“I stayed comfortable for too long”

If you have a successful business, it takes guts to start another, says Barbara Soltysinska, CEO of Indahash.

Having built two booming businesses before her 30th birthday, Barbara was well aware of the huge personal sacrifices that come with launching a company. But, as one of Poland’s smartest entrepreneurs, she also knew an opportunity when she saw one – and she saw that influencer marketing was set to be the hottest ticket in social media. So, would she sit back and enjoy the fruits of her labours, or strike out and do it all over again…?

I started as a trainee in a PR agency. I spent around six years there and threw everything I had at it, learning from the ground up. By the time I left, I was vice marketing director. One of the big lessons I learned was not to try to control everything or, indeed, everyone.

In the early days, I’d keep asking team members for updates on projects that I’d given them, but it was counterproductive. My boss told me that things happen much more efficiently when you give people responsibility and then let them get on with what you’ve asked them to do. Another lesson I’ve learned is never to assume. I was once in Singapore and had a meeting booked for four in the afternoon. I assumed that there wouldn’t be a problem ordering a taxi or an Uber, but I soon found out that, over there, it’s a little more complicated than that. Long story short: I was very late for the meeting. In Singapore, lateness is inexcusable. It was a very embarrassing experience.

In 2013, I co-founded a company called LifeTube, which is a platform that connects brands to YouTube vloggers from Central and Eastern Europe. We were also a production house for branded YouTube content and saw success quickly, but I knew that in order to scale and build an international business I had to look at the (then) new and emerging social-media platforms, like Instagram. Creating YouTube videos can be a long process, but these new social platforms were short, snappy and really marketing friendly. You could produce content that could be posted instantly from a smartphone and you could streamline it even further. It looked like a golden opportunity.

However, I had previously set up two successful businesses, investing my savings, emotional energy and sacrificing a lot of my social life in the process. I was still in my 20s and many of my friends and family encouraged me to enjoy my success, not to launch another huge project. Plus, I knew that starting something wasn’t without risk. I decided not to make my move.

For a while, it was a good decision. I enjoyed my life and the business was going well, but with every month that passed, I could see that there was more and more potential with social media, particularly with small and medium influencers. These people produce the sort of very authentic, niche content that followers love and brands want to be associated with. Eventually, I made the decision to exit from LifeTube and to set up the new business, little knowing I’d have to juggle both of these processes over a period of almost a year.

The whole process involved a lot of my time and attention. It meant that already-crazy hours were even more stretched. I was also trying to hire across global offices, plus I was getting married and trying to find somewhere to live.

In the meantime, we saw an increasing number of competitors enter the marketplace. If I’d been able to focus 100% on the new business sooner, I could have introduced measures that would have put us in a stronger position.

However, I more than made up for any lost time. When I finally exited from the previous business, everything accelerated. The new company has seen year-on-year growth of over 100% in the past 12 months, and we now have seven offices worldwide and over 300,000 influencers on our books. It’s been quite a ride!

I still work a lot, but I work smarter. I have a very structured life, get regular updates from heads of departments, have clear responsibilities for everyone and an app that helps me prioritise. I plan for worst- and best-case scenarios and, of course, I never assume I can get a taxi instantly.

This interview was carried out by SIM7’s Simeon de la Torre and first appeared in easyJet Traveller magazine. To read the latest issue (and the entire back catalogue of magazines), visit: https://ink-global.com/our-clients/portfolio/easyjet-traveller/