During the month of May, Startup Grind and Google for Entrepreneurs and the #40forward program set full focus on female entrepreneurs globally. One of them is the Swedish entrepreneur Lisa Thorén, heiress of the baby product company BabyBjörn, also an angel investor and CEO of PROSK8. PROSK8 is an innovative skateboard brand that challenge the market in many ways.
This Wednesday night you have the opportunity to meet and chat with her in person and listen to her full story at Startup Grind Stockholm’s last event this spring. (Get your ticket here!) Although it’s almost Wednesday, we felt like we couldn’t wait, so we chased her down to ask a few questions about her choice to be an entrepreneur and “the grind”.
Why are you an entrepreneur and business angel?
It’s in my veins, I guess I’m stuck in my own personality. If I wouldn’t build PROK8 I would probably climb a mountain. I’ve already crossed the Andes in South America on bike twice. I obviously like the challenge. I’m not good in a 9-5 office atmosphere.
What have been the biggest challenges with BabyBjörn and PROSK8?
Baby Bjorn had financial crises in the mid 90th when I founded the Communications Department, so with small resources I had to come up with creative PR-ideas and did a lot of repetitive storytelling to build BabyBjörn as a brand world-wide.
I had just invested in PROSK8 and co-founded the European Performance SK8 daughter company when the Lehman Brothers collapsed 2008. So that became hard times financially when my colleague Becket Colón and I had to roll up our sleeves and come up with new creative solutions to survive and continue building the company without financial help or any Venture Capitalist believing in skateboarding growing strongly world-wide. Now they are wakening up.. finally!
“Becket Colón and I had to roll up our sleeves and come up with new creative solutions to survive and continue building the company without financial help or any Venture Capitalist believing in skateboarding growing strongly world-wide”
It’s been a great challenge to bring Beckets ingenious skateboard products from idea to consumer. Sporting goods, especially those in Action sports have had hard times with the diet retail structure. Luckily we could take the opportunity to be a born global e-commerce app solution and not needing all dinosaur middlemen.
At the same time we are focused on being our customers and going to work every day to give the kids a better skateboard experience. We make sure our employees are the skate culture, every day we have skaters coming into our office. They refer to our office in Åkersberga as “the skateboard paradise”. It has taken a lot of time, money and finally we can afford to hire people that are more talented than ourselves. A few weeks ago, May 1st 2014, we had the great pleasure to sign a contract with our no 1 choice of CEO globally – the American skate industry business guru Mr. Glenn Brumage
What´s important to think of when you go international with your business?
The different cultures. Not only the social, but the business practices and climate as well. You can’t think that a solution for Sweden will work in Brazil or a solution for the States will work in China. You must take the time to learn as much about the culture as you can before crafting a business solution for that particular country or region.
I’ve travelled a lot. My parents let me be an exchange student every summer since I was 12. I speak five languages and also studied social anthropology at the university and this my father, the founder of BabyBjörn, says helped us build BabyBjörn to a strong brand in 50 countries.
On the other hand I want to emphasize that it’s smart to invest in products that people can use in any country, like potties or skateboards. If you want to be successful in sales it’s a good start to meet a need that is universal for any human being. You can give a potty to any toddler and they will know what to do with it, same with a skateboard, the kids will for sure use it either for fun or for transportation. Lovely business niches.
“I’ve travelled a lot. My parents let me be an exchange student every summer since I was 12. I speak five languages and also studied social anthropology at the university”
Why do you think it is important to visit events and build a network?
Because we learn from each other, we need to be stimulated but also challenged. I especially love to pass through the eye of the needle talking to critical journalists or investors. They have taught me so much. And in the end it’s all about knowing the right people and enjoying every day of your tough work-life.
Wow, what a tremendous wisdom in these stories. Come join us to connect and learn from fellow entrepreneurs, get inspired for the summer and meet Lisa at Startup Grind Stockholm. For all the women out there, use the promo code “40forward” for a 25% discount. Secure your spot at: startupgrindswe9.eventbrite.com