Hi, there! My name is Stani Milev and I am, well.. an entrepreneur. I start and fail businesses since 2001 and I love it! I have a bachelor’s degree in marketing and currently am trying hard not to drop out from my MBA studies (who needs education anyway). I have consciously worked for someone else for one year (and run off screaming). Since then, I have started various projects. Some of them failed, some of them I exited on time and one even got kind of bigger. I am an entrepreneurial addict and will most probably burn out in flames for it.
When did you decide that you wanted to become an entrepreneur?
It actually happened very naturally. I was 18 and after an year spent as an employe in a small digital media company I thought to myself “Man, you either get share of the pie or get out!”. Young and stupid (thanks God), I asked my parents for 3000 US dollars loan and threw the deal to my boss... surprisingly enough he said “Yes!”. By that time I was already managing a small freelance team doing low-end websites during nighttime... so you can say I had it in my veins.
I have always been such a restless soul, refusing to settle in a certain direction. I guess the only way out to freedom was to run my own show.
How did you know your business idea was the right idea?
Well... I didn’t! I was just doing things that seemed right by that time, and actually did a lot more totally wrong. At the end of the day, it sums up to being relentless, focused and hungry rather than having the “right idea”. I strongly believe that any idea can be “good enough” if you approach it creatively with care, knowledge and commitment.
What was the most difficult part in getting started?
Starting always seemed an easy step to me. Usually, there is a lot of euphoria and enthusiasm that kind of colors everything in sterile pink. But the most difficult part comes later on, when it all cools down to a mere reality and you have to let go.. to let go a not working idea.. to let go to someone more skillful than yourself... This is where it gets hard for me, to stop treating my idea as my own.
What is the top skill (or skills) needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Hah, I would throw myself to work out a list but on a second thought.. not many really. I am not a great fan of leadership and other modern management utopia. I think that most of the cases it is crucial to open your senses, think hard and act bravely...in a word - to have the right mindset (easier to be said than done). The rest of the skills needed to do business successfully is something that you will obtain in the process anyway.
What motivates you and/or keeps you motivated?
Sometimes, after a long day of bad beating, I do ask myself this question. Let’s clear one thing out - being an entrepreneur is not a bed of roses! It is hard, demanding, exhausting and it will probably kill me before retirement. But man, what a life it is.. I can do anything I want.. I can even take a nap on Monday afternoon (not that I do it). What motivates me every single time when I am about to open the job postings in the newspaper is the fact that I am in charge of all this. Good or bad it is me who creates it. And it is worthy... the all of it.
What do you think is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
Well, I wouldn’t define new segregation terms... but as I’ve already said it is the mindset. An entrepreneur is just an average guy with a unique perception to the world. It is very hard to accumulate and sustain this condition of the mind. It requires a lot of energy to listen to people and trends, to search for new things, to educate yourself, to sense the changes and spot the flaws, to think and map all this data to millions of combinations. This is what an entrepreneurship is all about, being a super fine tuned and very sensitive to the vibration of life, people and environment.
What has been one of your failures, and what have you learned from it?
Any entrepreneur will agree that life just ain’t sweet enough without a nice major failure :)
Main are too much to count, but one of my most precious was the failure to manage the grow of my first business leading to motivation problems and mediocre performance. We had grown so fast that I just couldn't not cope with the expansion. I have been hiring fast and managing poorly resulting in a lousy structured and motivated team where the gap between management and people grew every day. It cost the business.
I have learnt a lot out of this (probably more than a lifetime in the university) but the most important two things were:
- People are the biggest asset and biggest trouble of a company. If you can’t deal with people, you are out!
- The most demanding stage for a company is when in transition from startup to a mature business. Than the odds are not in your favor.. there is a lot to be lost and not enough to win.
There is a poker saying about all this: If a man walks in a casino with cash, he will walk out with experience. If a man walks in with experience, he will walk out with cash... Just like business!
Vince Lombardi once said “We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible.” What are your thoughts on that quote?
If Vince said that, I could not disagree :)
Most of the time we do think of impossibility just because it comforts our own lack of motivation to change things. It is just easier to shrink shoulders and leave it as it is.. slide down to less resistant roads.. make forgiving decisions... Don’t get me wrong, I do it all the time too. And when I look back, and see that someone has got there.. I am just pissed off myself. It all reminds me of the ridiculous cliche “think out of the box”... who put that box in the picture anyway?!
Michael Dell once said “There are a lot of things that go into creating success. I don't like to do just the things I like to do. I like to do things that cause the company to succeed. I don't spend a lot of time doing my favorite activities.” What are your thoughts on that quote?
Poor mister Dell.. I kind of feel sorry for the guy. Whatever I do, I try to remember that life is just too short to do something for the sake of success. My company doesn’t own me, I own it! If I ever stop enjoying my company I will be just another Joe walking the streets. Yes, sometimes you need to compromise things.. a load of things.. but always with a smile on... that is why you are an entrepreneur.
Mike, please, sell the damn thing and just startup something else... be happy!
Henry Ford once said “Failure is the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.” What are your thoughts on that quote?
I have proven that theory myself, and for me it works perfectly.
Sometimes it takes too much energy and resources to mend something that has been broken than to build it again from the scratch. The trick is to recognize these moments at a glance. One of the hardest riddles for me up to know was “Should I keep on pushing or should I let go?”. Where is the tiny border between giving up easy and retreating wisely?
With the time, I have developed the “comforting” thought that whatever I do in business, I can always, safely start again.
What was the most crucial thing you have done to grow your business?
Honestly, I don’t know! May be selling out my first business at the right time, than starting fresh again. Or may be virtualizing just before the crisis struck at its peak gaining huge competitiveness... Who can say how crucial all these where.
I believe that one way or another I would always get to the goal. This kind of crucial-proof me :)
What advice would you give an entrepreneur who is just starting out?
Ain’t I mister wise guy?
Whatever I say will be useless as a true entrepreneur will always do things his/her own way.
Look for your own unique state of mind.. experience, learn and play! But most of all, enjoy life and shine bright! All the rest will come to you when you are ready!
Currently I keep myself busy with number of things, the most interesting of which are:
Chase a cloud - my company for digital media production. The unique about this company is that it is purely virtual. Team members are scattered geographically and work together through a super effective system of online project collaboration. This approach gives us unmatched flexibility and competitiveness. What we do most of the time are TVCs (for living) and knowledge visualization internet videos (for fun).
Rockacoca - I support two bright girls having their own unique vision on shoes and clothes. This is our own brand for custom shoes, apparel and accessories. It is the coolest project that I have ever been involved in. It is still quite young (6 month since initiating) and needs a lot of efforts and energy but, for me, this is the best part of the entrepreneurship.
Chase a cloud
Website: www.chaseacloud.com - more like a blog than a real website.. I like the guerilla feel in it :)
Website: www.rockacoca.com - Unfortunately in cyrillic for now. Hope to get the english version ready soon.