Tanya | From financial investor to creative entrepreneur
By Eleni Meraki
My mother worked very hard to steer clear of the creative world working in fashion herself. I studied finance and economics in Canada, where I grew up, yet I always knowing that my heart was never in it but not convinced enough being a designer was my vocation either. After working as an account manager in advertising and financial analyst across Canada and the UK, I accidentally found myself in Amsterdam. The easy nature of the city allowed me to begin to explore my creative side whilst working in banking, and this is where my journey into creative entrepreneurship began.
5 THINGS ABOUT
GIVING PLACES A PERSONALITY | BLOODY MARYS | THE COMMERCIAL STUFF | FRIENDS WITH COOL PLACES
LEAP OF FAITH
Soon after I moved to Amsterdam I got a job as a junior analyst for an investment bank. I was doing very well and climbing up the career ladder rapidly. The crisis caused turmoil in the financial industry making it unsexy. Parallel to that I just decided a lack of passion for banking would never make me truly succeed on the self-actualization front. I gave it five years, it was enough.
In this time I had started organizing parties with my best friend George. It all started off as a joke as we were missing the Halloween parties we had back home in Canada. So soon, our parties we in high demand & we even indulged in a mid-week party concept alongside our banking alter egos.
When I saw a cafe being rented cheaply in our local area I felt my banker salary could support such a fun habit. Up until now we were renting the places we were having our parties, and we had calculated that by hosting events twice monthly it would be enough to pay our rent!
We took the leap of faith and kept our regular bank jobs. This was the start of ‘G&T’s a really nice place (for awesome things exclusively for the discerning’ which was open only on weekends and only to people who heard about it though the grapevine. I was in charge of interiors & menu design and concept creation. Our brunch concept was new and refreshing in the Amsterdam scene and we received a lot of attention from day one. Later we began art-expos, pop-ups, movie nights….if it was fun, it was our business.
We had to up our game it felt when we got featured in the first NL Vogue Magazine in the underground trends section. It all started to get a bit serious and we decided to make the final jump and quit our banking jobs within 7 months of opening.
BENNYS & MARYS
After 1,5 years my journey at G&Ts was finished and I was excited to work on new personal projects. After 8 months working on adding practicality to a private mansion on the Nes I entered period of styling and managing airbnb properties under the name Friends With cool Places. This company utilized my passion for spaces and hospitality and used the large network I had developed through my various job roles and experiences in Amsterdam.
Simultaneously, I missed the Bloody Mary business and started a brunch concept Bennys and Marys. I create a bespoke menu under the B&M concept and organize and design everything from the chefs, to the personnel, to the presentation on the plates. I take the concept to different locations around the city of Amsterdam and these last for as short as a weekend, to a couple of months courtship with a venue but really I was looking for a residency & commitment.
FRIENDS WITH COOL PLACES
I was hooked on Airbnb from when they just entered Amsterdam. By the time the secret was out, I knew how to manage a property for renting purposes. A close friend approached me one day to help him remodeling his house and manage his property independently. He liked the design of my own house & G&T’s really really nice place and believed in me. This was the start of the second company - friends with cool places. Today, I have 10 properties & I assist friends with buying, styling, listing and managing their houses.
When we opened the cafe we had invested our own money and so much sweat. For the renovation of the café we had asked help from friends & family to paint and do some simple renovation work with a big impact. We turned a brown café white while leaving its brown café soul intact.
When I decided to move away from G&T’s I had agreed on a fee to cover my investment. It was all I needed to break even and move on. I found myself at square one. Being a freelancer is tough, it takes a lot of investment and hard work to be creative and build things up. It took me almost 3 years to figure out my routine.
With Bennys & Marys I worked on a profit share basis which was reasonable but no goldmine. This highlighet the fact this remained a hobby.
With Friends With Cool Places I continue to use the percentage based payment because I like the idea of sharing the wealth I create for my clients.
THE TOUGH TIMES
- It is difficult when you don’t have a fixed goal with your creative ambition. You simply don’t know where things are going and that can be scary when you’ve been used to safety.
- Having the safety net of a company is something that I started appreciating whilst being a freelancer. Pursuing a career based on your heart can take a lot of energy out of you.
- Freelancing can put a lot of pressure on you money wise. But you cannot let the unstable nature of pursuing your dream put you off, these things take a lot of time and investment.
5 INSIDER TIPS
- Start doing a hobby alongside your regular work and let it build up from there.
- Make sure money doesn’t become the objective. If money begins to depress you, it will stunt your creative flow.
- Ignore competition. If your heart & soul is in something, the rest doesn’t matter
- Don’t get stressed. Stress is bitchy and leads nowhere. Take time, breathe, be nice
- LYNDA.com is a great tool for learning! I did a lot of helpful courses online on this website to get me started.
Written by Eleni Meraki
Eleni is the founder of Guts & Tales. She lives in Athens and enjoys roaming the world as much as she can. She is a multi-passionate entrepreneur with big dreams and a big mission; to empower you to live a life you truly enjoy living.
Click on the About Eleni tab to read her full story.