Baltic Boss Babes

Breaking the Mold: Navigating the Startup World

June 28, 2023 Kadi & Aija & Alīna Season 1 Episode 3
Baltic Boss Babes
Breaking the Mold: Navigating the Startup World
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ever felt the weight of launching your own startup or navigating around the competitive business environment? Join us as we explore these themes and more with Alina Silina, the founder of Busy Monday, and an influential advisor for the Latvian Startup Association. Alina's journey isn't your run-of-the-mill success story. From working with international IT companies to governmental institutions, she's tapped into her varied experiences to create a unique business model that benefits startups in unique ways. She highlights the importance of understanding a client's goals first, ensuring that the services provided align perfectly with the launch requirements.

Navigating startup life isn't always smooth sailing, and Alina knows that better than most. She opens up about her struggles with imposter syndrome, self-doubt, and combating bias and skepticism, offering invaluable advice on how to stay confident despite the challenges. Alina’s consultancy model strikes a unique balance between flexibility, expertise, and affordability, proving that overcoming stereotypes in the startup space is possible. 

With firsthand knowledge of the startup world, Alina shares her unconventional marketing strategies and advice on differentiating services in a competitive market. From understanding your target customer to authentic communication and building relationships prior to launch, she's got the inside track on increasing productivity. Alina drives home the critical importance of rest and recharging, a facet often overlooked in the hustle of launching a startup. Join us for this enlightening conversation, and take away invaluable insights for your own startup journey. Don’t forget to check out her own venture at BusyMonday.io. Let's break the mold together and pave our own unique paths in the startup world.

Thanks for tuning in to another exciting and enlightening discussion on the Baltic Boss Babes podcast! Don't miss out on future episodes – be sure to subscribe to the podcast and follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn at Baltic Boss Babes for more captivating content and behind-the-scenes insights. Stay safe, stay curious, and keep embracing the power of innovation! Read more on our website www.balticbossbabes.com

V:

Welcome, fierce and fearless, to another great episode of Baltic Boss Babes. Get ready to open your inner powerhouses as we dive into the depths of entrepreneurial wisdom. We've got a powerhouse guest, alina, here to share her journey and drop some wisdom that will leave you on the edge of your seat. So grab your coffee, put on your Boss Babe attitude and let's rock this episode like the unstoppable forces of nature that we are. Baltic Boss Babes podcast, unfiltered edition, episode 3.

Kadi:

Hello, this is Kadi and Aja here with yet another episode from Baltic Boss Babes, and today we have another Boss Babe visiting us. Her name is Alina Silina, and Alina is the founder of Busy Monday, which is an outsourced marketing consultancy for IT companies and startups, and the company focuses on helping the companies with new product launches. Also, alina is a supporting advisor for the Latvian Startup Association, startinglv. And yeah. so, hi, alina, how are you today? Hello, everyone, we're good, so maybe you could give us kind of like a short overview of your journey. How did you get into the startup space in the first place?

Alina:

Sure well, my career path has been quite varied. I tested myself in very many different roles, organizational structures and industries, starting from international IT companies where I've spent quite a lot of time as a product manager, product owner and junior marketer, and then I smoothly translated to government institution, where I first was introduced to Latvian startup ecosystem. Back then I was invited to join a newly established startup support division at investment and development agency of Latvia and it was a fun, challenging, captivating chapter in my professional life. Together with a compact team of enthusiasts, we talked to startups from government perspective, designed new support programs, learned how to adapt them, how to implement them in the way so local entrepreneurs are supported and provided with extra tools, how to accelerate, how to go global, how to scale up. And after a while I translated again and I went to startup company, the local company that produces industrial drones. I put ahead of the marketing manager and then again I started everything from the scratch and how to work in this busy and how to take environment. Until recently, approximately one and a half years ago, i decided why not? to try do something on my own. That's how I ended up establishing my own business, which is marketing consultancy services business on day, as you mentioned, for startups, obviously because of my previous experience helping them to launch new products, new services or, for example, expand to new geographies and new markets.

Aija:

Also. I think there's quite a journey for you for sure. So yeah, from my side, hi everybody. I am here. I would like to ask you to explain a little bit more about your company. What is your business model and the benefits that you're bringing to the startups and other companies that you work with, and your role in the company? Right?

Alina:

So the key motivation behind this transition and willingness to do everything on my own, without not so much support, was my desire to do things in the way I believe they would work out. I wanted to be responsible for everything, but I also was about having this freedom to do tests, to test and apply my skills and knowledge in so many different applications and industries, which is not usually allowed at a specific startup or company. Because you're focusing on a specific product or service, and because each client's case is quite novel and requires a deep dive into the subject, i decided that I would love to help them with entering new markets, but I knew that I need to kind of become an integral part of their teams. So, yes, i still am an outsourced consultant who is also collaborating with proven freelance partners Right, but like other marketing service providers out there, i spend a lot of time on trying to analyze the client's market landscape, investigating the competition, trying to figure out how to set them apart from that competition. What are their weak points, what are their strengths? And I often call myself a customer-centric marketer because I believe this is the key component Understand your audience, segment your audience, learn everything. Learn your audience better than you know your husband or mom? Yes, and this is, i believe, something different I do in my business. Yes, and the second thing, of course, is that, instead of hiring an internal team, i collaborate with outsourced freelance partners, and this brings me a flexibility and cost efficiency.

Kadi:

Yeah, Can you maybe break down the process as well? Let's say I'm a startup founder, i would like to start working with your agency. So what starts? We sign a contract, we agree on the price. Then what happens?

Alina:

Not even that. We start with conversation. My priority task is to understand what is the goal. Only when I understand your goal I can evaluate. Am I the right person and my partner is to help you? or should I maybe navigate to another expert So to just understand why you are doing your business, what you want to achieve or what is your ideal? I don't know. Targeting for a few years? okay, for startups two years. But, yeah, all starts with conversation and understanding if I can match your expectations. And then, yes, we just go through the standard list of services usually required for a launch, like market investigation, target audience analysis, and we decide how much support you require from my side. For example, you can call your potential clients on your own, or you can, let's say, ask someone from your team to do this for you, or you need even my support to do this for you. And then how we are positioning your product. Yes, speaking about positioning, many startups and founders hate this word because they don't understand really what does that mean? So the value how are you going to define the value you provide to your target audience and how is this value is different from what your competitors and alternative solutions provide? yes, to your target audience and so on and so on. But very often, once we are on the same page about strategy, yes, usually my clients ask can you maybe advice a good copywriter, for example, or do you have a proven and trusted graphic designer? My answer is yes, i have, yes, and I can stay the coordinator and be responsible for the quality, but just connect other specialists in different marketing disciplines.

Kadi:

Sounds amazing. Can you maybe give us a little bit? or maybe you don't have to mention this price, but how much would it cost for a startup or for a company? So someone who might be listening to this. Is it like very expensive service or do you try to be?

Alina:

expensive. Jokes apart, It really depends on what kind of support you need. Yes, but I would say that the standard market research package would start from maybe 2.5k euro. Yes, and then we just actually I'm also flexible on business model. I mean, I have customers where we have a fixed amount of hours. I spend with them, let's say, 20 hours per month. Yes, and I work on hourly fee And it is efficient. When, like you, are in the launching project, then it's not enough to just make a market research, but you need to support them. Yes, especially if they don't have an internal marketing team, only business development people or sales. Yes, but we also can agree on a fixed price for a specific package and services.

Aija:

Okay, sounds like you have it figured out for sure. I think we can dive a little bit deeper regarding your journey and your everyday challenges and successes. as a Baltic Bosway been marketing, So yeah.

Kadi:

So what do you think? so far in your journey, what has been the most kind of unconventional decision that you have taken and how has it also shaped, or helped to shape, your success?

Alina:

so far. I really don't think that in 21st century, something can be unconventional, of course, because, like we, are nearly 8 billion people living on this planet. Yeah, but the good thing actually about this that there always is someone who already came up with the same idea as you did, tried and tested, failed or succeeded with it, and the first thing you can do is just investigate and figure out what worked and what didn't and just apply to your case. I got the question. So when I started this consultancy adventure, i knew for sure that, first of all, i need flexibility, yes, and I didn't want to be bounded to any like internal employees. This really important part of what I am doing now and thanks to project managers and marketing managers career I had previously, the main asset I possess are, like those proven experts within different marketing disciplines. So before, instead of hiring or looking for internal junior experts, i picked up the phone, called them, explained my idea and asked if they would be potentially ready to collaborate on project by project basis, and it turned out to be very successful win-win model which I can recommend to many service providers and modern life is very convenient and it's also beneficial for customers because, first of all, i can provide affordable prices comparing to bigger agencies. That needs to supply not supply, but sustain their internal teams on daily basis. And secondly, unlike direct partnership with freelancers, what I can do is to free up time for my clients and they don't need to babysit or coordinate freelancers on them on. I am the coordinator and I am also responsible for the quality, no matter if I do it on my own or I just invite someone else. I trust you to do it. Yeah, this is. On the other hand, i also don't need to stress out when there are fewer projects and this happens to me, yes, from time to time because, yes, i don't need to pay payroll hire not hire but take care about work environment, office equipment, insurance and so on and so on.

Aija:

Okay, well, it sounds like you have a lot of spare time to do something that you love as well. I think the time planning and then the freedom to operate in different times of the day is very beneficial.

Alina:

This is the most tricky part, you know. When you have the freedom, you work nonstop.

Aija:

It's like Ferris wheel. You know you want to work and you want to have a free time, and when you have the free time you want to work, so yeah it kind of goes around.

Alina:

Or, for example, in my case, i often blame myself when I have the rest, because I could do something more productive at that time, instead of like sitting and watching Netflix. You know, just coping with yourself as important challenge as well.

Kadi:

Actually, when you were mentioning this, what is the biggest challenge for you As, like you know, you're running? I understand you're kind of the solo founder of your business, or do you have co-founders?

Alina:

I am the only founder of my business. I have supporters, and the main supporter is my husband, who is sometimes a bookkeeper, sometimes a technical guy And most of the cases is just my psychologist, who listened to my problems. I'm not good enough, i'm not expert enough, i don't have knowledge that other experts in my field possess, or why I think I can do this And just doubting myself all the time. This is the hardest.

Kadi:

I think it's very common. I hear that a lot. but what do you do when you have those doubts? Do it scared?

Alina:

This is the freshest advice I can give to anyone there with this imposter syndrome. Do it scared, because the problem is that we lack self-confidence sometimes because we compare ourselves to so many people who, yes, probably some of them will be more prominent, more efficient, more knowledgeable, and so on and so on. But I always try to visualize like a triangle, where on the top of this triangle is the smallest peak size part, with this best of the best high end experts. I'm in the middle and if I look around, i will always find also people who does not possess some skills I have and the people who maybe cannot deliver the same value I can to my target audience. So I think that, instead of comparing yourself to all the people, yes, just yeah, of course, try for improvement, yes, but never, ever, underestimate your abilities and capacities.

Aija:

That's a really good advice. Yeah, i'm sure I hope that everybody is listening, because we're starting to spill gold here, you know, since us are being women and in rather technical not only technical ecosystem, but we can say that business is still led by men. So what is the biggest stereotype that you have encountered and how did you manage that?

Alina:

I'm not sure 100%. I've ever experienced or faced situations like that, the only one. I first meet a customer, business owner and we just dive into discussing their needs, their requirements or their expectations, how I can help them. And sometimes during the intro meetings I can tell kind of skepticism because of my ability to understand their technology, especially if this is the case of scientifically comprehensive product like previously mentioned industrial drone or modular systems for surveillance applications. Yes, then again, usually after a longer conversation, they failed my desire to dive into the topic. My garage and I also do address a lot of technical questions and then gradually their skepticism usually disappears. And also like demonstrating related use cases and showing some related portfolio works can help in situations like that.

Kadi:

I also kind of felt the same thing that maybe when you come to the meeting you really get kind of the celebrator look and okay, what does she know? But once you open your mouth and then you start talking, then at least this is the way I perceive it the tension kind of relieves. They are like, okay, maybe she has a brain, we women need to be patioed, this still. I think it is getting better and I also really haven't felt this kind of, but there is some sort of bias out there still towards female founders. I think And this is, you know that, why we are here and discussing recent breaking, breaking these kind of stereotypes What's been the most kind of challenging or uncomfortable discussion or conversation that you have had to have so far with maybe your partners or your customers?

Alina:

I've had a lot of uncomfortable situations and conversations, both with, let's say, customers who didn't want to pay me for services and with freelance partners who apparently notified me in the last moment that they won't be available for a project or, even worse, in the middle of project. They say, because of the post-major situation, they cannot deliver on time, and I previously explained that I am responsible for the quality and it immediately affects my brand. Yes, and especially in the compact community of Baltic startups, it's important because word of mouth works really fast and, yeah, you need to take care of things like that. So after a while, i learned. I uncovered, first of all, weak spots in my business model and then I started to expand my business partner network. So now I always have a plan BCD in case something goes wrong.

Kadi:

Yeah, to always kind of leave some buffer time as well if you're working some freelance.

Alina:

Yes, yeah, this is a good point, actually, of course. I first ask my partners what is the estimate time to deliver this stuff and they say, okay, one month. I had one extra month. And then I ask my customers about expectations and then try to explain that we will need some extra buffer time. So this is how you can just control these things, because previous live was like. My partner says one month, yes, we will do it in one month. So stupid, so naive.

Kadi:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, rings a bell. I've also promised to customers Yeah, no problem, we will deliver this functionality in no time, in one month time, or you know. And then three months later they're calling Okay, where is the functionality? Oh, i was tell them is a little bit busy, so yeah.

Aija:

Right, so we have covered the stereotypes and uncomfortable conversations and I was just curious What was the most unconventional way that you have found your way to market And how have you stand it out in crowded, in the industry that you present? And, yeah, what is the thing that differs you from the rest of them?

Alina:

It's very good question. I am, because indeed I'm operating in overcrowded and highly competitive market There are too many have marketing service providers, all that in the Baltics and beyond. More over, i am competing with alternative solutions like freelance platforms, upwork or fiber, that allow any company around the globe easily, conveniently, a higher freelance freelancer for For a project, right. So when I started, i knew that I need to really invest time into two things. First of all, find my narrow target market. Yes, so narrow down the audience I'm going to target and it was quite easy because I've had a previous experience working with the startups. I had potential clients and so, yeah, i'm focusing specifically on startups and IT companies. Yeah, with more traditional business models. Yeah, but the second thing instead of offering broad marketing services, i I explore the ways. How can I specialize myself and and position in the way so People, potential clients, can easily memorize what specifically I do not like. Okay, alina helps with the marketing stuff. It's too generic. Alina helps with launching new products. Alina helps to transit transit from Marketing launch to market conquest. So I, at this point, i stick to this idea. Maybe after some time I will evolve and Decide to do something else. Yeah, because in my case, i also make a lot of mistakes, test a lot of things before I understand that. Okay, this works better, yeah.

Kadi:

Yeah, i think we have the same idea. So what has been the kind of the mistakes that you are regretting? or if you could kind of turn back time, would you do something differently?

Alina:

Maybe I try to appeal to all clients. I mean in terms that Try to adapt, at my prices, my services to specific client, and I did them and only later I realized I started to feel that Some customers are not for you and you are not, and you are not the perfect, maybe, match for all the customers all there. So you need to hear to your gut feeling. Yes, and if during the first intro calls and conversation you feel that there is no click, live it, suggest that company to go and look into alternative options. Even I might recommend another specialist. This is like the same as with your partner, maybe with your friends. If there is no click, it's better just to To skip. Yeah, because, as I mentioned previously, the model and operating within and requires a deep dive and requires a long-term collaboration. Yes, so I'm partnering with the clients for at least four, six months. Yes, it's Too long to suffer every day from this kind of relations.

Aija:

Time source? definitely So. we have heard so many great advice Already, but maybe you have something on top of your head. What is the most unfiltered advice that you could give to other Baltic and world female entrepreneurs just starting out on their journey right now? So what would you say?

Alina:

Don't overpaint really. Yes, this is like the same, with this scared feeling, being scared all the time. Yes, just start in worse scenario. You will fail, but you will be able to just, you know, to gain some insights from this Of a tough experience and then next time, maybe you will be better. Most probably you will be better, yes, so just don't overthink. If you feel you want to try it, try it.

Aija:

Yeah, i have been feeling the same way. You know, like if you never try, you will never know right, and it's better to regret what you have done rather than, you know, do something and then say, oh no, this is horrible And most likely it's not gonna be horrible And yeah, in the end you'll be able to enjoy the experience. So I can completely agree with you.

Alina:

And the fun fact that no one will blame you. You are the only person yes, absolutely.

Kadi:

I'm curious, though. So you're a marketing professional, i'm a startup. What kind of advice would you give me Or any other kind of startup founders that are listening to this show, like kind of three very simple tips to kind of, you know, boost up your marketing, your visibility online, what are the kind of the main channels, where to be? And, you know, maybe you have some tips in your sleeve that you can share with our audience.

Alina:

Okay, maybe I have tips, not regarding the channels, because really channels depends on your target audience and where this target audience spend time. Yes, but regarding launching process as soon as this is my specialty. First of all, spend as much time as possible to understand the DNA of your ideal customer, of your buyer person, target audience. Yes, it doesn't matter. Speak to them As soon, as earlier as possible. Just go to your potential customers, demonstrate your prototype and the Pino matter at which development stage your startup is right now. Speak to them, speak to 10 people, 15, 20, and don't be scared and don't be embraced by this dialogue. Yes, so this is the most valuable insight and information you can get from your for your business. This is the second one. The first one. The second one would be that be authentic and try to be open to your audience in terms that don't try to pretend that you are someone else, and I see this. I see a lot of companies making this mistake, trying to pretend they're big, established corporations. You are not. Actually, this is the beauty about startups that you can reach out to your potential customers or like early adopters, like a CEO, like a real person, and people value this a lot. So, instead of writing an email our company introduces. No, i am like Alina. I am here, i am a person, i am starting my journey. I am a beginner maybe, yes, but I am like, really keen to make your life better, to help you, and I really hope that my product will help you solve your problem. So I am here and I am looking into your feedback. Demonstrate that you need the feedback, you need support. Yes, so establish real relationships with the audience. And the third advice I can maybe share with a marketer start to build these relationships even before you launch your product. Yes, it's really important to demonstrate the whole process behind the curtains, behind the development. Allow your early adopters or testers to become co-creators. Yes, test like a few motto slogan examples with them. Demonstrate a few design options you have, let them vote, let them discuss. Build the trust even before you launch your product.

Kadi:

Yeah, great tips here. I also have this question what is your best productivity hack? Do you have some cool hacks that you think that, okay, this is really a great trick and that's helping me so much.

Alina:

Productivity hack. Rest on the weekend. This is the best one. Yes, just even then something looks urgent. And just learn how to split your private time from your rest and spend quality time on the weekend. It not necessarily need to be a weekend, but find some time just to take care about yourself. And after that, of course, you will be able to recharge your batteries and be more productive, more efficient when you are working with the projects.

Kadi:

Yeah, we should definitely also follow this.

Aija:

I think most of the female founders should follow, and the male founders as well, i mean but us being in the start of the ecosystem. There are so many overachievers like they are trying to work 24 or 6 hours a day, not even 24. And I think that this is a very good advice to actually value the time that you can take for yourself and actually understand And become more productive. Yes, exactly Yeah. I think we have reached the last question for today and I think Kadi and myself can thank you, alina, for a lovely conversation, all the advice and really truly inspiring tips and tricks and knowledge that you have shared.

Kadi:

So, yeah, yeah, thank you, alina and everyone who got more interested about this opportunity of outsourcing a marketing specialist who is specializing on product launches and maybe some new market launches. then check out visitvisimondayio And yes, and follow Baltic Boss Babes to be notified when our next episode is out and with another cool boss babe. Thank you, alina, for coming.

Alina:

Thank you very much. The pleasure is all mine. It was a very captivating, interesting conversation today. Well, you did most of the talking.

Kadi:

Yeah, i agree 100%. Thank you, yeah, bye.

V:

Stay safe, stay curious and keep on innovating.

Alina Silina's Startup Journey
Consultancy Model and Overcoming Stereotypes
Unconventional Marketing Strategies for Startups
Startup Tips for Increased Productivity
Gratitude and Farewell