What do you get when you mix an entrepreneur, a computer, and an affinity for Japanese cuisine? For Ann Soderblom, the answer is an online sushi business. Lots of people have found that starting an online business is so much more accessible with resources like virtual office addresses (you could visit yourvirtualofficelondon.co.uk) and more technological platforms that support online retailers. Many people could learn from Anne’s business venture if they are thinking of starting an online business.
Read on to hear how Ann is building the life of her dreams, one roll at a time…
AS: Hi Erika. First of all, thanks for interviewing me! I really enjoy reading your thoughts since we share so many similar ideas.
My name is Ann Söderblom and I’m originally from Sweden. After my university studies I moved to Barcelona, Spain and spent three years there before moving to Zurich, Switzerland, where I’ve been living for the past two years.
I have worked for several multinational companies and small firms in different consulting and management roles. In parallel to my daytime jobs I’ve always had different small business projects, mostly online retail. The last couple of years I’ve been working towards my goal to work full-time with my businesses and I’m now excited about the progress of my online sushi business, Annie’s Sushi. I sell sushi starter-kits, provide a free online sushi school, and sell Japanese tableware. There’s still a long way to go but I am fully determined to make it into a full time business. I really enjoy helping people organize sushi dinners and parties that make their friends go: “wooow”.
My other business is my blog, Annie’s Philosophy. I write about different things such as self-motivation, goal achievement, and how to live happily while working towards your dreams. My goal is to publish a book sometime next year with the material from the blog. It’s a really good feeling to receive emails from readers who enjoy the material and want to discuss my ideas further.
My dream consists of two main ideas: first, to be the owner of my own time – choosing what I want to do at any moment, not because I have to do something; the second is to be able to dedicate my time to philanthropic projects such as social entrepreneurship. I believe that the way we can be really happy is to feel a sense of higher purpose/to be of service to mankind. Basically, if I can help people and at the same time enjoy wealth then, for me, that’s the ideal dream life.
AS: I can absolutely relate to that. Already at the age of 16, my dream of having my own company started and I believed that it was possible. It was not until some months into my first job, that I really decided to take more action. The feeling was very much…is this it? Is this what my life and days will be like? What really made me react was the feeling of helplessness that a lot of people experience in such a work environment. It was like you had to give in to the reality of being an adult, responsible for paying the bills but without any passion for your work.
I promised myself that I would never surrender to a life in which I only enjoy two days of the week, or beg to sleep 5 more minutes in the morning, or have only 2 weeks of vacation that is planned in detail “only” 8 months in advance, or have anxiety on Sunday evenings just because Monday is coming up. The idea of suffering through your life is just sad and I think that people who never follow their dreams have a lot of regrets when becoming older.
I truly believe that you can create your dream life and move beyond the gray with your own determination. The first step is taking full responsibility for all the aspects in your life. Don’t blame your parents or society; it’s up to you now to show you can make it.
Q: What fears do you face as you chase your dreams?
AS: There are always things that create doubt and most of the time it involves the approval of others. When choosing to go for your dreams you will endure a lot of criticism – for being selfish and for doing everything that your critics don’t dare to do. It also means living your life quite differently and saying no to many of the activities and choices that most people make. The biggest fear I have is how to combine a family life with big ambitions to build businesses and how to dedicate enough time to my loved ones. Thankfully, I have a wonderful boyfriend and supportive family so I am very lucky to have that support. Being an eternal optimist I also think that no matter what happens, I’ll handle it somehow.
Fears can also be a very good way to grow personally. If you really think about what scares you on your path towards your dreams, then you have a lot of opportunities to grow. How about public speaking? Setting up a business? Investing? Selling? There are many fears out there that have the potential to help you grow. If your heart is set on establishing and making a success of a business, accessing the many benefits of technologies available to business owners should be a priority.
AS: The most inspirational thing for me is to picture myself in a couple of years from now, successful and with accomplishments that help people live a better life. Since I was a bit introverted and shy as a child, I really get motivated by the idea of growing more in confidence and being able to inspire others through public speaking. The idea of leaving a legacy – something that will continue for longer than my own life – also inspires me.
Q: If you could give one piece of advice to someone else who is struggling to move beyond the gray and follow a dream, what would it be?
AS: This is such a difficult question because there are so many things to mention, but if I can only choose one it is the importance of having persistence. When I look back at the other projects I had since the age of 16, this is really the decisive factor for failure. I didn’t give them enough time and even when I started to see small breakthroughs, I wanted more, faster, and differently, and then I started over with a new business project. I would also tell other entrepreneurs not to overlook the legalities that are involved when investing in a new business. It can be worth looking for a trademark lawyer early on to save the headaches further down the line.
I think the reason why so many fail when it comes to persistence is the very nature of entrepreneurship – we want to make things happen now and if it doesn’t work then we must change it and try again. It’s also very attractive to come up with a new business idea and think, “wow, that will really work well” and, comparing it with your 1-4 year old business, the new idea seems so much more exciting. But if you look at a lot of very successful people in any field you will notice that they spent years doing the same things, improving, changing some features but always staying true to the original dream.
Persistence is truly a sign of self-development and in order to have it we need to find ways to keep ourselves motivated and on track. Obviously, it’s going to be hard work, and it’s going to be challenging. You need to have the motivation and belief to tackle every aspect of your business, including the tough parts, such as the financial side of things. There are always ways to get around the tough and challenging parts; for instance, in the case of finance, draw up a financial model to lay it out in a way that’s easier to understand. Just don’t give up! If you continue with persistence and determination, always asking for feedback, then there is no other result possible then success.