When I was eighteen, the police were chasing me out of the mall for skateboarding, and I was wondering whether I should start considering this whole "work" thing. At the same age, Jasmin already had her own company: a poledance school in Chur, Switzerland.
Currently, my main office is wherever I can scrounge a table in a cafe. I'm having trouble finding anyone to delegate my work to. Jasmin, on the other hand, has employees running her bricks-and-mortar company for her in another country, whilst she lives in Berlin.
She taught herself enough programming to build the company website herself: artofpole.ch (and, in my opinion, did a better job than many "professional" web developers).
We met in Berlin. I ended up teaching dance in her school in Chur, training with the pole dancers for a week, and living out my long-time dream of hiking in the mountains and falling asleep in the shadows of snow-capped mountains. The moral to that story is: if I was suffocating in some stuffy office cubicle between 9 to 5 every day, the odds of me ending up teaching in a poledance school in the Swiss Alps would be pretty close to zero.
I wanted to know how on earth Jasmin managed to set up such a substantial business so quickly, let alone run it remotely, so I interviewed her for this blog. Her approach applies to any style of business: purely online, or those with a physical location; whether the business is writing code, or requires stretchy pants and abs of steel.
Why did you decide to start the company?
I was in my apprenticeship as a draftsperson, and I needed more responsibility. I just liked the idea of having something of my own.
What sort of support did you get from your friends and family when you decided to start the company?
My parents lent me 3000€, and I paid it back after 3 months. Lots of friends started coming to my lessons, and helped me to hang up posters and hand out flyers on the street. Another friend lent me money, which I paid back monthly.
Why did you decide to stop teaching yourself, and run the business remotely?
I didn't want to stop teaching - I had to. I finished my film-school course, and wanted to live somewhere with better job opportunities as a freelancer. So I moved to Berlin. It wasn't easy to make this decision, because I loved teaching.
How much time do you put into the company per week? How much did you put in when you were there yourself?
Right now it is between 10-50 hours a week. It really depends whether I am organizing workshops, creating a new website or promoting something. Or if I am just doing the weekly accounting.
How did you find the new teachers?
Most of them had been my students for a long time, and I knew them very well.
How often do you go back to check on things in person?
Usually at least once a month.
What are the biggest challenges?
I miss my students. That's the only challenge. I am in almost daily contact with my teachers - even more so than when I was still teaching.
What's the company structure? Do you have contractors or employees?
I have three teachers, and they are employees. They do the teaching in addition to their main job. I am doing all the organizing, accounting, support via email and phone for my students, web design, graphic design, promotion, booking, workshops, and so on. My teachers have their fixed lessons, and sometimes we organise private lessons or events.
How would you grow things? Lots of small studios, or one big one?
I would have one big one. I prefer quality and not quantity. In a little city like Chur it doesn't really make sense to grow, but in a bigger city it would.
How do you decide what work you will do yourself, and what you will outsource?
I do everything I can by myself. If I can't do something, I just learn it. There are a few things I can't do by myself, and those are the only things I outsource: teaching, printing posters, stickers and flyers, and hosting my website.
I save a lot of money by doing things like web design and graphic design, but that's not the reason I do them. I just enjoy them, and to see how everything comes together. If it wasn't fun, I wouldn't run my company anymore.
Where is the first place you look when you need to outsource something?
Always friends, or contacts I've made.
Is there anything else you think is important for people running a business that outsources much of its work?
Always listen to your gut instinct! You need to trust the people you are working with, and stay in contact with them: not to control them, but to work together as a team.
Much of the work and the time requirement stayed the same for Jasmin when she made the switch from on-site to remote management. She just shifted emphasis to more support of her teachers, and less teaching herself. Then, the company was ready to be run remotely.
Invoicing, emailing, taxation, dealing with customers, and the other core tasks of any business are all online and location-independent, and are basically the same for every business. If you get people you trust to take over any remaining tasks, and then use that extra time to support them, then bingo: you have a location-independent business.
Please write to me! Or at least "like" or "share" this post so your friends can be inspired to start their own business. You can check out poledancing in Chur, here. Photos courtesy of Art of Pole.
|It's Monday morning, but I don't have to go to work. Ever again.|
|Become a Part-Time Superhuman: Work a 4-Hour-Day|
|Adequate is better than more: your life as the perfect kitchen|
|This is the Sales Manual you should have been given at graduation|
|I'll build your app to help you become independent. For free. Then you can quit your day job.|
|Why there is no Facebook killer: the death of the P2P dream|
|How to become a freelancer in Berlin: the tricks and the traps|
|How to write a proposal they can't refuse|
|Programming basics for everyone: how to try coding right now, and why you need to.|
|Poledancing versus programming: break away from your business and run it remotely.|
Needless to say, this blog isn't financial or legal advice, an excuse for getting fired, or promising that any of these ideas will work for you. The companies or people I mention may not agree with my opinions here. Don't do anything reckless, damaging or hurtful to anyone! In the future you might need your bridges unburnt. (c)2014-2015 James Hudson