At 16, Lucy Robertshaw was not an ordinary teen obsessing over boys and sneaking out of the house on a weeknight. Instead, she chose the path less travelled by and ended up in the Swedish woods with a successful company of her own.
If someone had told Lucy Robertshaw three years ago that she would be living in the middle of a Swedish forest and heading up her own company, she would have thought they were nuts.
After hopping straight from school into the working world, the then 16-year-old Robertshaw found herself happily working as a Medical Centre receptionist while, at the same time, taking a Business Management course. 15 years of hard work later, she’s living in the Swedish woods and working at her very own business development company, LucyJRobertshaw.
On her arrival in Sweden
Robertshaw first came to Sweden two years ago with the aim of establishing two businesses both in Sweden and Denmark, all the while being based in Lund, south of Sweden.
“I remember arriving at the train station platform at Copenhagen airport thinking ‘this is my first afternoon of the rest of my life’ and feeling really exhilarated,” she tells YLC.
Whilst working in Lund, Robertshaw fell in love with a Swede whom she had met previously in the UK. He was living in Hölö (50 kilometres south of Stockholm) at the time and, in January 2012, Robertshaw decided to take the leap and join him.
“At the same time, I knew I wasn’t going to move there with nothing, so that was the point that I decided to start my own business. I always wanted to run my own company,” says Robertshaw.
On serendipity and starting her own company
On March 1st 2012 Robertshaw’s company was registered with Bolagsverket. Shortly after that she had to figure out how to navigate Skatteverket, file her first VAT return, not to mention submitting the seemingly endless paperwork that comes with setting up a business in Sweden. On top of it all, she had to find clients – as if moving to Sweden permanently isn’t daunting enough!
“The hardest thing about starting your own business in Sweden is holding up the belief that the business would be succesful and getting through the first 6 months of being self-employed” says Robertshaw. “It’s vital to keep believing in yourself and in your idea.”
“But fate and luck really do play a part in how your business will develop,” says Robertshaw. Her client, APL (Apotek Produktion & Laboratorier AB), the largest CMO in Sweden, was found just by sitting next to Mattias Nyström at a UKTI lunch at Berns Salonger and chatting to him about the UK.
“Had I not been there at that moment, I am certain I would never have had the opportunity to represent them as a client,” says Robertshaw.
On overcoming challenges
But conducting business in Sweden is not always that easy, there are plenty of challenges that come with starting your own business in a different culture, including attempting to understand why business practices are the way they are and having to accept that things just work differently over here.
“Swedes, I have to say, are quite slow-moving compared to the British in the way they do business, but once they want to go with an idea, it’s full steam ahead and you never look back.
So being patient with the Swedish process helps, but one piece of advice that Robertshaw sees as gold for starting and maintaining a successful business is to create a personal network.
“I am a member of various different networks around the city and this really helps me get established and be seen by others.”
Robertshaw also thinks that having an interesting backgrounds can help you get ahead.
“I love telling the story of why I moved to Sweden and I think it’s really important to have a good story – as you are always selling yourself, in your current job, if you are looking for new employment – or whenever, really.”
So the Robertshaw recipe for success boils down to four key suggestions: “Have a good idea of what you want to do, be patient, create a good network and get out there so that you can meet people and be seen at events.”
If there’s one thing we can learn from Robertshaw’s success story, it’s that sometimes the most random and unpredictable things will get you ahead because, as she so sagely puts it, “the truth is, you never know just what’s around the corner.”
Lucy will be a regular contributor to YLC on business and she would love readers’ input on topics they’d like her write about. She also welcomes comments or thoughts via her email: [email protected].