1) Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am half Italian and half German, an engineer by education, and MBA from INSEAD, several years in consulting, from Arthur Andersen to Boston Consulting, then Director for Real Estate Development in a Florentine company doing luxury real estate developments.
2) How did you decide to start your own business? Did you get any support from anyone while making this decision?
I found myself bored having difficulties to get out of bed. I asked for the support of a coach, specifying to goals (i) help me to find what I should to be happy and (ii) once we identify it, keep patting in my shoulder until I DO it. Apart from that I had an initial business partner who turned out to be unreliable and who was promising money he did not have. In the end he left me with a lot of financial commitments and no cash. Somehow we managed to get out of it and today we run a healthy company. I must say that he also had one good point, he made me believe I had the financial and moral support, he somehow gave me the courage to start.
3) What is your line of business? Considering that there are many other options, why did you prefer it?
I am the owner and founder of MUA’ Gelatieri d’Italia. We are trying to develop a chain of Italian ice cream shops in Turkey. I chose ice cream because I love food but I thought that a restaurant or the-like would have been too complicated, given my background as an executive. Also a restaurant would have required a much higher investment.
4) What kind of challenges did you face and how did you overcome them? What should women be careful about when they want to start their own business? What kind of information or resources do they need?
I faced several difficulties, in my case mainly related to permits and authorities. And an overall lack of clarity of what can be done legally and what cannot be done. There is a tendency in this country to make you believe that certain things can be done and then when you are half way through (also financially committed) they inform you that “ooops you cannot” hoping you will be comprehensive and try and adjust things anyway. Being a foreigner helps in this case as you can generally just pretend you do not understand. The advice? stay away from things that appear not to be clear and straightforward from the beginning. Better to spend some extra time and /or money in the investigation and planning than to have bad surprises afterwards.
Another issue was finding reliable and professional people to work with me.
5) What are the difficulties of being a woman in business?
In my case not really. On the contrary I learned to leverage with all means on the fact that I am a woman to get things done. A smile, or even pretending to be weak and helpless will trigger many men to offer help.
6) Did you get the results that you anticipated from your business? What are your long term goals?
We achieved good results, opening 3 shops and one seasonal kiosk in less than 12 months. Customers appreciate the product and queue in our shops to eat our ice cream, so I would say I am happy about the result. We have good but realistic growth plans for the next 5 years.
7) What would you like to recommend to women that want to start their own business?
Make a good business plan, with a strong check of the numbers, be sure you know where you want to go, do not just start following a dream… you would need too much luck to be successful. I am surrounded by friends who are thinking of starting their own cookie business, do necklaces or open a boutique. Ask yourself what would be your competitive advantage, what would make you different from the competitors, why would customers chose you instead of them. And any answer is good, including “because I know a lot of people and they would all be my customers”or “because I can do better, in a less expensive way compared to my competitors”or…
Do not believe you need a brilliant or innovative idea. You just need a feasible idea. But if you have a good idea and a sound plan with good financial, go for it. Do not let excuses or fear hold you up.
8) Could you please share your website information and email address so that people who need advice may contact you?