What does it take to become an entrepreneur? What are the main challenges and why is it worth starting such a journey?
Kasia Krzyzanowski is the founder of Neighbour Magazine, a magazine dedicated to sustainable living. From slow living to sustainability, from circular economy to regenerative practices, Neighbour Magazine brings to its readers the stories of the people around us who are making and doing, creating places, spaces, products, and ideas that make our world a better place.
Kasia shares with us how she came up with the idea for her magazine, her passion for providing practical solutions to the current environmental crisis, and her determination to keep a positive outlook.
Kasia talks about the perks and the challenges of being an entrepreneur, the importance of having a clear vision and defined goals, as well the crucial importance of finding people different from us that can help us grow our business beyond what we could do on our own.
A very honest and down-to-earth conversation about what it means to be an entrepreneur, this episode is ideal for people who are considering starting their entrepreneurial journey.
Welcome, everyone to know their brand podcast, a podcast designed to champion and support gender inclusion in business.
Welcome, everyone. I'm Giulia, your host, a social entrepreneur dedicated to helping women in business. Join me and my fantastic guests to find out more about gender inclusion, and to be inspired by their incredible stories. Welcome, everyone, to a new episode of our podcast. Today with me, I have Paja, Chris Crichton, offski caches from Canada, and came to Luxembourg a few years ago, and she runs an amazing magazine called neighbour. I invited her today with us because she's a really truly inspiring entrepreneur. And I would like for casual to share her story with us. Welcome on our podcast.
Thank you for inviting me.
Thank you so much for coming. So can you give us a little bit about a bit of background about where you come from? When do you arrive in Luxembourg? What do you do?
Okay, and so I'm from Toronto, Canada. And I came to Luxembourg already 12 years ago. So I've been here quite a while. I worked in communication and marketing for many years for different tech companies. And then I around COVID, actually, during the lockdown, I started really becoming even more interested in environmental topics and in permaculture and. And that's when I decided, Okay, I'm going to launch this magazine idea I've had for a few years. And so I already was thinking about it in 2018, to create a magazine to help people discover basically the inspirational businesses and initiatives that exist around Luxenberg. Because for expats, they can be really quite hidden. And so I couldn't start right away, I had a baby and a son, who's a bit older. And then finally, after the lockdown the end of 2020, I decided, Okay, I'm going to stop my job, I'm going to take some time, and I'm going to really launch this magazine.
That was very brave, and actually is interesting, because I think a lot of people and Me included during the lockdown, we maybe we had the opportunity to really look or to reconsider what really matters in our life. So that's after lockdown is when I launched my social enterprise, you exactly lockdown launch a magazine sustainability. And I feel that a lot of people took that time to really reconsider priorities in life. But you actually went ahead and created something out to that, which is brilliant. And I know the magazine and is fantastic. But can you tell us a bit more? Exactly what do you do with the magazine? How does it work? Okay, so
So neighbour magazine, it's, it's an English right now. And it's published four times a year. So it was launched in November 2021. The first issue, the second issue came out in March of this year, and then the third will come out in September. So it's, it's a print magazine, but for subscribers, there's also a digital version. And we also have our news on our website. And in the magazine, the idea is to have a very beautiful minimalist look and feel there's no ads, as average magazines. And, and there's long form articles and beautiful photography, so you can really discover each initiative. And there's a really big focus on telling the story of the person behind the project. So what's their motivation and how did they get there. And the key focus here is, is to inspire people to live locally and sustainably in Luxembourg in the greater region.
Wow. Okay, so a couple of things that are so you said that there is not advertising. So the magazine is fully funded by the sales, I suppose in a case
or so. So there is there are corporate sponsored articles, okay, but there are no visual ads in the magazine. The idea is to also give people a break from you know, all the chaos of the internet and all the popups we see so they can really take the magazine and they can get away from their devices and just relax and enjoy it.
Alright, that's funny I've even seen the magazine annoyed is incredible. The level of the photography is just appeals you naturally no one just to be complimenting because you realise it's true like the first time I saw it. I was naturally attracted to take the time as you say to read it and See and look at the pictures. So how do you select the projects that you want to cover the people come to you or you discover them, you know them bit, mix up the shoe.
So both are possible. I think for the first issue, it doesn't have a particular theme, or at least it didn't from the beginning, I just wanted to show a mix of different projects. And so I looked at many that I already had heard of before. But some of them were also suggested by the writers. So there's a really amazing article about community supported agriculture project. So it's a farm where you have to be a member, and then you get a weekly basket of vegetables. And it's called Foom. Grace, and actually the writer, Annie, she is a member of it. So she suggested it, and she interviewed the farmer who runs it, and she was she loves the project, and you can really feel it through the article.
Okay, fantastic. And so, when you say sustainability, you talk about the environment environment, mostly is that the focus of the of your,
yes, the main focus is solutions, basically, to the climate crisis, so and on regenerative solutions, so it means, you know, not just okay, reducing emissions, but really things that you know, regenerate the soil and, and also are positive for us as humans regenerate, you know, our, our spirit and, and, you know, our connection to others, our connection to nature. But they're also, I mean, also different social topics are interesting. Also, artistic, cultural topics. So in the future, we also want to have more, more articles on on even artistic things that are happening in Luxembourg.
Okay, so also the spirit is not just the half. Okay, great. And so how was the first the first edition received, I saw personally, I saw a lot publicity about it, but I also mingle in this in that sphere of sustainability. So it's probably it's quite normal for me by what was the reception.
So it was I mean, it was really amazing. This kind of magazine doesn't exist in Luxembourg, I guess there are some around the world, you can find magazines with maybe a similar folk focus on the topics, or even a kind of minimalist look. But the in Luxembourg, that there wasn't anything and many people they talk about, yeah, how beautiful it is, and the design, which is a credit to the designers, of course, and the photographers, but also the content. There's there was one person who said, what she really liked about it is that it shows you the positive solutions that do exist. So because we hear so much about the climate crisis, and and you know, we all feel this anxiety, and it's easy to switch off and say, Okay, I just can't deal with this. I can't think about it. But here, the idea is to show well, this is what exists, this is what people are doing. This is how you personally can, can be involved, you know, shop locally at this farm, or do this in your own backyard, and
fantastic. And so how did you find people to collaborate with you how you went about that.
So in different ways, for one of the very first things I did was focus on the branding, because this was something very important to me, the look and feel. I really wanted it to be beautiful, and to really reflect the vision that I had. And so I contacted Linda and David, who they actually used to live in Luxembourg. And now they live in Greece, but they still work with Luxembourgish clients. And so they're their design agency. It was called kenwick. No, it's called The Art of euphoria. And so I already had seen them years before, and love their work. And so I asked them to do the branding, and the first video as well about the magazine. And then later, some of the writers or people that I had met before the photographer's one of the main photographers is Levine. She's a good friend of mine, and she's an amazing photographer. But in general, it's been I've met people through others, as it always goes in Luxembourg. And for some of the writers. I had to google English writers in Luxembourg, because they're actually very few and and I managed to come in contact with some very interesting ones.
Fantastic. Um, so what's what's the vision for you for the magazine what is what you want to achieve with this magazine in long term
in low income. So the first the first goal, maybe medium term is to have the project be good Continue sustainably, financially sustainably, in the original idea of, you know, publishing it four times a year. But also now with my business partner, Lisa, we are aiming to create a larger media so to have daily news and be able to update the online news to be able to really cover many, many stories in Luxembourg. Because of course, in the magazine, you know, we might have 10 articles. So it's four times a year, we can't talk about everything, but there's so much happening every day, so many new initiatives or events or all kinds of things. So you want to be able to publish much more and on a regular basis. We also, right now it's in English, and we want to continue reaching more English speakers. But we're also thinking about having a French version, maybe next year, too, because the idea is to reach not only people in Luxembourg, but also the greater region. So to reach people in Belgium and France or French will be very useful.
Absolutely. And, and so all of this sounds amazing, like and if you know, people listening now like okay, so she had an idea, she went out, find people to work with are produced it, everybody loved it. Easy peasy. Is that really that easy to become an entrepreneur?
So no, of course, you know, I had an idea. And I am a person who, you know, when I have an idea, I just, I do you know, a little bit of background research, and then I just go for it, if it seems possible. And that's probably a good thing. Because if I saw everything that really needs to be done behind it, maybe I wouldn't have done it. Who knows. But yeah, I mean, creating the company, itself, you know, that you already have so many administrative things to deal with a company is much more complicated than just being self employed, because I was independent already for many years before. So that's already a bit complicated, but it's okay. But having a company, then there's so many more obligations. And, yeah, and it's a huge learning curve, there's not really a way to just know all of this. It's, it's this experience of okay, you get a letter from some administration saying, Please do this. And that's when you learn that you need to do it. So it's, yeah, it's tough. It's here, it's not only about publishing a magazine, that's what I wanted to do publish a magazine and tell stories, but there's always this, this big learning curve of administration behind it. But then also with the magazine, there's so so much more. And it's much more of course, than done for one person, launching it was one thing, but continuing it, having, you know, all the work to promote it to create awareness to talk to resellers, because it's sold in different shops and Manage Subscriptions. It's really, really a lot of work. And this is why this spring, I asked Lisa, who had been doing the social media for the magazine, I asked her if she wants to join me and really help move it forward. And so she agreed. So now there's two of us. And I'm really happy about that.
Yeah, I look, thank you for your honesty, having done a similar I think had a similar journey as yours. So I was independent for many years. And when you set up accompany, like you said, If I had known what I put myself, maybe I would have thought about it twice. And I'm glad like you that I didn't. But it's important that we talk about this because not to discourage people simply because it's better if you're a bit more prepared, maybe. And if you do a bit more research, like you sometimes very silly stuff. And I'm like What was I supposed to do that? I didn't know that. And I think a partner is a great thing. I personally know Lisa, and I know she's gonna be fantastic, a fantastic partner, but not everybody has the chance to have a partner. And so it's very important to be prepared. I always says that basically, I think open a company is pretty much doing an MBA, an intensive MBA, because there are things that you learn in terms of other stuff, administrative, administrative, but also all of the financial side of it. And you know, it's it's a, it's something, it's a bit like motherhood, you know, everybody tells you how amazing is to have children and they forget to tell you that there is not what was behind that. I remember a friend of mine told me want to share the child sick Why didn't tell me like what is it you have children why the interview was so hard. I'm like, because you love it and you know, in the end is the best thing at least for me what's the best thing but yeah, there is a little work that goes behind the scenes and that doesn't spoil the amazing experience of being an entrepreneur but we need to Be prepared. And so now that you've taken Lisa, how do you see the relationship between you two go? Because obviously, this was your baby. But you're sharing with with someone else. You ask her actually. So it means that you are prepared to develop and grow your your team is that is that your your, your focus in the meantime, to have more people working with you?
Kasia Speaker 15:28
Exactly. So the idea is that the two of us who will take things forward, but we do want to hire people as well. And of course, financing is important. So we're looking for financing together. But we are looking to have interns and also have regular journalists working for us. This is not going to happen tomorrow. But we're hoping really in the coming months that something like this will be possible. But with Risa, so like you said, it's my baby. And, and this is why I started alone, because I really had a particular vision. And I really wanted to make it happen. But I didn't know anybody who had exactly the same kind of vision. But actually through the magazine, it's attracted attracts people, of course, who have the same ideas, and who, you know, who appreciate, for example, local initiatives. And through the magazine, I've actually met many different people, you know, writers or photographers who really feel connected to it and really want to be part of it. And they're amazing, they become amazing part of it. And Lisa, actually, I have been working with her since April 2021. So more than a year, I came across her on Instagram, I think, because what she does is she's she does social media management. And I saw that she was very much into sustainability, and had a very beautiful style. So I thought, okay, she should be the right person to manage the social media. Because if I had to do that as well, there would be no social media, that's for sure. So So from April, she was already managing it. And we collaborated really on a daily basis, because we would co write posts, so she would write something and I would suggest something. So we really were used to talking about these topics every day. And over time, I thought, well, actually, she really has a lot of great ideas that go beyond just social posts, you know about how to develop the business, different things that can be done. And so I knew that she would be a really great person to do this with in partnership. And yeah, and going forward, it is a change. So yeah, as soon as we agreed to be partners, she also kind of started to do social media. Take the initiative, instead of me saying, Okay, let's write about this. So she would say, Okay, let's write about this. So it's already, I have to just change, change the other my perspective and okay, I'm not in control of everything, but that's fine. Because I trust this person. And, and yeah, and we can go forward together.
Thank you so much for sharing this, because I can totally relate to that. And actually, you, you, you mentioned, okay, you started alone, because you had this vision. But it's very important, especially the beginning that you find someone that shares the same vision, because otherwise, as you say, you need to let go. But that can be dangerous. In a sense, if someone takes it to different direction to what you You are the mind. So it's a brave decision to do that. And to, you know, delegate and really let go. But I think that what makes makes you position strong, apart from the technology is, as I said before, and she, she does social media, but she does it only for projects that are related to sustainability. So clearly, she's definitely someone that shares the same passion and you service in values. But for people that may mean working in different sectors. And even if it's not sustainability, I always say it's very important you understand what is your purpose, whatever that is, I mean, and that you're very clear on that, and what are your values and ensure that everybody you take on board with you, they Oh, they share the same values, or at least they can bring them to life in their life. They might not be their personal values necessarily, but they need to be able to bring them to life because otherwise you're gonna have a mismatch. And that's when companies start to break down especially at the beginning, but to be honest, also large organisations, we need to understand how you can bring the virus of the organisation to life. But yeah, maybe even a bit intimidating to take someone and having to let go. And so,
but I would say that finding somebody who is different to you is also very important. And you know it, I think that that only can be valuable to have a second person or even a third person who has a different background and different ideas and different strengths. And that can only be positive. So in this case, I can see Lisa, and, you know, she's really great at things that I'm also great at, and I can really be amazed by that and, and say, okay, great, you know, she, she's an amazing speaker, and very social and I'm a bit more reserved.
Absolutely, diversity is absolutely key, that's what we talk about. That's why we need women in male dominated boards, and organisations. And, and that's why we need people different from us to run our business, because otherwise, it's just the same thinking all the time. And as you say, as much as you may have the same values, you do need to be different to bring different things to the table. And that's the power of diversity and what makes a company effectively successful. Otherwise, you're gonna end up doing the same thing on and on, and on and on. I just would like to ask you a couple of final questions. One is, what is for you, they ally to being an entrepreneur, what's the part of the being entrepreneurial as the most.
So there's maybe two things. One is, is freedom in the sense that you can decide where you're going to be and what you're going to be doing, at what time, you don't have freedom to not worry. But you, I really appreciate that, that, okay, if if today I want to work from home, I'm going to work from home, if I want to go and you know, meet somebody in the middle of the day, I can do that anywhere in the country. That that's, that's something that's really important to me. And it always was actually, but the really the biggest highlight is to be able to work on something meaningful every single day, something that's meaningful to you. And, and even if it's, you know, small sort of boring tasks, like, Okay, I need to do some accounting, but it's still for the, for the purpose of this magazine, controlling these sustainable initiatives and inspiring people. That's, you know, that's the purpose, and everything is tied to it that I do every day.
I love it. And I totally agree with you like the freedom, as you say, not the freedom to not work, like what I started yet, or I can do whatever I want, if they want to work, or whatnot, you actually end up working a lot. But it's how you are Yeah, exactly more. But based where and how you work. I remember one day, I was travelling back from Italy, in the car, we had like a 12 hour journey. And I worked for the 12 hours, I you know, I put my my computer like hooked on to my phone, and I work for 12 hours, it was fantastic. I didn't have to take the day off just because I was travelling for 12 hours. And that is an incredible, I think, freedom that you choose how you want to spend the day in and having something that passion that you're passionate about. And I mean, sometimes people think, okay, you are passionate about what you do, because the social impact, like yours has an environmental impact. But I think that the moment you start your business is really you're passionate about if you start your businesses because you're passionate about whatever it is that you're doing. And once you find that passion is really difficult to then to let go. And it's good because it really mostly motivates you. It's your purpose. And for the very last question, I would like to ask you, what will be a word of advice for someone who has listened to these past podcasts and says, Oh, actually, I had this idea I would like to start, what would you say to them?
So I would recommend not simply starting not just saying okay, I have an idea. I'm going to start it tomorrow because that just often doesn't work. If you simply start by, you know, creating a website and saying that you exist. You need to do more before you get to that point. And in Luxembourg, there are some really good programmes right now. So actually, in 2019, I did the new coat impulse programme, which is it's it's really only getting better and better. And it's a free programme offered through the governments for social impact. Startups is ugly. If you have an idea. You can go through this programme and you get group coaching with many other people who are doing the same thing you can learn about, you know, financial aspects, tax and legal things. And also, you know how to create a business plan, how to test your idea, do you have potential clients, and they take you through all of this. And it's extremely valuable. It was really good to do it when I had the idea. And it helped me make the idea more concrete as well. And, and now, I know that there's also a collaboration with messes, which is also from the government, it's the administration that deals with sustainable business, and you can actually become an si s, which is associated impacts OCL. So they help you see how you can get this special agreement, it's called for your company, which has certain advantages as well. So I would recommend looking into a programme, contacting nuco just seeing if they can offer you something. And then yeah, trying to do a lot of research into every different aspect before you start. That's really, really valuable.
Yeah, and just to add with it, the inputs as well, when I came in the year after you, I think I got it all the one after you. And for people that don't work in sustainability, they also have the same type of programmes for non sustainable businesses. So I think it's a very good point to try to find someone something that can help you, rather than just jumping in and then having to retrofit a lot of things or just giving up because you didn't invest you already are I love what we did with, with impulse one, you know, I'm like, I'm just gonna help women say, Okay, what how, you know, like, really challenges to think how you're going to make this sustainable. And, and it's definitely finding someone, and can be different shapes and forms, even if people because we are in Luxembourg, and people might listen to us from other parts of the worlds, but it's still always, usually, there are always programmes catered for startups, you can find. And also, another thing is important, you mentioned, Max is the networking, like find people that, you know, like incubators, in areas, places where you can find people that are sharing the same journey, because I think that is one one thing we haven't touched upon where being an entrepreneur can also be a very lonely journey, there are times you know, where you have to make all the decisions, and it can be a bit daunting. So finding people that are in the same, you know, stage or they've been there. And that is I think, is really valuable as well.
I actually also was a member of Cobis, which is a cooperative in ash. That is, it's also for businesses with positive impact. But yeah, there it was, it was also very nice to be part of this small community of entrepreneurs that are all launching something completely different activities, but all with similar challenges, you know, communication, and this and this, so you could ask each other questions and, and also just cross promote, I mean, every, every new person you meet, you know, it helps your network and networking is so important. It's something that I didn't really, yeah, didn't really think about in the past. But yeah, knowing other people in who are also entrepreneurs, even if they have a totally different activity, it's so valuable, you know, if it just for moral support, or even to help meet somebody else, and yeah.
And also to challenge you a little bit like I have a programme, my company, you know, the brand has a programme for startups. And I just launched the like, I have several programmes by I recently launched one for groups, instead of doing one to one take groups of entrepreneurs. And what I saw, and what I was looking for, and it really happened is that they challenge each other, when positively not like so Oh, what do you mean by that? Oh, because they come from different backgrounds, and they work in different fields. You get that perspective, the fresh eyes because when you look at your project, you know, you know, you know it inside out, it makes perfect sense for you. But actually having someone that think differently. I found it was very beneficial. They told me they found it very beneficial as well. So it's about being open to that feedback and thinking, not just saying oh, well, that's their opinion, but it's wrong. Okay, if they look at the website and they don't actually see what you're doing. You need to change the website. Yeah.