Our latest Expat Entrepreneurs installment features Tara Agacayak, founder of Globalniche.net on lessons learnt on the road to becoming an entrepreneur.
Source: Creative commons/arlen
Why did you decide to become an expat entrepreneur?
It wasn't a decision, but a survival skill! I had moved to a very small town in Turkey and felt isolated with limited professional outlets. At the time eBay was becoming mainstream so I started making trips to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul and buying pashminas to sell through online auctions. The freedom and flexibility that e-commerce gave me opened up many opportunities.
In 2006, I attended a women's leadership program where they stressed social responsibility and global citizenship which really shaped my business by changing my focus to locally-produced artisan goods.
With my background in psychology and information technology I'm now the co-founder and COO of globalniche.net; an educational ecosystem that utilises the life hacks well-known and devised by expats and other operatives who have found themselves at cultural disadvantage as an approach that many people can benefit from.
If you could give one piece of advice to other expats setting up their own businesses, what would it be?
Be creative in coming up with a business idea that will fit your situation and your aspirations.
What challenges did you encounter when setting up your business and how did you overcome these?
I've tried many different business ideas, and it took me many years to figure out what I was good at, what I enjoyed, and what would make a good business. Building my web platform and my global niche community helped both in supporting and connecting me with others, and acting as a sounding board for decision-making.
At the moment a big challenge is a legal one - since I'm living full-time in Turkey I have work permission issues I'm sorting through. Thankfully I've got a good team of advisors who are helping me figure out the best option for working on a US-based internet business while I live here in Turkey.
I've also been challenged by people who don't understand what my business is about and ask why I don't just get a regular job. Overcoming this challenge has meant staying dedicated and committed to the vision of what I'm working on. This is hard to do when the business idea itself is still coming together.
What common mistakes do expats, in general, make when setting up their business?
I wouldn't call them mistakes as much as missed opportunities - assuming they don't have as many choices as they do when it comes to the kind of business they can establish; staying under the radar, thinking too small, waiting until things are "perfect" - we can always find ways to be better and to grow, both personally and professionally.
What resources did you find useful or tapped into to get your business off the ground?
Having a good management team and building a community of knowledgeable people around the world to ask advice of. For our particular business model, we spent a lot of time studying content marketing, e-commerce, using a variety of social media tools to add to our web platform, and trying lots of different techniques to figure out what works. We're fans of the lean startup methodology offered by Eric Ries.
What would you do differently if you could do it again?
I would have been more strongly grounded in my ideas and not have given up so easily when faced with a challenge. I would have sought help earlier to get through the challenges. I would have taken more risks in order to make faster progress.
Tara, an American-born expat living in Turkey, has a background in psychology and information technology. She draws on her background in database design as the COO of Globalniche.net, an on-going interactive, on/ofﬂine educational channel that teaches self-agency to reach personal and professional fulﬁllment.