We have a date!

Aaargh! Where to start? The good stuff or the not so good stuff? I’ll start with the latter and then head back to the former. It’s been a little ‘one step forward, two steps back’ around here lately….

So after the first meeting with the start-up counsellor, a phone call came requesting me to come in for an interview; on Friday the 13th, at 13:00 😉  This was a different counsellor and we spoke for quite a while about the application and what I was up to. It was all in Finnish and I was very happy that I understood everything she wanted. This was one step forward! The backwards steps came after the interview and the followup statement that I needed from my other counsellor over at the city entrepreneurship office. He’s on holiday until early next month and needs to see me in person before issuing the statement. So, my application is now sitting on the desk just waiting…

The second ‘setback’ is one of my competitors launching a product very similar to one of mine. I’m a little bit cranky at myself for not getting started sooner, but I know that I wasn’t in the right place to launch myself any earlier than now. I’m just chalking it up to ‘that’s life’. Anyway, when you see what I’ve got planned to the travelling public, I think you’ll agree, it’s nothing like the competition.

Of course, this hold-up with the grant application means that I can’t register the business. One of the main stipulations about getting the start-up funding is that the business can not be registered until the decision on funding has been made. No business registration means no ability to invoice, which in turn means no cash coming in. Although The Engineer is footing the bills at the moment, it does mean the little extras have been trimmed back. I’m okay with that, Mr. 14 however is finding it a little more difficult to understand. He has had some interesting advice for me lately!

There are a couple of silver-lined clouds on my horizon – albeit far away still! Firstly this delay means I can really research the banks and insurance companies. School studies will be useful for the business and the business will be useful for the school studies. That is the biggest and best bonus. I’ve collected credits on half my subjects so far and my course advisor at Helmi tells me that I can collect credits on the remaining subjects and more just by documenting my business over the next six months! The only non-business part will be the practical exam, although if I wish, I can use real customers for that also 🙂 Any volunteers?!

I’ve left the best until last. My webpage will be live October 16th 2013, at 12:00 (GMT+2). Today I met with the guy who’s going to be the driving force behind that. We talked about what I do need to worry about right now and the things that can wait a little while. I’m so excited – he knew exactly what I was thinking of, and has already started working on the look! That’s the power of a good business plan!

The domain name registration is in order, the Twitter account has been set up, the Facebook is there too, although I’m not releasing that on the general public just yet… Next step will be ensuring that I’ve claimed my business pages on Yelp, Trip Advisor, LinkedIn and FourSquare. Pinterest and Instagram are also on the cards! So much social media 🙂

Wow, it’s tomorrow already! Sleep tight 🙂

PS: Did I tell you I had lunch with the guy from Yelp today. Nice guy and had lots of interesting stories and things to share. I hope we get to do lunch again…

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Aha! I had an “aha” moment!

I’ve been struggling lately. The pieces haven’t been falling into place. Not like I imagined they might or even into any sort of order.

Bear with me for a paragraph or two, by the end of this post I think all will be clear 🙂

My struggle has been a loss of faith in myself and what I want to do. Well, not actually what I want to do, rather are there enough people out there like me who want to do what I want to do. Now, that does sound very confusing I know.

The whole business idea is built around showing my Helsinki, not necessarily the same as the official Helsinki version or any of the myriad of other tour operators about.

I think I am as close to rock bottom as I can get in this planning / pre-opening stage.

My aha moment came when I realised that I only need one person to believe in me. ME. While this is painfully self-evident now, last week this concept was clouded in a heap of doubts and negative thoughts. I was doubting the name, the idea, the source of customers. Everything just felt wrong.

I contemplated dumping the study, even though I enjoy it immensely. In the long run there will be benefits.

I contemplated dumping the volunteering, even though I enjoy it immensely. It pays to broaden ones’ horizons on occasion.

I contemplated dumping the book club, even though I enjoy it immensely. Despite the fact that I’ve been unable to read any of the books for the past few months, that one night of good food, good wine, good company does much to restore my spirit.

I contemplated dumping the cycling, even though I enjoy it immensely. Physical exercise and pushing the pain barrier can’t be beaten for getting those cogs turning in new directions. Some of my best ideas have come after a stint in the saddle. Followed by walking the dog 😉

Now that I’ve said aha out loud a few times, even in the shower (which resulted in a mouthful of soapy water – bleugh) I’m set to move forward. I’ve cleared the table (literally and metaphorically) and all of those positive thoughts are about to become actions.

More soon, just watch!

Thank goodness that is over…

Firstly, let me say thank you for following my ramblings over this last year. The year 2012  was filled with challenges, and while I’ve coped with most of them, the last two months have been especially difficult. I’m drained mentally and exhausted just thinking about how I navigate the next month.

Simply put, my priorities got all skewed up and I said yes to unasked questions and didn’t put boundaries or limitations on myself. Instead of setting up my own business, I’ve been working for my employer all this time, and my business is ‘dead in the water’. Treading water is a better description. Actually I did a lot of research and back-ground work, I’m just not in the place I thought I was going to be …

I told my replacement that I would stay until December 31st. Then two weeks before that deadline fell due, the managing director threw a rather large spanner in the works. The Engineer is once again the boss and so in a way I’m back where I was two years ago. Without going into too much detail it is obvious that the current situation is untenable for all concerned. K visited my office the week before Christmas and asked if I would consider staying on one more month.

I’d seen this question coming, and while I could have said no, and probably should have said nothe people there are like family and it would feel wrong from an ethical point of view to just walk away. I said yes, with a few conditions! January 31st would be absolutely my last day and there would be no coming back to help out, unless it was absolutely an emergency. Also, my hours would be limited, freeing me up for study and this never-ending setting up the business project. I would merely be a presence in the office until the end of the month, giving K enough time to get all the pieces together. Deadlines all around, I think everyone is happy now!

So school resumes next week, work continues tomorrow and I’m hoping that there will be something positive to report before too long.

Now, without further ado I have some other blog posts to publish tonight, a dog to walk, and sauna to relax some very tense muscles.

Now that I’ve written this, I’m feeling much more confident that January 2013 won’t be such the train-wreck I’d earlier imagined.

Hurdles: real and imagined.

Real hurdle: still working for previous employer. I don’t say no and they don’t set limits. Like a good friend said, a match made in heaven!

Imagined hurdle: my oomph has moved on without me. At least that’s what it feels like. I’m going through the motions in every part of my life.

Real hurdle: my oomph has moved on without me. See above.

Imagined hurdle: not enough time. See number 1.

I’ve set myself a deadline of December 31. Fresh start from January 1. Now I have to jump over these hurdles.

It’s my life!

It’s my life! Although really, is it? It’s also woven into plenty of other people’s lives. Where do I stop being me and start being the part of the bigger picture? Or someone else’s picture?

Warning, this post is going up on three of my blogs, so if you see this more than once, my apologies in advance. It’s quite possible that the comments each blog generate will be quite different. Oh dear, is that some sort of social experiment I’m running.

Anyway, I’ve some to the realization that if I don’t prioritise RIGHT NOW and put some things ahead of others, stop doing some things and start doing more of other stuff, nothing is going to move forward and my unhappiness / disgruntled factor is just going to take over more and more of my life.

Tomorrow morning, we the family, are headed to the German capital, although The Engineer is none too keen about the trip after being away so often during spring. It seemed like a really good idea when we booked the tickets…

I’m frantically making sure all my obligations have been met, although the unanswered emails keep growing, as do the comments that you, my readers have left here.

This weekend will be about family. Hopefully, I can have a few moments of peace to myself to get my head back on straight and life back on track.

It also means that Heather’s Helsinki will become my prime focus. No more Six Word Saturdays for a while! Hopefully we get some more barbeque action though J

I’m new at this, some help please!

If you work from home, how do you do it? Get the balance between home and work I mean?

For the length of my ride this morning this question was foremost in my thoughts. I dress properly in the morning, as if I am heading to the office. Yet somewhere early in the day, especially so if there is no reason to leave the house, my eye gets distracted by the house and so I think, 15 minutes won’t hurt. Or the blog takes longer to write than I’ve allowed on the clock. Then the research material doesn’t fit together or a crucial part is missing. Let’s not even mention email.

Now that the young man of the house is on summer holiday there is an additional distraction.

Presently my set up is:

Shared desk space with my partner (in life, not business!), shared printer, own computer. Paper in boxes, paper in folders, paper in plastics bags, paper in paper bags: by paper I mean printed stuff, including yet not limited to magazines, letters, brochures, trade info, ideas, reminders, application forms etc.

Should I think about renting an office space? There are plenty of office suites around the city, with rents charged according to size and location. Financially, this was a step that I was anticipating 18 months – 2 years down the track. If I’m not getting anything done at home, it could well be better in the long-term.

Space wise we do not have the luxury of a dedicated office. Our current office takes up one corner in our open living / dining room. A desk in the bedroom is out of the question from a space point of view, and also for my own piece of mind. Now if I wake at three in the morning, I’m not disturbing anyone if I sit at the desk for an hour or so.

There is one other alternative: I could buy dedicated ‘Heather only’ filing cabinet. My ‘favourite’ furniture store has quite a nice unit called Alex, 9 drawers and stands a little over one metre high. Times 2 would be 18 different lockers that would more than cater for my needs at the present. Although space is at a premium, and I’m reluctant to bring more furniture into the house, the paper situation is driving me crazy.

Now that I’ve thought out loud for a little while, I’d like to know what you think about my situation and if you work from home, how do you do it? All comments and ideas eagerly anticipated. If you know of someone who works from home and has a good set up, please pass this on and ask them to comment. Even if you enjoy the luxury (IMO!) of a separate room to work from, I still want to hear how you cope with putting on the ‘office’ hat as opposed to the ‘home’ hat.

I have homework!

Due to said homework, I really shouldn’t be blogging. A promise is a promise, however and here is my day so far….

My mentor appointment was scheduled for 1300 today, so the morning was spent on preparations. I printed the plan only to notice that the ink cartridge ran out half way through. Changed the cartridge only to notice that the paper supply is running low. There was enough paper for one complete copy, and enough for a second version pieced together with other pages from earlier versions. That would be my copy and I hoped that I wouldn’t need to leave more than one copy behind with the mentor.

Packed my bags and headed out the door. Halfway down the street to the bus stop I remember the pen and diary sitting on the bench. I turn around and head home again. Leaving home for the 2nd time and my nerves are really getting worked up. The bus didn’t arrive when it should have and I had started walking towards the metro when I spied the bus (late?) heading my way. Now I had to run back to the bus stop. I hate running for buses!

From the bus to the metro and out again a few stops later. A quick walk around the corner from the metro and in the lift to the sixth floor. I presented myself and for an awful minute thought I’d arrived on the wrong day or the wrong time! All was in order and so I was directed to waited in a room I’ll now call the brochure room. Brochures for insurances seemed to be most popular. Every local firm represented on one wall.

My mentor appears and we head to his office. He sits behind the desk, whilst I am ensconced behind a second table with a screen. We chat and he looks slightly surprised, horrified and gratified all at the same time when I produce my masterpiece.

We don’t get to the end of the first page before his first criticism comes out. My text or pitch doesn’t give any of the essence that he gathered from our chat. Good point. The next person that reads the business plan may not have had the opportunity of hearing me speak first.

So we continue on, chapter by chapter. He advises me that I shouldn’t be afraid that someone will steal the idea. Of course it could happen, I can research the market without giving too much away in this planning stage. So we have planned that I approach my target market already now, do mini interviews and see what they say. Two ships arrive in Helsinki tomorrow, so I now I’m off to write some questions.

We arrive in the financial section and that sets off more questions. Pricing is going to be an issue. One more question to work into the survey! More tweaking the numbers and looking at the different sales mixes versus customer groups. This is definitely going to require further work.

The whole time the conversation has been going backwards and forwards on all sorts of topics. He finds some good addresses and answers one crucial question that has been bugging me for a very long time. We talk web addresses and come to the conclusion that buying the ‘.com’ may not be the most financially wise move at this point. I can register the ‘.fi’ and review the situation later. Or I could take another name. The jury is still out on that for now. It took so long to get this name that I’m now getting attached to, that I’m not sure I want to use more time on this issue.

We have agreed to meet in two weeks and 3 days time. I need to do the research, update the plan and send to him two days before our next session. Plenty to do. No time to blog! Okay, that’s not true. Just maybe not as long and detailed blog posts.

I think I also need to investigate PollDaddy.com and see what that can do for me… if not now then in the future…

Poll hosts: any hints or comments you have for this newbie poll host? I should check the forums also: do I have to use PollDaddy?

Oh, and on the way home I bought a pack of printer paper 🙂

Back to study! Part III

Since my last posting I have received confirmation that my application to attend summer school was successful. I subsequently paid the required registration fee and now have received the confirmation mail and a place has been reserved for me. The same mail also had the login information for the summer school intranet. Unfortunately at this early stage there is nothing to see: Come back in May. We are sorry for any inconvenience. My calendar has been blocked off for those days. Now to wait and see what the social programme has to offer.

Other exciting news is that I have a name, although I don’t have a .com domain to match it. It’s out there and I’ve put in a bid to buy it. Now I need to wait. Obviously my first offer has probably been too low…

The business plan is taking shape and now just requires cutting, pasting and editing into a proper document rather than many separate sheets of paper.

The best of all is the appointment with the EnterpriseHelsinki people. That’s still a couple of weeks away so I can use the time to fine tune the plan, work on the product and get it all packaged nicely.