a fighter – particularly when the going gets tough – and they really wanted me to succeed.
Look out for my future articles in which I will share some of the many challenges I have overcome. Sometimes making it as an entrepreneur is like playing a game: we need to win the battle and move to the next level.
Filter the negative voices
Not everyone can be an entrepreneur. Not everyone has your desire to achieve something big and crazy. Remember: their limitations are not your limitations.
Those negative voices will tell you a lot: there is no market, it’s too difficult, it’s impossible, the competitors are offering lower prices, no-one has done it before, someone has tried already but failed etc …
But remember, you (yourself) and you (your products or service) are different from others. Choose a value that accurately reflects your quality, don’t pick the lowest possible price to chase the market. Look out for some of my examples in future pieces.
You may have heard about Janteloven. As an expat to start up here, I would say the opposite is needed. You need to be different: to stand out and be a bit crazy. Sure, we should be humble and open to learning new things – especially now everything is becoming digital – but don’t follow Janteloven to the letter if you want to be an entrepreneur.
Even if you want to expand your Danish network, competing with years-old relationships, from friends to business partners, be yourself and be different. Authenticity is likeable – it is a way to attract new friends or business and to forge lasting relationships.
I repeat: don’t fall into the trap of Janteloven – I hope all the Danes out there will forgive me!
Make Danish friends
Through my divorce, starting up and expanding and corona, I have of course faced many different challenges. And along the way I really appreciated the help from friends, network and family.
Some of it was unexpected and touching. Remember that all the angels are shining stars for you, so be grateful for all the help and put your heart into it.
Step out of the door to expand your network, and remember it’s really important to have Danish friends – in private as well as in business.
I was so proud when I quickly expanded in my first year in 2019 after starting from scratch. It went pretty fast as a startup. I told myself: “Viola – I did it! I’m going to have multi-million revenue in two years.” To start up – it’s a good number in Denmark.
Well, I must admit that corona has postponed some of my plans as well as the millions in revenue. But when things happen fast, you need quick solutions.. As an entrepreneur you have to be able to make quick decisions – especially when it’s a startup. Now things are under control, I’m expecting to take off like a rocket.
What next, crazy lady?
Corona can’t stop me. I’m sure I can create another exciting business, more scalable in size and volume with less geographical limitation – and more digitized.
It must be a business that brings social value – for the environment, for the advance of medicine. The more we can contribute, the healthier the world and society will be.
Due to the violent nature of my upbringing, I’m most drawn to helping disadvantaged children. I once organised a charity event and donated all the proceeds to an orphan organisation. It was not a huge amount, but it was a start. Also, money is not the only way to help.
There are more things I would love to share with you about my journey. Looking forward to the next article!