Born to be an Entrepreneur
Ever since I can remember, I have wanted to be an entrepreneur and I have worked towards that most of my life. Today I own a lifestyle brand called Skimbaco® and a blog network that consists of lifestyle, home, travel and food blogs.
When I was a little girl I would pick flowers from the garden and make them into bouquets with pretty ribbon and sell them for neighbors. One summer my best friend and I, together with my sisters, organized a backyard circus. We made posters, sold tickets, and baked cinnamon buns with my Grandmother to be sold after the show. I thought one had to be a good salesperson to be a good entrepreneur, and it all paid off well. When I was in college I was ranking higher in sales numbers as a part time salesperson than any full time employee in the fashion boutique I worked in.
I studied business since middle school and fondly remember the years that my dad taught me everything he knew about business. An entrepreneur himself, we would sit in front of the fireplace and talk for hours, probably since I was 12 years old or so. I still hear his voice in my head when I make some of the business decisions today. I read college level marketing books while in high school and got my first PR job the day I graduated from high school. I didn't go to business school though - I always thought a good entrepreneur should know a little bit of everything, so I studied mechanical engineering and majored in production management. I wanted to have all of my bases covered. When I had three children under three and was a stay at home mom, I wrote business plans and studied psychology and business law for future reference.
I would like to say it all worked out perfectly, but that is far from the truth. My career hopes were crushed when I moved from Europe to the United States and what had been an impressive resume in Finland seemed almost worthless here. People didn't recognize the prestigous company names I had worked for, nor the school I had gone to. And I was dragged into this thing called motherhood. My so-called-friends said I was wasting my life, and I guess they meant putting off work experience and education to focus on being a mom. Me? I loved being a mom.
I loved being a mom, but at the same the time the future worried me. I knew that it would be difficult for me to find work and I also knew I wanted to be home with my children for as long as possible. Then I decided that I would start doing something from home. I started by selling my children's used clothing on an auction website. A few years later I had learned enough of ecommerce and the children's clothing industry that I started an online boutique.
I named it Skimbaco because I wanted to have an open door to turn it into something else when I wanted to. With a name like Skimbaco I could do anything from selling kids' clothing to operating heliskiing in the mountains (yes, that was in my original business plan, maybe it'll be coming to mountains near you one day). A year later, on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Tom Cruise endorsed shoes from my store, and I was among the first retailers on Twitter, even before Zappos, and way before any of the larger retailers. Somehow I had hit a goldmine of understanding social media marketing which back then, wasn't even a term that was used.
Companies like Walmart started coming to me and asking me for my social media marketing ideas. Then I knew it was time to shut down the store and focus on learning and creating more social media marketing strategies. I was a consultant and continued building Skimbaco, but as a blog network not as a children's boutique as it had first started. I finally got a senior executive level job in the social media marketing industry, and for 18 months I created social media marketing strategy for some of the largest brands in the US. My campaigns won Addy Awards and tens of millions of people saw them online. I loved what I was doing, but at the same time the little girl in me (the one who would paint and sell the rocks from the yard) was saying "but Katja, you have always wanted to be an entrepreneur." And day after day the voice started getting louder and louder. When I couldn't stand it anymore, I quit my amazing corporate job to focus 100% on growing my Skimbaco® brand as a premier lifestyle brand and a blog network.
I am living my dream, and I am hoping that it will leave a legacy to my children. Being a mom makes it almost more important for me to have my own brand. I am not in for a quick buck, I am building something bigger. And the feeling that I get doing it - it's priceless.