62: Computer Games – Interview with Joel Staaf Hästö from Clifftop Games

This week we’ve interviewed Joel from Stockholm-based company Clifftop Games. I found his company when someone recommended his computer game Kathy Rain on an adventure subreddit.

What kind of business do you run? When did you start it and where is it based?

An indie game development company called Clifftop Games, specialized in point and click adventures. Started in 2015, based near Stockholm, Sweden.

What inspired you to start this business?

I’ve had a lifelong obsession with computer games, so making my own has always been a childhood dream. I was sick of working as a programmer at various game companies and started building a game of my own, Kathy Rain, in 2012. When a publisher expressed interest in the game I decided to make the leap!

Joel Staaf Hästö

What is your favourite adventure game you played?

Probably the original Gabriel Knight, it’s the only adventure I’ve replayed more than once.

Do you still remember what the first game you played was?

I believe it was the original Sim City, for DOS, ca 1990~. I was four or five at the time.

How do you get ideas for your adventure games?

Oh, from a variety of places. For me, usually an idea don’t just pop into my head all of a sudden, it’s something that grows and evolves organically based on different influences from games, movies, books and so on.

What is your average day and how many hours do you work each day?

My average day is spent doing a variety of tasks, from coding to scripting, writing dialogue, communicating with team members, our publisher and so on. Since I work from home and control my own work hours they tend to vary greatly, but I try to work at least eight hours a day for five days a week, with ~8-12 hours or so on top of that, spread out through the entire week. In the final stages of critical work, such as preparing for gaming conventions or game releases I tend to work practically all the time.

Any books you recommend for new entrepreneurs?

None that come to mind! I do most of my learning on the internet. Stack Overflow and Gamasutra are good resources to me, as are lectures from industry events such as GDC.

Which computer game company you admired most?

Probably the now defunct LucasArts. They produced a ton of quality adventure games over the years!

To learn more about Joel’s company please visit Clifftopgames.com.

61: Roasted Peas – Interview with Amber and Seb from BRAVE

This week we’ve interviewed Amber and Seb from London-based food company BRAVE. I have personally tried their delicious snack and recommend it!

What kind of business do you run? When did you start it and where is it based?

We’re BRAVE and we make crunchy Roasted Peas, a delicious and healthy alternative to crisps and popcorn. Our peas are all grown in the East of England and have more protein than cashews and fewer calories than popcorn. They’re also completely vegan and contain all natural ingredients and no added sugar. We’re based in London and launched in July 2017.

Tell us a little bit about yourselves and your background.

BRAVE has two co-founders (Amber & Seb) and we are fortunate enough to have different but complementary backgrounds and skills. While we both studied business at university, Amber’s background is primarily in sales and account management having worked for FMCG brands like adidas and L’Oreal. Seb, on the other hand, come from the world of advertising, having worked for agencies like Wieden & Kennedy, DDB and AKQA. That’s also how the key responsibilities are divided within the business – though both of us are involved in any major decision regardless of what discipline it falls under.

What inspired you to start this business?

We also both always wanted to start our own business so it was more a matter of what and when, rather than if. The idea of building something from scratch and growing it was hugely appealing to us. We’ve both been eating a plant based diet for around 9 years and as a result food is always a big interest for us. Peas and pulses in general are such delicious, sustainable and amazingly nutritious foods and we wanted to find an exciting way to encourage more people to eat these mighty peas!

We wanted to start business that encouraged people to make a positive change. That’s where the name BRAVE came from: taking that scary first step towards something better. For us that meant leaving good jobs and going out on a limb to start but it’s applicable to just about anything. The change we want to bring about is a return to healthy and nutritious food, that’s locally grown and doesn’t contain all kinds of strange ingredients in it. We think that’s something other people are looking for and will want to go on that journey with us.

What is your daily routine of running your business?

Every day is always a little different and we’ve got different ways of working between us, too. On an average day, Amber tends to start the day early (around 7am) and sorts through emails before then she’s out most days meeting customers, sampling and telling Londoners about our delicious roasted peas. Conversely, Seb starts a little later and tries to block out chunks of the day for any kind of creative or strategy work, with emails and follow ups slotting around that. Having space to dive into that work without distractions is key.
For both of us Monday’s and Friday’s tend to be in the office, following up with new customers and working other aspects of the business like supply chain and finance.
We make sure to align by having a catch-up meeting every morning at 10am to discuss actions and priorities going forward. Otherwise, everything else pivots around what the business requires on that day. We try to schedule meetings either early in the morning or late in the day so it doesn’t cause too much of an interruption and try to finish the day by writing up anything outstanding so it’s there for tomorrow. And working out 3-4 times a week in between helps not only keep us healthy but also sane.

What are the best and worst parts of running your business?

The best and worst parts are often two sides of the same coin! Building something from nothing is immensely fulfilling but at the same time, that’s something that you’re out there doing every day, regardless of whether you’re sick, tired or whatever. If you don’t do it, it’s not going to happen. Nobody else is going to do it for you.
Likewise, being your own boss is amazing. You’re at the heart of everything and make all the important decisions. But that means ultimately you’re also the one who’s taking all the risks and blame for anything that goes wrong.
That’s part and parcel of being an entrepreneur so we try to accept them both as a package and not get too hung up on either.

Are there any blogs, podcasts or Facebook Groups about entrepreneurship you follow closely?

ln no particular order: NPR’s How I Built This, the Foodhub Facebook group, Taste Radio, daily digest’s from Food Dive and The Grocer, Welltodo and FoodBev.
We also like audiobooks and can highly recommend Grit by Angela Duckworth, Do Purpose by David Hieatt, and the Hard thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. They won’t necessarily tell you how to start and run a business, but they’re very good at highlighting the mindset you need to have to do it.

Which resources to run your business do you use most?

We use a lot of different things but key to running the business are a bunch of tailored excel spreadsheets that manage things like schedules, production and forecasts. We also use Xero for all our accounting, Illustrator/Photoshop for any creative output and Squarespace to build/host our site.

What keeps you motivated to keep working on your business?

We’ve got two kinds of motivation to get us through the tough times: on the macro scale, we started this business because we’re passionate about healthy and sustainable food. We really, really want to encourage people to eat more plants. That’s the north star that keeps us moving forward and any kind of tangible proof (for example, hitting a sales target) that it’s working is very motivating.
On the micro level, we do a lot of our sampling sessions ourselves and there’s nothing better than that moment when somebody’s tried your product and you can see on their face that they like it. That moment right there holds enough energy and motivation to power a week or two.

What would you recommend new entrepreneurs? How to get started?

On the one hand, we’d like to say: ‘Just do it!’
But that would perhaps sell the journey of entrepreneurship short. The truth is, it’s a long, difficult journey and it’s twice as long and difficult to do on your own. Consider finding a co-founder(s) if you’re on your own. That not only reduces the amount of work there is but also creates a dual perspective and tension that’s essential to making good decisions. It’s not a mandatory but most solo entrepreneurs we’ve talked to have said the same thing.
Secondly, talk to anybody and everybody who’s been-there-and-done-that. We had a slight advantage in some ways having worked in the corporate world before, but the corporate world is nothing like a startup. What was really invaluable was talking to other entrepreneurs who’d already gone through what was ahead of us. That saved us a lot of time and prevented us from making bad decisions. We’re very indebted to those ladies and gents (if you’re reading this, you know who you are!)
Finally, become a subject matter expert in your chosen industry – for example, you don’t need to become a nutritionist or anything like that if want to work in food but you need to understand the market. We read most daily food publications, attended tonnes of food trade shows and talks for years before deciding exactly what we wanted to do. Having your ear to the ground will help you see opportunities in what is unusually a rapidly changing landscape.
Then go do it!

Who do you think is the most accomplished entrepreneur you’ve met?

It’s a toss up between Simon Mottram or Giles Brook. Simon’s done an amazing job building Rapha and arguably singlehandedly made cycling look cool. Giles on the other hand has had incredible success with Vita Coco as well as Bear (and others!) – when it comes to food brands he has a Midas touch!

To learn more about Amber and Seb’s company please visit Bravefoods.co.uk and on Instagram.

60: Premium Mixers – Interview with Raissa and Joyce from Double Dutch Drinks

In today’s blog post we interview London-based twin sisters Raissa and Joyce De Haas from Doubledutchdrinks.

What kind of business do you run? When did you start it and where is it based?

We run a drinks company called Double Dutch which offers a range of innovative premium mixers and tonic waters. The first batch was produced in February 2015 and we’re based in London.

Tell us a little bit about yourselves and your background.

We are twin sisters born in the Netherlands. We moved to Belgium when we were kids and the house where we grew up had a small wholesale wine & spirit shop. It was just a hobby for our parents — they kept the store for themselves and friends. As a result, we grew up with loads of different spirits and built a passion for high-quality drinks from an early age. We subsequently developed a curiosity and a good taste for wines and spirits!

When we were 18 we studied Finance and Business Administration at the University of Antwerp. During our years at university we used to drink mainly gin or vodka but found the tonics which were available quite boring and often very overpowering in the drink. We decided to make a deal with our friends and every Sunday they used to bring different gins, vodkas or tequilas to our flat and we’d make the different and interesting mixers. That was very primitive at first! We made syrups with fresh fruits by heating them up with sugar and mixed with good quality sparkling water.

After our Masters in Finance in Antwerp, we both started working in banking – Joyce at a large corporation and Raissa at a smaller wealth management bank but soon realised that this wasn’t really for us! We wanted to be able to apply our talents to something more creative.

We decided to do a second master’s that was more practical. We always felt like moving to London and as University College London (UCL) is known for its entrepreneurship program, we applied and were both accepted there. Our course focused on starting a startup in the tech space and we used the syrups we had made during our undergraduate course as the starting point for our thesis.

We researched the market for the entire year and looked at the discrepancy in the beverage market. Whereas spirits are becoming more experimental with a big trend in premiumization and the craft movement, the choice of mixers are still limited. We conducted market research with bartenders, mixologists and consumers and at the end of this Double Dutch Drinks were born.

This was in September 2014 we received the prize for most promising startup (the first non-tech startup that was awarded this) and we received an initial UCL cash investment.

We used that money to produce our first batch and build a network of our first customers. Feedback was positive from the beginning and within 3 months we had clients like Harvey Nichols, The Dorchester and Novikov.

What inspired you to start this business?

Being Dutch we’ve always enjoyed a good qualitative drink! The country has such a great history of gin and other spirits and we’ve always been quite frustrated by the fact that the mixer market wasn’t as experimental.

This is why we decided to start experimenting and making our syrups and sodas, testing them on friends and family at house parties. Over time making our own mixers became a passion and we became more reluctant to use any low-quality mixers with the premium craft spirits we were drinking!

When we began to develop Double Dutch, we came across a technique of flavour pairing which was really the turning point in the process. We found that we wanted to experiment with different flavours and ingredients but didn’t want to be limited to what the industry had already done. We felt we needed to come up with innovative mixers and flavours and that’s how we created our first products: Cucumber & Watermelon and Pomegranate & Basil.

What is your daily routine of running your business?

7am: Wake up, breakfast
8am – 11am: Emailing and catching up on admin
11am – 5pm: Meetings and calls. This can be anything from meeting customers, spirit partners to seeing our investors. It’s important to be at the accounts and understand how things are happening on the ground.
5pm-10pm or 11pm depending on work load: Emailing & Catching up. We usually have events or dinners at least once a week.

Joyce looks after everything that has to do with operations and finances: logistics, warehousing, production, invoicing, payments and Raissa is responsible for the rest; mainly sales, marketing, employment and communications. As we expand the business to other countries, we travel often to have meetings with distributors and check new markets.

What are the best and worst parts of running your business?

Best part of running your own business is the excitement to see it grow every day. It gives us great satisfaction to work on something that we can call our own. It’s also amazing to have the chance to innovate and create your own mark in a market.

Worst part of running your own business is that you can’t really let it go and you end up taking every little problem to bed! In the first 18 months we had no time for any social life or whatsoever

Are there any blogs, podcasts or Facebook Groups about entrepreneurship you follow closely?

We like watching TED Talks and we keep an eye at Fast Company and Inc. Magazine.

Which resources to run your business do you use most?

I love XERO for accounting, receipt bank is great as you don’t need to keep receipts any more. And we used LinkedIn a lot in the beginning to get all our investors.

What keeps you motivated to keep working on your business?

The prospect of growing our ‘baby’ and the harder you work the faster it grows 🙂

What would you recommend new entrepreneurs? How to get started?

We think it is important to launch your product as soon as you have something, even if it is not perfect yet. It’s a lot better to get feedback while testing products in the market as you will learn a lot faster what your customers actually want.

Who do you think is the most accomplished entrepreneur you’ve met?

Richard Branson

To learn more about Double Dutch please visit Doubledutchdrinks.com

59: Internet Marketing – Interview with Andrew Lock

Today we feature Internet Marketer Andrew Lock, one of my favourite marketers, who I’ve been following for almost 10 years!

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

Im originally from Surrey in the UK, and even at school I realized I had an entrepreneurial leaning. One day I was called into the headmasters office (I was scared stiff to find out what I’d done wrong), and to my surprise he said, “I’m awarding you the top of the year prize for business studies”! That solidified my realization that I was indeed an entrepreneur! My earliest venture was buying big sacks of potatoes from a local farm, and then selling small bags of potatoes to elderly people in the community. They loved it because potatoes are heavy to carry home from the shops!

Any entrepreneurs which you look up to?

I’ve been influenced by many entrepreneurs over the years. Mainstream people like Richard Branson, and more niche marketers like Dan Kennedy and Jay Abraham.

You moved from the UK to the US. How do the two countries compare? Why you chose Sandy, Utah?

Since my first visit to the States in 1989, I fell in love with the country, and made more than 30 trips while still living in England! Originally I moved to California in 2003, and after 2 years I discovered Utah by chance, on a road trip. Utah is beautiful, with amazing mountains and national parks, and a more relaxed pace of life. After being there for more than 10 years, I decided to move back to California again, and I love the LA weather!

You have a new course out now called “WebTV Wealth”, tell us more about it!

If there’s one thing that I’m known for, it’s my WebTV show, “Help My Business!” which started in 2008. It’s been the cornerstone of my business over the years, and I’ve helped over a hundred other people to create shows in various niches. With the success of my show, naturally many people approached me and said, “how can I do that, too?” That’s what led me to create a comprehensive course that explains everything step by step (www.WebTVWealth.com) It’s immensely satisfying for me to see other people launch a show, as a result of following the course. Video is here to stay online, and I encourage every business to take full advantage of it, asap!

You are a big fan of Disney! What are your top brands in terms of marketing?

I have enormous respect for what Walt Disney established, and he was not only a visionary, but a genius marketer too. Other brands that i think are doing it right, are Virgin, Apple, Lego, NCL, and Starbucks. I find it fascinating to study how they’ve become successful, and that’s what inspired me to write my latest book, “BIG Lessons from BIG Brands” (www.BigLessonsBook.com)

Are you known to the Disney people as a superfan?

Haha, well, some of the management know who I am, and I’ve developed a good relationship with them to be able to take groups of entrepreneurs behind the scenes at Disney World, which is great fun, and a real eye opener! (www.MagicalMarketingExperience.com)

 What are some good industries to go into at the moment?

I don’t really look at industries in that way, because I think it’s dangerous to jump on a bandwagon. I always encourage entrepreneurs to follow their heart and their true passion, whatever that might be. It’s hard to build a business from scratch, and if someone is only doing it because they think an industry is ‘hot’, it will invariably end in disaster.

What are some red flags when you partner up with somebody?

I learned the hard way that it’s important to do due diligence and be very careful who you partner with. Many people partner with people who are like them, which is a big mistake. Its important to find skills that are complimentary to yours, not the same as yours. Also, if you don’t know the person very well, always ask them to provide the names of 3 people they’ve done deals with in the past, so you can verify they’re honest and ethical. If they can’t do that, it’s a huge red flag.

Outside from common sense business advice, what are your creative marketing tips that people don’t think about?

Most business owners copy each others marketing. For example, a plumber sees all the other plumbers advertising in yellow pages, so they naturally think that’s what they should do! It’s a lemming mentality, and it’s counter productive. The best type of marketing is when it makes your business stand out from the crowd. The other thing to aim for is to establish yourself as the expert in your industry. Why? Because people do business with those who they perceive to be credible experts. For example, if you have a book, or you’re interviewed on the radio or in a newspaper, those things add enormous credibility, and make people feel much more comfortable about doing business with you. Lastly, collect as many comments from happy customers as possible. What those people say about you and your business is infinitely more valuable than any type of marketing you can do.

Best advanced marketing books you can recommend?

I recommend studying all the Dan Kennedy “No BS” books, they are the best primer in advanced marketing concepts. Dan was one of my key mentors, and his approach goes counter to what’s taught in most business schools, but it works!

Do you still think eBay is a good place to start a business?

eBay has changed a lot over the years. When the management decided to favor customers over sellers, things went downhill fast in my opinion. The site has a fraction of the traffic it used to have, sadly. Having said that, eBay is still a good place to start a business for someone who has in demand unique products.

How can we achieve world peace? 😉

Yes, that would certainly be nice, wouldn’t it? It strikes me that most people want to get along, but certain world leaders are power hungry and it’s their decisions that affect the majority. We need government of course to maintain order, but history has shown that many if not most rulers invariably succumb to corruption or greed. I try not to watch too much TV news these days because (a) most of it is negative, (b) it’s incredibly biased, and (c) it’s easy to waste a lot of time and mental energy on it. I’m grateful that I live in a relatively peaceful area that encourages entrepreneurship!

To learn more about Andrew Lock please visit his main page at Helpmybusiness.com.

58: Eco-Friendly Drinks – Interview with CanO Water

Josh, Ariel and Perry (all under 25) started the brand after they come back from travelling Asia where they’ve seen the damaging effects plastic had on the ocean.

Determined to change that, they created a product that appeals to a younger audience and makes ‘recycling’ more trendy and attractive through a simplistic and stylish design of the can.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

We’re three close friends who grew up in the same town.
With over a decade of experience in branding and graphic design, Perry decided to apply his skills to his new venture. With the vision of creating a product that has an impact visually as well as functionally for the environment, Perry teamed up with his good friends Ariel and Josh to help further develop the idea and launch CanO Water.
Ariel has a background in the city where he was a headhunter scouting programmers and quant researchers for hedge funds and banks globally. After helping to bring the concept to life, he left his job to focus full time on CanO Water as he saw a gap in the market and was keen to educate people on the benefits of using aluminum vs plastic.
Josh’s background lies in the events and nightlife industry, with experience in marketing and having previously run a successful events company, Josh saw a perfect fit within the vision of CanO Water and his passion for the healthy lifestyle.

What inspired you to start this business?
Plastic is increasingly being recognised to be bad for your health and for the environment. We saw a gap in the market for a new innovative product to become the alternative to single-use plastic bottles. We wanted to create something with a purpose and not just another brand that slipped into an already saturated market. Aluminium is the most recyclable material on the planet and more sustainable alternative to plastic.

What are the best and worst parts of running your business?
The hardest thing is learning everything yourself and having to build something that doesn’t exist yet. Hitting targets and goals is what makes the hard part worth it. Seeing your brand grow is an amazing feeling.

Which resources to run your business do you use most?
We put a big focus on social media channels from LinkedIn, to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. For more business purposes we use Xero.
Each platform has a different purpose and we manage it differently. For instance, on Snapchat we will create a unique video content and release behind the scene footage. Facebook is more of an advertising platform whereas Instagram is a tool that we use to post our creative content.
Staying on top of the ever-changing social media landscape is an immense task but we know that is also the one worth investing the time and effort in.

What keeps you motivated to keep working on your business?
We do not see ourselves as another water on the shelf but more as a solution to a huge environmental problem. We nurture people by educating them through social media, events and POS material.

What would you recommend new entrepreneurs?
Just go ahead and start!
Create a full strategy of what it is and who you are marketing it to.
However be prepared for a difficult journey, for these ups and downs but trust us, it’s worth it!

To learn more about CanO Water please visit Canowater.com.