Starting a business is no easy task. And it often feels like a very lonely journey. But we get by with a little (scratch that; a lot of) help from our friends. It’s not an understatement when we say that we couldn’t have started The Olive Grove without the help and encouragement from friends and family.
In the early stages, our families and friends supported us through generous donations to renovate The Olive Grove. But they also called, emailed, and showed up when the task before us seemed impossible. When we opened our doors, our friends continued to support us by attending our events and workshops, and spreading the word. Our families continue to amaze us with their patience and unconditional love as we are figuring out the whole business venture. Thanks, friends and family!
We interviewed a few people who have started small businesses to see how their friends have helped along the way. And here are some of their tips.
Have Your Tribe
“Getting a business up and running can be a frustrating, difficult and a mind-bendingly stressful experience. As a mere mortal, it's nigh impossible to go it alone. You will need people in your corner. People you can trust. People you can rely on. Even people who you can just vent to (or with). Actually mostly with. That's where your friends step in. When everything starts to seem undoable, they keep you focused on what you can actually do.” [Tanios - Co-Founder of Beard Gear Co.]
Not All About the Money
“Most people initially think of financial help. But as I venture down this road longer, the real help is in different areas. It is arrogant, prideful and wrong to think we can be successful in life all by ourselves. It's the same in business. Friends and family offer other essential aspects:
Build Your Reputation
“When starting up a business, it is vital to have friends and family that support you. As a startup, you most likely won’t have an extensive body of work or an impressive portfolio, so it’s a lot harder to get clients because they don’t have a concrete reason to trust you and your new business.
I think that’s where friends and family come in, they are the people that trust you and will enthusiastically hire you or recommend your services to people they know. In my personal experience, all the projects we had when we first started were through people we knew.” [Sirena - Co-Founder of Twig Collaborative]
Don’t Let Your Friends Take Advantage
Sure, give out the “friends and family discount,” but don’t ever feel obligated to work for free to to provide services just because you have your own business. It’s okay to remind your friends that this is your work, aka, this is how you pay the bills.
“A big issue that came up quite a lot when working for friends and family is payment. Often times they expected the work to be done for negligible pay, and sometimes even for free. This was extremely discouraging, and in my opinion, the complete opposite of support. We did however have some extremely supportive friends and family who were happy to pay us for all the effort and time we spent working for them, and those are the people who really helped us get up on our feet and properly start our firm.” [Sirena]
Not Everyone Will Understand (but that’s okay)
“Friends can be a key supportive element during an entrepreneur’s journey. However, they can also bring you down more than they can lift you up. What I’ve learned from my personal experience is that not all friends will understand or be open to listen to your journey. Just those like-minded will fully be open to know more about your business experiences and mistakes.” [Laia - Founder of Leanelle]
As mentioned earlier, starting a business can be a lonely journey. If your friends haven’t been in similar situations, they won’t understand all that you’re going through. But that’s okay. In the same way, we might not be able to fully relate to the frustrations and excitements of an engineer or a doctor, or an accountant.
While running your own business might consume your life, it’s good to try to separate work from your social life. Friends want to support you, but they don’t want everything to revolve around you and your busy schedule. (And that goes both ways).
Surround yourself with people who will love you, support you and remind you to relax and keep going.
Election period. A time of hope, often followed by feelings of despair. Post election blues. How do we respond?
After a 9 year break, Lebanon held elections this past Sunday. Leading up to the elections, there was talk of 24/7 electricity, faster internet, better roads, and a better Lebanon. And here we are - still waiting for change. And it’s so frustrating! It’s hard not to lose hope. When will things actually change? And is there a time when we should just give up?
But we can't give up because deep down inside, we know we can't lose hope. Change takes time, and we're not ready to give up now, or ever.
So we went around and asked a few people to share their advice and thoughts concerning the post elections blues. We hope these words leave you feeling challenged and encouraged.
"Kicking out hope instead of learning the lessons doesn’t solve anything. In the game of life, the likelihood of things going ‘wrong’ far outweighs that of things going ‘right’. Given our prior knowledge of how things work, our progress depends on learning the lessons to create change."
We all want instant change, but unfortunately it doesn't work that way. Another young Lebanese, who recently moved back to Lebanon, stressed the importance of not giving up:
"We need to build on the momentum that was felt leading up to this election. There is still a long way to go, and each and everyone of us has an important role to play."
Let us be people who choose to hold on to hope. People will call you naive or overly-optimistic, but be well-informed and action-orientated, and then challenge those around you to work for change and to hold onto their hope.
Even though it might be hard to see, there are winds of change, even if it's a small breeze.
Though the numbers may be small, this election did place new faces in the parliament, and these leaders vow to make necessary changes. Yes, we can choose to be cynical and say they'll become like the rest. Or we can choose to have the benefit of the doubt, hope for the best, and then hold them accountable and encourage our leaders to work for a better Lebanon.
So we’ll leave you with the challenge to not kick out hope. We need it to keep working
If you're in Beirut this weekend, be sure to join us for the TEDxHamraSalon: The X on the Ballot event, Sunday, May 13 at 6pm at The Olive Grove.
Ever since we started working out of a coworking space, we noticed an improvement in our overall health and wellbeing. So we want to share a few tips and observations with you.
1. Walk or bike to work
The whole idea is to work at a coworking space in your neighborhood. Coworking spaces are supposed to be convenient, so you want to go to one close by. That means you have no excuse not to bike or walk to work. (Check out the #BikeToWork2018 initiative by The Chain Effect).
2. Leave your computer at work
You’re no longer working from home or from a coffee shop, so that means you can leave your computer at the coworking space. This helps with your work/life balance.
3. Bring your own lunch to work
Coworking spaces allow you to put your lunch in the fridge or cupboard. Not eating out helps you save money and it’s a healthier option. Or set up a meal plan through ChefXChange.
4. Fuel your social life / community
A coworking space allows you to work on your own projects while being surrounded by a community of like-minded people. Working from home can be very lonely, so we encourage everyone to find a coworking space to join. Be a part of a community that inspires and leaves room for collaboration.
5. Minimize Stress
We take care of the headaches that go into setting up your own internet, electricity, utilities, etc. This allows you to focus on what's really important - your work.
6. Increase productivity
Coworking spaces are designed for increased productivity. A coworking space is the perfect in between offering the comfort and flexibility of working from home or a coffee shop, but also offering the structure of a traditional office. The Olive Grove’s open layout allows in a lot of natural light, gives you room to breathe, and fuels creativity.
7. Commit to going to the gym
Because you’re now more productive at work, you have time to go to the gym. Make the commitment and you’ll see the results. Plus, you’ll feel happier. (Exercising releases dopamine, happy chemicals, into your brain). If you're a member at The Olive Grove, we recommend the gym down the street, Fitness Zone Hamra.
Join a coworking space and incorporate these points into your life, and we guarantee you'll feel healthier all around.
“What are your titles?” was the question that kept resurfacing in the early stages of starting The Olive Grove. The question gave us anxiety. We didn’t want to be CEO or founder or executive “fill-in-the blank” because it felt weighty and overly self important. So the decision was made that we would put the most basic titles on our business cards and not let them define our roles. And here are a few reasons why we don't stress over titles.
Titles feed the ego. Nobody wants to admit it, but we all give into our desire for power and status. We want a business card that says how important we are. So rather than letting it get to our head, we kept our titles simple.
Titles create hierarchy. In a traditional business model, the CEO is over the manager. So the CEO let’s the title get to his or her head and then he or she feels the need to talk down to the manager, making the manager feel inferior. Great CEOs know not to talk down to anybody, but when you do away with the titles, you’re less likely to think so highly of yourself and so lowly of those around you.
Roles over titles. Angela and I joke that if we really wanted to put our titles down, the list would go on and on. Director. Manager. Electrician. Barista. Plumber. Hostess. Secretary. Marketer.
When you’re starting a new company with a small team and a low budget, you don’t wait for someone to come fix the lights or clean the bathroom. You do it yourself. A CEO probably isn’t going to like the idea of making coffee and cleaning toilets. But when you take the titles away and go into the job knowing that you’re going to have to wear many hats, the various jobs get done. That’s why we don’t emphasize our titles, and focus more on our roles.
There’s nothing wrong with having titles, and we understand that some business require the hierarchal structure to succeed. However, when you’re a small team and you’re just getting started, we have found that it is more helpful to do away with the titles and focus on what is more important - getting the job done.
We're excited to launch our blog, "Olive It," where we'll talk about all of it when it comes to starting a business in the Middle East. We'll be discussing topics including what it's like as a woman starting a business in the region, the ups and downs of working with your friends, the importance of social responsibility, and many more relevant topics.
Today, we simply want to introduce ourselves.
The Story of Anna & Angela
After both spending a significant amount of time living outside of Lebanon, we both wanted to come back to Lebanon in order to give back to the country we love so dearly. We believe in empowering other entrepreneurs and small business by coming alongside them and giving them the space and tools they need to succeed.
We became friends in 4th grade and have since dreamed of ways to improve our community. We were always thinking of ways to make the world a better place. We painted cards and made magnets to sell to fellow classmates in order to put together goodie bags for children in Iraq during the 2003 war. The ideas never stopped flowing.
When we parted ways in 2004, we always talked about meeting up again one day to start a business together. And here we are - 18 years later, working on impacting the world around us through our work at The Olive Grove.
Check out the recent article about our story in Impact Magazine.
*We also want to acknowledge all those who have significantly helped get The Olive Grove up and running. We could not have done any of this without the support from our families, friends and donors. And down the road, we'll be sharing some of their stories.