Creative Estonia asked Liis Lainemäe, the creator and marketer of one of Estonia’s most exciting regions, the Peipsi Coast tourist route The Onion Route, what brought her to entrepreneurship and what obstacles she has encountered along the way.
How did you start your entrepreneurial career?
13 years ago, the tourism entrepreneurs of a region got together and decided to start marketing the area together. But they also needed a leader. That’s how the three women, me together with Triinu and Auli, came up with a unique initiative – to bränd it Sibulatee (The Onion Route) because the main product of the region is the onion. Of course, we didn’t know where the whole thing would end up; rather, in the beginning, we thought it was a project. And projects have a beginning and an end, as you know. But the will to work together, the will on my part to lead it, and the curiosity to see where it could all end up, have long since gone beyond the project.
What have been the main obstacles or barriers you have encountered in your entrepreneurial career?
As our business has a form of NGO, there is always the question of funding. Whether we can find enough resources to carry out the necessary activities. It is a network of 35 different companies. And there are very different people here; one of the big lessons has been to remain calm in the most difficult situations.
Which professional success are you most proud of?
Still, the spirit of cooperation has lasted 13 years. And that many local people have benefited by creating jobs in the area. Perhaps the greatest recognition was when a new member of the network said that he had chosen his new place of residence on the basis of the strong cooperation network here on the shores of Lake Peipsi.
What knowledge do you think you should have had or wish you had before starting a business?
You should have a background in service design, communication psychology, marketing and accounting. However, we only invented the collaborative model ourselves in the course of the collaboration, and we have been developing it over time.
What professional advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t take it all to heart, go on and be calm. And that there is always a way out of every problem, so don’t worry yourself into a mess. Rather, it helps to share your worries and talk about them – many heads are many heads.
What advice would you give to a woman who wants to start a business or has just started her own entrepreneurial career?
Be consistent. And don’t let others mislead you in your long journey towards your vision. And celebrate victories and progress – big and small! Have the courage to tell everyone what you’re working on, and ask for advice or help at the same time.