At FierceGentleman.com, we’re always trying to put the spotlight on the unsung Fierce Gentlemen who are already out there, making the world better, one dirty nappy at a time.
We call these Fierce Gentleman Profiles and today, we bring you a good one
Reader Erik Sterner now works with Antlos, the “AirBnB of the sea”, based on Venice. Prior to that, he helped build one of the largest event production and music companies in the south of Sweden.
At 22, he is an exemplar for our younger readers who want to get financially successful and don’t want to wait until their later years to “make it.”
Just like DJ Just-A-Gent (who we interviewed late last year), he found his path to financial freedom by doing what he truly loved and was passionate about.
Erik got his start in event planning, and had helped build his first business to the seven-figure mark before he turned 20.
Listen to this in-depth interview where we cover influences, inspiration, the value of hard work, and what he thinks is the most important mindset for young entrepreneurs.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Apologies for some of the audio glitches on this interview, we were interviewing via Skype, which sometimes has some quality issues).
FG: What’s the story of you getting started with the events company?
ES: A friend of mine is still the owner of this company, contacted me pretty early and wanted me to have a meeting, sit down and talk to him about this. At the beginning I saw it as a really nice hobby, something I could do at the same time with the studies, but then I realized — I took the decision, I wanted to get successful and I wanted to be as good as possible within this.
When you decide to do something really big, you just have to keep fighting.Erik Sterner
So I started to work hard, I started to read some studies, I started to read some books about this, talk to all the people I found interesting in the subject, I think that’s when I realized I really wanted to be successful, and in that time I already [decided] to work hard — when you decide to do something really big you just have to keep fighting. I learned a lot along the way and I tried to think outside the box as much as possible. Of course it’s hard but in some ways, as long as you work really hard and think it’s fun, then you just keep fighting for it.
FG: What were the early conversations like with your friend who brought you on in terms of ownership, or dividing up the company?
ES: He’s also a big entrepreneur working really hard for this, so of course I also have to thank him for all my success. When he contacted me I knew almost nothing about events or how to build up a huge business network or anything. It was just we discussed what we could do together, and which part of the company he could see me working really hard in. I just started listening to him and took in mind what he said to me, and I tried to make the best of the situation. In the beginning we didn’t talk any salary or money at all. We just thought it would be a fun opportunity to work together. That’s how it all began. There is a saying — to become the biggest one, you have to be the first one — and I think here in the southern part of Sweden we were the first forward-thinking event agency.
FG: What recommendation would you give to young entrepreneurs who are just getting started?
ES: It’s hard. There’s a lot you have to do. To find some inspiring people — I had some of my friends, my parents, pick anyone — you have to find those inspiring people where you can find the motivation. Then you have to take the decision where you say to yourself: “I’m getting successful no matter what it costs.” And when you make that decision there is no turning back. I’m not a quitter, and I like to really perform at the highest level I can, so even if you have the wind against you, sometimes and you have to work really hard, and sometimes you struggle, and sometimes you think “Okay, shit, I cannot do this all the way,” but when you made that decision to be successful, you can keep on fighting. And then you use your inspiring people to find some motivation when it feels pretty tough.
You have to make the decision where you say to yourself: “I’m getting successful no matter what it costs.” And when you make that decision there is no turning back.Erik Sterner
FG: Were there ever times in that business where you felt, “This is it, I might quit?”
ES: Yeah of course. [laughs] But when you feel really bad, that’s when you learn a lot. I think that’s when you build your success. You have to know how it feels to be really down in the shit, in the mud. To be happy when it’s all good. Of course, every successful person has met some struggles along the way, but I think you use them to learn and even more, to work really hard.
FG: Who are some role models you would say you look up to the most?
ES: Y’know, there’s many. JAY Z is a pretty cool guy, he’s got some pretty cool sayings. I found some earlier today, where he says “I believe you can speak things into existence.” And in one way I think it’s so true, because if you just keep believing something really hard, and you keep telling yourself, “I’m actually going to be successful,” then you will be one day and you will become [successful]. I’m a big fan of [JAY Z] and I love his music, and of course I have some others, in the business world…there’s a lot of them…I love the Chanel guy….Karl Lagerfield. He’s a really cool guy…he has inspired me a lot when it comes to clothing and when it comes to “playing it cool”, staying humble, and being relaxed in pretty hard situations. in the beginning I was very nervous when I was trying to do something but then I realized that I don’t have much to be nervous about, because it can’t turn out so very bad that I have to feel bad about it. So right now when I have a hard meeting or whatever, I just try to keep positive before I go in, and just be myself, and see it as an experience, and gaining knowledge along the way to get successful.
FG: You mentioned you had played competitive ice hockey from a pretty young age. What was the effect of that experience on your entrepreneurial success?
ES: To be able to work in pretty stressful situations, the determination to always have the mindset – when you really decide to work hard for something. And of course working in a team is hard, and you really have to get along with all the players in the team to get out with the best results. So playing in team sports and playing at a high level, you learn a lot, and I think I gained a lot of experiences to take with me into entrepreneurship.
FG: What is your higher aspiration? Obviously you’ve moved on from the event company…tell us about your next project and where you see it going.
ES: So I work with a really inspiring project called Antlos, it’s a new company, born in Venice, and we want to be the “AirBnB of the sea” with the sharing economy philosophy where people can rent out their boats and yachts in the Mediterranean sea to private persons. So my role is be the Director for the Nordic countries. It’s going pretty well right now, we launched a platform in maybe 1 or 2 weeks and as we just started we’ve had an amazing success in the beginning, and we’re really looking forward to being bigger and to grow.
There is no age, there is no money, there is no business plan that can break you down.Erik Sterner
FG: What would you say in terms of words of encouragement in terms of inspiration to people who are either scared to start, or feel they may be too late?
ES: I would say you always have to keep thinking that you will be successful. Then there is nothing to stop you, really. Then I would recommend everyone to find those inspiring people where you can find something you both have done, that you can feel familiar with. I would say the mindset: to always keep telling yourself you will be successful. There is no age, there is no money, there is no business plan that can break you down.
FG: That’s great, I love that. That’s a great mental attitude to have.
ES: You always have to believe in what you’re doing. When I first came to Antlos…I didn’t even know what the sharing economy was! As they sold Antlos to me, I’m selling Antlos to other people right now. As long as you believe in what you do, you can sell anything to anyone. I also wanted to say that, I think you have to keep in mind that in every conversation, you always sell yourself. Even if you’re selling anything else, you’re always selling your personality and yourself. I think that’s pretty important to keeping in mind, maybe when you’re meeting some investors, or your friends, or your future wife — in all the meetings, you’re always selling yourself.
FG: It’s so key to remember that. I love what you said about, it becomes a lot easier to sell if you really believe in the product. And you have to believe in yourself, right?
ES: The confidence is really important. I think every person is struggling with confidence sometimes. Then you can try to find those inspiring people who you can rely on and say, OK, Bill Gates had a tough time, but he’s worked on, and he’s pretty successful. About the inspiring people….I think it’s kind of easy for successful people to look to those famous people, but at the very beginning you have to find some people — like your family, your friends — those are the people that you can have much familiarity with. I think that’s the best way to start, to have someone who’s really near you at the beginning.
FG: That’s a great point. If I look up to JAY Z that’s cool, but he also has hundreds of millions of dollars — maybe I should also start by looking at someone who’s in my local community who has a couple hundred thousand dollars, and they got there, so why can’t I get there?
ES: Yeah, exactly. It’s really easy for everyone to say Of course I look up to JAY Z because he’s a really big pop star and entrepreneur and he’s everything right now. I really want to keep pushing that, find someone inspiring maybe in your home city, maybe some of your childhood friends, ’cause if you just open your eyes a little, everyone has someone who’s pretty successful in their family or friends or community. The first person to me is my parents: they’ve always said, “Keep on pushing, keep on working,” to me, but I had some friends who were successful at a pretty early age, and of course I didn’t want to do worse than them, so that’s where I found my inspiration.
FG: Yeah, I totally agree. Erik, thank you, this has been great!
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Also published on Medium.