If you ask an entrepreneur why they decided to start their own business, one of then most common answers is:
“I wanted to do my own thing and create something that I can call my own.”
Natalia Komis, founder of Startups iamsociable and iamadventures is no different.
I caught up with her to talk about the two businesses, how she got them off the ground, and what has helped her along the way.
Q) Can you explain your business model in very simple terms?
A) iamsociable helps individual creatives, or creative entrepreneurs with in business, with marketing, social media, new business and guidance support. We also work with larger companies on offering these in a creative way.
With iamadventures we take artists and creative entrepreneurs on creative adventures all over the world to ignite their creative and help them develop their personal potential. We simply create the trips and open them up for people to apply to come along and be part of it, we have facilitators that are adventure mentors – who have specific skill sets that they can offer to the group.
Q) Can you tell us how the business got started, where did the idea come from?
A) Not knowing what route to take after Art School, I ended up in Marketing whilst still trying to hold on to the art world through collaborations and being part of art collectives. Once I realised I couldn’t juggle both I gave up with the corporate world & started freelancing as an arts producer. Still unhappy & knowing I wanted to start my own thing, I took the leap & launched iamsociable and later iamadventures.
I’ve always known I’ve wanted to do something that I can call my own, I guess I just never knew what. I’d go from one idea to the next without pausing for air and clarity. Being a creative person I seem to come up with ideas easily, but find it difficult to follow them through.
I’d wanted to start my own business and had a general idea for it for a while. But nothing felt right, the timing, the idea itself and I guess I just didn’t feel confident enough to go ahead with it. It came to a point when my relationship was over, I had to move house, I had no secure job and I suddenly had to reassess my situation. And I realised, that I had been running around for everyone else but secretly feeling resentful for it. I wanted to run around for myself! Make me happy and do something that I wanted to do!
After I left my corporate job I’d been travelling to art fairs and running events all over Europe and was the producer and PR manager for the British Section of the Kathmandu Arts Festival in Nepal, where I also ran master classes in arts marketing for the British Council. With this came a whole new outlook on life, an approach to do things that I actually cared about and wanted to do for myself. So, when the opportunity to reassess my situation did come along I was ready to take a risk and try something of my own. I’d been thinking about walking the Camino de Santiago for many years as a personal challenge, a place to let go and be free and allow space and time for new inspiration, so I planned for this whilst also setting up iamsociable.
iamsociable kicked off slowly but surely and grew with its clients. The main objective? To help creatives in business; help them find and create their dreams through creative marketing and guidance support. Whilst making the preparations for my trip to Spain to walk the Camino I realised that I should be combining my thirst for adventure, inspiration and social change with my guidance support and personal development and offer this combination of services to others. This is where the iamadventures was born. With no back up plan and no extra money I did just that and launched two start-ups in less than 9 months. Now, it has developed into taking artists, entrepreneurs and social innovators on creative adventures all over the world. Offering the chance to be inspired, explore, learn and be guided to reach their personal potential.”
Q) What does your team look like?
A) I am the director of both companies and both companies use a trusted and talented team of freelancers as and when needed, to cut down costs for both the customer and company, but also to make sure we can bring the best of the bunch for each specific project.
Q) How have you funded the business?
A) Through own work and persistence – slowly growing it without taking money from loans or grants.
Q) How did you get from idea to product, was there much project management involved?
A) Sure there was project management involved – but my attitude is get up and do and without that nothing will ever happen. Both businesses are of the type that if you don’t get out there doing then nothing will ever happen. It’s more about spreading the word at the beginning as much as it is about having the skills and offers in place.
Q) How much competition is there in your space? How do you stand out?
A) There’s plenty of competition, but the difference is that we’re a bunch of young creative talent, working for and with other creatives. We do it for the love of it, rather than the money aspect. Everything is intertwined and equally important.
Q) What does your typical customer look like?
A) For iamsociable they may be a creative who wants to really start focusing on their practice and make a living from this (an artist, writer, musician, photographer etc) or they may be a creative start-up/company that needs that extra hand, that don’t want to hire someone full time but need and want someone to take over certain tasks – the marketing, social media or even new business.
For iamadventures, it’s slightly different – it’s again a creative person, or someone who wants to explore their creative practice and get out in the world – away from their normal not so exciting every day lives and do something different to re-energise them.
Q) What have been your major hurdles when starting up, how have you overcome them?
A) Money of course is always a major hurdle when starting up, however I think for me, it’s been trying to do everything at once and on my own and as soon as I realised that and accepted that I couldn’t life got much easier.
Q) Are there any services or tools that you can recommend for startups who need help with getting stuff done?
A) I’ve been part of the School for Creative Startups – that’s great for fresh creatives needing more direction and Doug Richard’s book is helpful too. As is UKTI and their Sirius program (that’s for those who live abroad or who are starting up a company with non UK citizens).
Q) What customer recruitment channels are you using, and which are the most effective in terms of conversion?
A) I use Escape the City and Ideas Tap, as well as Twitter a lot. These are all great for the types of people I’m looking to recruit. However, Cahootify is a great place to find freelancers and new projects that are happening also.
Q) What are your long-term plans for the business?
A) Long term there will be plenty more people involved on a larger scale all over the world. iamadventures will have specific mentors for different trips and iamsociable will have a good team of freelancers who can take over specific projects longer term.