10 short lessons from founders

/8 min read/

What does it take to set up & run that lemonade stand?

On May 25th I saw Kaidi Ruusalepp (Founder and CEO of Funderbeam) speaking at startup conference Latitude59 about a thing called foundership and what elements & mindset is necessary to be a founder.

She inspired me to make my next playbook about what it takes to be a founder. After her speech I went to her and offered to make a playbook based on her message. And Kaidi immediately accepted! Now less than 2 months later we created the Foundership Playbook, a short & practical workbook that educates in a playful way about how to become a founder.

Here is both us us, after the Foundership Playshop for kids at the Funderbeam office in Tallinn.

I am also a founder and launched my first business at age 18 (now I'm 27 and a half). My brother & my mom were founders as well, when I think about it. I looked up to my brother when I was a kid and wanted to be like him, to also be my own boss when I grow up. And later my mom, around age 60, started her own business.

I guess what I learned from watching both of them is when you want and know how to do something you can make a business out of it and get paid for it! What I didn’t know back then is all the other stuff. But I learned quickly, and you can, too. I can honestly say - If I knew everything before launching the business, I wouldn't probably have even started! But now I look back with a proud smile on my face! And I've learned a lot. And I am grateful to myself for the experience.

And I bet after 10 years you will be grateful to yourself too, that you started something.

What does my influencers and friends who have inspired me each in some way, have to say about their experience as founders?

Here are their stories:

Andris Epners // My probably most adventurous & active friend who founded and runs a mind and body fitness studio Placebo Factory in Latvia.

"The failure is the biggest blessing that can happen. Failure helps to look at projects or ideas from different perspective and improve it in ways you couldn't imagine before."

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Kaidi Ruusalepp // My inspiration (and the co-author) of the new Foundership Playbook, Founder and CEO of Funderbeam.

"When I was a kid we had to collect herbs for a school project. So I created a game with my younger cousins where a piece of herb was a currency and I was a shop keeper. And I basically exchanged all kind of goods into herb “currencies”. Within some hours I collected the amount of herbs otherwise I had to spend days to collect. :)"

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Janis Grivins // My 1st and favourite boss from ad agency days, now a Chief Operations Officer at ASKfm.

Janis, as usually, lets his intelligence to have fun. This is what he sent to me, after my request to share a short paragraph:

Cool, right? Next up is Zane.

Zane Bojare // The badass and super-pro Communications Specialist at Startup Wise Guys accelerator, where I was design-mentoring their batch 10 in Latvia.

"For me the biggest lesson learnt while co-founding social enterprise Lude, was - always have a partner in crime. The entrepreneurs life and decision making is tough, and it kinda gets lonely up there. I co-founded business with my best friend. While it goes against many advices, I do believe that relationship between co-founders should be as intimate as best friends, so you can always say "hey, do we have a problem, or you're just having a crappy day"

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And at Startup Wise Guys I also met Ansis who is now a client of mine and a good friend. Ansis (#5) & Joe(#6) points out the importance of team being on the same vibe.

Ansis Lipenitis // A friend and a client of mine who Co-Founded and is a CEO of a company culture app Motivio (which you might use one day).

"Over the course of 15 years business experience, I've found it is very important to trust your people - to trust they are good and they're acting on their best intentions. However, that also means, that hiring decisions have become extremely important - you have only one chance to make or break it - at the moment of hiring. If you do it right (hire a culture fit with the right values and passion for the same mission and vision) - all should be good afterward, even if your processes are not perfect. But if you miss it at the moment of hiring... you won't be able to execute based on goodwill primarily."

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Jonathan Howard // My dear friend and teacher from UK, who is also an improv master and knows loads about creativity and human nature. I could listen to his stories for hours!

"The most important thing I’ve found with the companies I’ve been involved with is the team. If they like and respect each other, you’ve got a good chance of succeeding. If the team doesn’t work well together, then it doesn’t matter how good your business model is, or how impressive your advisory board is. Internal disputes are going to delay everything, people start sabotaging each other’s work without even realizing it, and it’s a nightmare. A good team can turn a bad situation around, and a bad team can ruin a good situation. Hiring individual stars doesn’t make for a good team because there’s too much ego. People need to be good enough at their jobs, not the best, and everything else is about how they work together."

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Sabine Suorsa // She is gonna be your fan NR1! Sabine is the awesome startup fairy who I had the pleasure to meet at the Startup Passion training programme, she is also a Project Manager at South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences (XAMK) and a founding member of a student run entrepreneurship society PatteriES.

"Being an entrepreneur is challenging and exciting, but still I am in love with it, being a project manager of an entrepreneurial project like StartUp Passion is pure pleasure and happiness. Seeing and meeting all this extreme talented students and young people, and watching them to grow and becoming entrepreneurs is an unbelievable feeling, I am enjoying every second of it. I guess I am #1 Fan from all of them. I am so excited to follow them and see what will happen in their near future with all of them, there is so much potential."

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Mike Kilgore // My devoted and experienced Mentor and friend from US, a founder of International Executive Mentoring Solutions.

"I founded and operated a US national physician recruitment firm for 25 years and have started 8 other businesses. Be aware there is far more to know than you can know, have 5 year written evolving goals, advisors, a mentor, 10,000 hours of experience, develop professional decision making skills, form powerful collaborations, pray every day a terminal mistake or combined mistakes that together can become terminal will avoid you, know when you must give up, until then always be RELENTLESS! You will need good luck, too."

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Nellija Citko // My dear Mom, who opened an insurance broker branch in her city when she was around 60 after being an employee for 40 years!

"When you work for someone else, you might be asked to do things you are not able to do, or things that are unnecessary in your opinion. When working on your own project you can set the rules. You can choose the expenses, the price and choose you salary. Now when I have freedom to set the rules I get more motivated, because I know I will not be restricted in my actions."

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And here comes the last bit.

This is me, Arta Citko // Founder, Designer & Author of Arta's Playbooks and a few more things.

"My lesson for everyone would be just go and do! I guess that is the example I learned from people around me. Taking action. Learning by doing. And putting in front of me and getting inspiration from great examples."

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The summary

1. Learn from failure to grow. #experience

2. Try finding a solution through play #openmind

3. Create a product out of your own problem that you are passionate to solve #purpose

4. Have your partner in crime. #team

5. “Hire a culture fit with the right values and passion for the same mission and vision” /Ansis Lipenitis/ #team

6. “A good team can turn a bad situation around, and a bad team can ruin a good situation” /Jonathan Howard/ #team

7. Make your work make you proud. #purpose

8. Know when to quit. #takeaction

9. Get motivated by playing on your own rules. #mindset

10. Just go and DO! #takeaction

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And what is your founder's story? I'm excited to find out! Share in the comments.😊

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If you're interested in taking action and becoming a founder, check out the practical Foundership Playbook that Kaidi and I created for young founders! :) There you will find chapters like Open Mind, Experience, Team, Mindset and a few more. Each chapter has a few exercises to practice the founders mindset & to better understand what it takes to be a founder.

Cheers!

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