We all know the reasons for wanting to start your own business—the freedom to follow your passions, to work for yourself, and to do what you love. But for many would-be entrepreneurs, taking the plunge is difficult.
Plenty of wishful entrepreneurs end up in a nebulous shadow world of half-formed business concepts and partially executed ideas. After all, starting a business is challenging, and no one will tell you otherwise.
However, these challenges and the fears of potential failure have not stopped entrepreneur Lianne Dennis, cofounder of Our Organic Culture and Clothing Manufacturing Agent Bali. Not only did she start her own company, she started two—both of which were founded within the same year and have experienced great success.
An unexpected business opportunity
When Lianne and her partner Taner Kilicarslan came to Bali from Canada on vacation, they had simply planned a holiday getaway.
What they found was a business opportunity—the couple, who had planned to start an organic pickle business back home in Canada, discovered that they could do so more economically in Bali, and decided to return to live and start their pickle business Our Organic Culture in Bedugul, Bali.
Lianne’s interest in pickles is a family tradition: “I’m actually the sixth generation pickler,” she says with a laugh.
The couple had been committed to their goal of opening an organic pickle business since Taner experienced firsthand the benefits of pickles for his health.
“He had a lot of health problems,” says Lianne. “[Taner’s] family and my family—we’re all into pickles, and he actually regained his health through eating pickles and drinking pickle juice.” The couple returned to Bali, this time with the intention of starting their business.
Starting two businesses at once: When a side business becomes successful
However, the process of starting Our Organic Culture proved lengthy.
Where other entrepreneurs might have been discouraged and given up, Lianne and Taner found another opportunity, and simultaneously took advantage of it.
This opportunity came while Lianne found herself searching for a manufacturer to create a garment she had envisioned. Lianne realized the difficulty tourists and residents of Bali must experience when looking for a manufacturer, which inspired her to start Clothing Manufacturing Agent Bali, a full turnkey solution that links designers with manufacturers, and helps them create their product.
Clothing Manufacturing Agent Bali took off, reaching five figure months quickly, and is now planning expansion. “We’ve only been doing this for three months, so it’s very much still in its startup phase and in its infancy, but it’s really taken off to the point,” says Lianne.
The couple now uses Clothing Manufacturing Agent Bali (referred to by Lianne as CMAB) as a “side business” to fund Our Organic Culture, the product of which is still in production stages. Their pickles are now presold in twelve different stores, and featured on local menus. As a result, Lianne and Taner now manage two distinct businesses.
Lianne’s successful start of two businesses is inspiring, and the couple work hard to keep CMAB running and growing, and to continue preparation for the launch of Our Organic Culture’s pickles.
“A typical day is wake up at 5:30 am, we crack a coconut, hit the gym; by 8:00 to 8:30 we’re back at home online working, […] taking calls, meeting clients, meeting manufacturers, [and] usually around 6:30 we try to close up,” says Lianne. “Every day here is completely different.”
7 lessons entrepreneurs can learn from Lianne and Taner:
Lianne was not a seasoned entrepreneur when the couple began Our Organic Culture—the business was her first venture. However, her success is proof that hard work and seizing opportunity can pay off in the form of great entrepreneurial success. The couple’s startup story is full of valuable lessons for aspiring and established entrepreneurs alike, who can hope to emulate Lianne and Taner’s business success.
1. Look for opportunities everywhere
When Lianne and Taner came to Bali on holiday, they did not expect to find a perfect business opportunity.
“We […] realized the opportunity here with a lot of raw food and organic food being produced and consumed here, that this was definitely where we wanted to start it,” says Lianne. Not only that, due to the “outrageous” costs of starting a business in Canada, starting Our Organic Culture in Bali was a less costly option.
So, while Lianne and Taner had not initially planned on doing business in Bali, they returned after their holiday had ended with the intention of producing their pickles in Bali and living there to work. “It’s long days, but it’s full of energy,” says Lianne.
If you are kicking around a business idea, keep your eyes open for opportunities you may not have expected. You may meet your next business partner in line for coffee, or see a great retail space while walking to work. If you maintain the mindset that opportunity is everywhere, you’re more likely to spot it when it appears.
2. Roll with the unexpected
With their pickles in production, but yet to make real revenue, Lianne and Taner could potentially have been put in a difficult situation. Fortunately, opportunity presented itself to Lianne again, in the form of a need she experienced as a consumer hoping to create an article of clothing.
Lianne had hoped to manufacture her garment in Toronto, but found that, again, costs were prohibitive. “I had a garment that I had a vision for, and it was a multifunctional unisex dress,” she says, but after trying to produce the piece in Bali, she found the prospect frustrating.
“Trying to find a good manufacturer here is actually quite difficult. The good ones don’t want to be found, they don’t have websites, they don’t have email addresses,” says Lianne. “So, I ended up realizing, if I’m having such difficulty just trying to produce this one garment […] I realized that there was a market to help people design their lines.”
As a result, Lianne was inspired to start Clothing Manufacturing Agent Bali, which connects designers with manufacturers who then produce the garment from start to finish.
“It was a matter of realizing the challenge I was having and finding a solution to it,” says Lianne.
As an entrepreneur, you may have your heart set on one specific path; but, don’t let your vision blind you to other potential opportunities. If Lianne had set her sights solely on Our Organic Culture, and not been open to other additional possibilities, she would have missed an incredible opportunity. “Initially, it was […] a side job,” says Lianne, “but it ended up becoming so much more than that.”
3. If you plan on doing business in another country, expect cultural differences
For Lianne and Taner, some of the biggest difficulties came in the form of cultural differences while working in Bali. These were most pronounced, according to Lianne, when it came to CMAB. Lianne wanted to find good manufacturers, but as mentioned previously, they can be hard to find. “Manufacturers here—the good ones—are hidden, so you have to go out and find them,” says Lianne. “A lot of people wind up going through three or four manufacturers before they find one, which was a challenge I had.”
In addition to the challenge of finding manufacturers, Lianne discussed the learning curve of cultural custom differences inherent when doing business abroad. Lianne’s main hurdle? Getting manufacturers to say no. “Even if they don’t have the time or capacity to do something, they will never say no, they will always say yes, and problems occur,” says Lianne, though she says that as she has continued to build relationships, communication is improving and this has become less of an issue. “I’ve built a relationship with the manufacturers where there is a strong trust there,” she says.
Not only that, but as a women in business, Lianne was often shunted to the side. As the businesses are run both by Lianne and Taner, Lianne was often left out of proceedings. “I wasn’t present for a lot of the stuff, because it’s like, ‘Oh, the woman, she doesn’t need to be present here,’” says Lianne. “So, it’s very male dominated.”
If you plan on opening a business in a country of which you are not a native, there are a few valuable takeaways. First, keep in mind that customs and ways of doing business may not be the same. The North American business mentality, based, as articulated by Lianne, “on honesty and transparency,” may not be quite the same in the country you choose to do business. Familiarize yourself with business practices, and if possible rely on an associate that you can trust who is native to the country.
4. Be prepared for challenges and periods of growth (both figuratively and literally)
When it came to Our Organic Culture, Lianne and Taner have faced several challenges. “Fermentation isn’t the easiest thing to do here in Bali because of climate conditions,” says Lianne, who notes that the pair have worked tirelessly in an effort to perfect the flavor profile of their pickles.
“We have a Polish recipe from my background, Turkish from his, and a lacto fermented,” says Lianne. “Getting the ratios and flavor profiles right was a really big challenge.”
Prior to the challenge of perfecting their pickles, however, Lianne and Taner were faced with the trouble of awaiting the harvest, as before they could work their pickle magic, they needed to plant, grow, and harvest the cucumbers. “Things were moving very slowly,” says Lianne with a laugh.
These were challenges that Lianne and Taner were able to overcome, with the help of patience, planning, hard work—and the income from their side business.
Does your business have long periods where you will be forced to remain inactive, as Lianne and Taner did while growing their cucumbers? Make sure you have a contingency plan for challenges like these, and have a plan for how to put this time to good use elsewhere, perhaps focusing energy on your marketing efforts.
5. Use potential setbacks to your advantage
Living in Bali, Lianne and Taner have grown used to unexpected daily plot twists that might make life difficult for less flexible entrepreneurs. “The internet goes out a lot,” says Lianne. “There’s a lot of power outages here, so those impact our days, in regards to, ‘Okay, the power’s out, so now what do we move on to?’”
Instead of simply calling it a lost day, Lianne and Taner use that time to brainstorm and plan. “At those points […] we do a lot of strategizing, whiteboard, get out the paper,” says Lianne.
When you are thrown a curveball, emulate Lianne and Taner and get creative. Can you use downtime to conduct a SWOT analysis, or work on brainstorming a solution to a dilemma? Try to view setbacks not as a complete waste, but rather as a potential opportunity to think creatively and try something new.
6. Celebrate little success moments
Some of Lianne’s memorable moments were earning her “first entrepreneurial dollar” from CMAB and getting the flavor profile right for her pickles.
How does the couple celebrate their successful moments? “Taner and I, whenever we have success moments—it might sound really silly, but we actually chest bump,” says Lianne. “We actually do that a lot, and it’s actually really nice because we get to do that a lot. We celebrate all the little successes.”
It’s important to make note of the moments when you have achieved something in your business. With all the work it takes to get a business up and running, making sure to celebrate small successes is key in keeping yourself enthused and excited about being an entrepreneur.
7. Work with people that inspire you
Lianne credits much of her business success to her partner Taner, who she says “provided me with the knowledge and guidance to be able to start my own business.” She advises entrepreneurs to partner with someone in whom they can repose confidence and learn from.
To continually seek inspiration, the couple starts their morning with TED talks over breakfast. Lianne and Taner are inspired by “watching these while we are having breakfast and getting drive from these people who are so energetic about life and what they’re doing and their goals.”
In addition, Lianne has several mottos that she lives by. “One thing I was taught was, ‘be, do, and have,’” says Lianne. “Whatever you want to be, you have to go out and do it, and then you will have it.”
Lianne has also coined the phrase “Osi Iso,” which stands for “Outside in, inside out,” and refers to the idea of taking everything from the outside world inside you and putting it back out into the world.
Though it can be challenging to balance two businesses and remain inspired, Lianne says she and Taner try to live their lives as fully as they can, and put good work out into the world. “There are lots of people who say they are going to do a thing, but doing it is a different story,” says Lianne. “I never thought I would be doing things that were impacting people so much.”
Do you have an inspiring story to share? Did you face a unique challenge as an entrepreneur? Let me know in the comments, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org—we’d love to hear from you!