“Entrepreneurship is full of adrenalin and a combination of good and bad surprises,” explains Ergüney. Even before Ergüney and Hnátek launched their first project they had already won their first award, in 2013, for the Most Innovative Product.
“At that time we were even without any physical product,” says Ergüney. “Soon after we also won several awards and nominations such as a ‘Promising Innovation’ nomination, 2nd place in Nastartujtese competiti by Komerčni Banka, 2nd place in Smart Challenge Czech Republic and 3rd place in Grant by AMSP.”
Ergüney explains that getting grants and awards is not as easy as it sounds. They require a lot of work and effort starting with networking at related business events, which is time consuming. In addition to preparing pages of a business plan, filling out applications and preparing engaging presentations is all a part of putting your best foot forward in order to win.
“No grant just slips into your pocket,” she says, explaining that you need to take time off from working on the business for a while in order to take advantage of the opportunity. “We like to jump at every single chance and so we go for it every time!”
This strategy has proved successful since Ergüney’s startups have been either nominated for or have won eight awards in the past three years. All these nominations and awards bring a good reputation, brand recognition, and awareness. In addition, it helps entrepreneurs make good media contacts and build credibility.
“On our side, it brings us a huge motivational boost and confidence as entrepreneurs,” says Ergüney. “It’s a light at the end of the tunnel after days full of up and downs. But on the other hand the real award for us is a real, satisfied customer.”
Starting a business isn’t all fun and games: the awards come at the price of hard work. Financial planning was the hardest part for Ergüney as well as learning the technological know-how of the product. Besides these two challenges, being a first time entrepreneur in a foreign country with no knowledge of the language was a big obstacle at the beginning. This however got much better over time with experience.
The last three years have been a great adventure for Ergüney and Milan, who went from having dinner in Turkey on a cold evening in January 2013 to starting a business just six months later. The multicultural business partners had to do a lot of their work online.
“At the time, Milan moved from Istanbul to the USA for studies while I stayed in my hometown to continue working,” Ergüney recalls. “We worked on our business plan online, which allowed us to cross the ocean and the time difference to set up our own company and prepare for the development and launch of Galavito in the Czech Republic.”
Their excitement about the idea of a heated table turned into a successful business: today you can find Galavito heating tables in various hotels and restaurants in Prague, including on the roof of U Prince. This was no easy feat and required a lot of work and planning.
“We began the process with a detailed business plan together with market research,” explains Ergüney. “We learned many things about the market sector, regulations, and all the necessary conditions to be able to produce our own product.”
The business duo spent a lot of time scrutinizing all the details, investigating the sector, business, official issues, competitors, and regulations. Ergüney also contacted all of her entrepreneurial connections to get insights on how running businesses works all over the world, with a particular focus on the Czech Republic, where they planned to start it all.
Just one project wasn’t enough for the ambitious team; and they started a second project, ČeskoTurecko/ÇekTürk almost simultaneously. The second project offers services to connect the Czech and Turkish business and social worlds.
“It emerged naturally as the Czech and Turkish connection is very familiar to us,” says Ergüney. “Currently it is a little bit schizophrenic as we are running two completely different projects – the production of something physical and also providing services.”
There are pros and cons to running two businesses at the same time. While it is difficult and definitely not something Ergüney would recommend to every entrepreneur, she likes to experience the freedom of varying her daily tasks and the business she is working on every single day.
“You never get bored,” she says. “I strongly recommend having more than one single business to every crazy and brave entrepreneur!”
Her advice to young entrepreneurs is not to listen to the negative people around you – especially the ones who have never tried to fulfill their dreams. She points out that youth is an advantage for entrepreneurs because you can focus on only the businesses without having the responsibility of taking care of children and family.
Photos: From the Archive of Ece Ergüney and Milan Hnátek