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Our Open Coffee Split meetup is almost 13 years old but in these trying times it decided to adapt and temporarily switch to online mode.
This Wednesday we’ve had the pleasure of treating Jan de Jong, one of Split’s successful entrepreneurs, to a cup of “open coffee”. The audience actively listened to his lecture via Zoom and Facebook live, asking many questions and seeking advice.
13 years ago, this 35-year-old Dutchman moved to Split hoping he would start his own business there.
He took this opportunity to explain what prompted that decision in the first place. The whole story begins with Jan as a 19-year-old marketing student working at a call centre.
Unlike his colleagues who would quickly get bored or annoyed with telemarketing calls and then quit the job, Jan fell in love with this industry!
He found his job interesting and dynamic, and very quickly became an expert ready to pass on his knowledge to other colleagues.
Since he always dreamed of living abroad, after a few years he asked his boss, who happened to be a Croat, if he could move to Croatia for a few months where he would work and write his master’s thesis.
Luckily, the boss gave him the green light. Not only did Jan successfully complete his thesis, but he also decided to stay in Croatia which led to him opening an office here, expanding his business and becoming his former boss’s business partner.
After nine years, Jan sold his shares and became the first person in Croatia to start a company specializing in e-mail marketing and marketing automation – Webpower Adria. Today, he stands as the proud owner of the digital marketing agency Younited as well.
Jan pointed out to the audience that nothing in his career came about by chance, not even the slightest of his achievements.
The key to success lies exclusively in his hard work. All these years, it was never difficult for him to travel every week to Zagreb and stay there for three days, separated from his wife, four children and his home in Split.
While many complain about the (anti)entrepreneurial climate in Croatia, Jan sees plenty of opportunities here. There are a lot of things we complain about, and it is in them, he argues, that the potential for devising new products and services lies.
“I strongly believe that great changes in Croatia will not come from politicians, but entrepreneurs instead. My mission has become to create opportunities here so that all children, including my own, would not have to emigrate in order to find happiness.”
To those eager to start their own business, Jan’s advice is to start right away! If possible, start in your 20s since that is when you have more energy.
“Be comfortable with being uncomfortable. There is no sense of security in the world of entrepreneurship, but you have to accept it and be fine with it. Be sure to start a business in an area you are passionate about because you will not succeed otherwise.”
He also emphasized that it is important to focus on a single thing for as long as possible, especially at the beginning of your entrepreneurial path.
“Don’t concentrate solely on money, but on the values you create as well. Profits will come but be sure to lay a solid foundation and surround yourself with the right people to give back to the community.”
Jan says that his greatest strength is his discipline. When you are at the beginning of the entrepreneurial path, you work anywhere and anytime, so it’s important to remain diligent and disciplined.
“There is the pain of regret and the pain of being disciplined, and I always choose the latter.”
He admits that entrepreneurship is not easy; you constantly think about your work and the stress can be very overwhelming, but it is simply a lifestyle that involves work anytime, anywhere.
However, being an entrepreneur is also very relaxing because you get to keep your freedom.
Another piece of advice he gave to start-up entrepreneurs is to surround themselves with very good mentors!
“Openly discuss the challenges you face with other entrepreneurs. That way, you will be able to reduce your stress levels.”
On the other hand, he added: “You can be a mentor as well! It doesn’t have to be a formal type of mentoring. It’s a fact that you know more or are more experienced in a certain area than someone else. Always be open to giving something first in order to receive.”
The most important quality he expects from his potential employees is attitude, a positive attitude that includes a willingness to work.
“Skills can be acquired but attitude is key!”
In the end, he admitted that he was allergic to negative people.
“I’m living the Croatian dream” Jan concluded and encouraged us to ask ourselves why is it that we always need foreigners to make us aware of how special and beautiful our country is.
All the tips and experiences Jan shared with us can be viewed in the video posted on our Facebook page.
(Tranlastion of the original text: Ana Vidić)