In fact, behind every success hides hard work and a long way to go. Arslan Gabidullin, who is the founder and owner of self-service coffee shops LifeHacker Coffee, tells us about his way of becoming successful in his sphere, his motivation, and achievements, about fears and hard times during the pandemic period, the ways that can help aspiring entrepreneurs to grow and get real results, and also he shared his plans for the nearest future.
― Arslan, you are an entrepreneur and founder of the international company Lifehacker Coffee, one of the first in Russia to support the idea of self-service coffee shops, you also created an incredible EcoHacker marketplace, where only conscious brands with ecological products are presented. Tell me, is there any mechanism of action that led to success?
There’s really no mechanism for action and the main thing I’ve learned is to act. Unfortunately, even at school we were taught that a “C” is bad, a “D” is absolutely disgusting, but I think this is also an assessment, this is also some kind of result. Because of this fear of mistakes, judgments, and the fear to do wrong, we usually do nothing at all, and in this way we procrastinate, which is truly bad. It’s the same with me, I have areas where I’m not scared, and there are areas where I procrastinate myself for fear of making a mistake, but I take myself through sheer force and go and do it. At first, I can make a “D”, then analyze and see what happened, recognize my mistakes, do things a little differently, then do them again, make mistakes, and do them better, better, and better. In this way, it is possible to do something. Therefore if you do nothing at all it is guaranteed to say that precisely nothing will be possible. If you take constant action even with mistakes, then you will get the result. How good it will be, just depend on analysis and on the people with whom you work, the people you have gathered around, the partners you have invited into the business. Therefore there is one more important quality of the entrepreneur is to unite the people around yourself, because you can never do business alone, especially international ones. It’s all about teamwork…
― How was the idea for your business born and what motivated you to become an entrepreneur?
In fact, since childhood, from the age of 12, if not before, I had a dream of becoming an entrepreneur. I had two dreams: to become a racing driver and an entrepreneur. My parents wouldn’t let me become a racing driver, no matter how much I begged them, so I decided that when I grew up I would become an entrepreneur. Even in my childhood, when I saw the constant programs of National Geographic and about nature, I was always worried when I saw that a new plant or an animal gets into the red book, that the vegetation of the trees is reduced. I was very concerned about it which led me to a great depression and sadness. And when I was a child I used to imagine that I was the president of the world who united the people, and here we were putting criminals in jail, developing nature, planting trees, planting poachers, and taking care of nature all together restoring the ecological situation all over the world. But when I grew up, of course, I realized that it was impossible and I understood that the only way I could affect the world and do what I want to do is to be an entrepreneur. I realized that by making money I could do charity work and I could create eco-projects. That’s when I made the decision that I will become an entrepreneur to have resources, opportunities to earn a lot of money and create what I want.
― What did you experience when you opened your first Lifehacker Coffee, were there any fears or worries?
When I opened my first Lifehacker Coffee spot I felt pride and joy because it’s probably one of my favourite things, when what was created and imagined in your head is visualized, you see it in real life – it is an incredible feeling of joy that you can experience. When I opened my first spot, it wasn’t my first business, even though I absorbed a huge amount of fear and excitement. In general, I am essentially a person who is constantly in anxiety, a person who is constantly afraid, but I love in myself that I can get away through fear and excitement, and do it.
So when I opened Lifehacker Coffee I was in a completely sad situation, because my existing business went bankrupt and went into debt because of the lockdown and pandemic, and I ended up with nothing. And when I opened Lifehacker Coffee, it was a new product that hadn’t been there yet, and there weren’t any self-service coffee shops like that. I borrowed money and started the Lifehacker Coffee business. If this business didn’t bring me luck, then I would be in a very big debt hole. More than 9 million rubles, which is more than $100,000. So I was very scared, as I threw all my forces and resources into opening a new business in which I had no confidence at all that I would succeed. So I assembled a new team of my brother, a former employee, and another devoted employee, who is the only one left from my previous business, and together we launched the Lifehacker Coffee direction with a small team.
― How did you come up with the name for your Lifehacker franchise, which benefits so many people?
The name of the company and the franchise were invented by our agency. They came up with the name by deeply interviewing the founder and the owner of the company, accordingly me. They thought that I am a life hacker who finds different solutions and looks for all sorts of lifehacks in business and life to improve it and this is my inner state, “It is all about me” as they said and offered to call the company Lifehacker Coffee. Since the business itself turned out to be interesting – this is such a kind of life hack in business, when we cut off everything superfluous from the business models of cafe bars, caffeine where there are no employees, and large rental areas. But there is the same product, which is high-margin coffee, on which you can make good money.
― Which of the last books do you remember or which book inspired you to start your own business?
In fact, it is interesting that I didn’t read at all until I was 25, and even at school I only read one book. I am ashamed to admit it now, but at the age of 25 I found the first book that really changed my life and gave me a lot of motivation – it was “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. It was the book that gave me incredible power and motivation to believe in myself, a tool that allowed me to cultivate faith in myself. Nurturing my faith and motivation I started to act and once I started to act, remember in the beginning what I said, I started to get results. And after this particular book, I fell in love with books and realized how powerful they are and what they do to our minds, and started reading a lot more literature.
― What character traits should an entrepreneur have in order to withstand high competition and achieve a good position in his business?
In general, the most important quality again is the ability to unite people, find and unite people and make sure that everyone goes together towards a common goal, and this is the most important quality of an entrepreneur. Because in fact, a person must find people who can do those tasks and come to the goal that you want and unite everyone around one goal and go towards it together. Besides, either an entrepreneur or a team needs persistence, a good ability to analyze both competitors and the market, and thanks to competition you can constantly analyze your competitors and look at them, learn from them, look at what they did cool, see where they made mistakes and not repeat them. Therefore, all this information can be given to us by competitors.
― What supported you during the worst times in your career?
I talk a lot about the fact that an entrepreneur is a person who finds partners or finds a team with which they go to their goal. So in my life, my wife has become my main key partner for life. She and I have been studying together at the university in the same group since the age of 18, and it was her who supported me during the worst times in my career. And when I had problems with bad habits and health, I flooded my worthless life with alcohol, and not only, she supported me and pulled me out. And when my business was collapsing and there were hard times, I was in crisis and debt, she was always there to support me, not to scold me but to boost my confidence in myself in my manhood. She helped and supported me with a kind word, said how cool I am, that I can do everything, and pointed only to my best qualities, not mentioning my worst qualities. She always gave me the most important thing – incredible faith in myself and support, so that I managed to start my own business. I can say for sure that in the worst times of my life, my wife and my partner for life supported me, and her name is Elsa.
― Since childhood you have dreamed of making the planet a greener place. As a result of the hard work you created the EcoHacker project, which united in one place, producers of ecologically friendly goods, you also took part in various campaigns. Do you think you have achieved all your desires or goals in this area?
In fact, I have just started to grow in this sphere and this project has just started, it is still a startup and there is no solid result here. Therefore, everything is just ahead, and I have huge plans, as for the trees – this is a purely charitable project. Of course, there are more results here, the project itself has already planted more than 200 thousand trees, only I have already planted more than 20 thousand trees in my hometown. There is already a more or less solid result. But anyway, the goal of the project is one billion trees in the world and this is very far away, as 200 thousand trees are a very far figure from the desired goal. So I have not reached my goals in this area and everything is just beginning. I just got my feet firmly on the ground, started earning a lot of money, which will allow me to develop these ecological projects in the future.
― As an experienced entrepreneur, what advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
It’s very simple – just start acting. We often say to ourselves that it’s not good enough or we don’t know how to do it because we don’t have enough information or we read a lot and there is a separate caste of people who know everything and they have read everything and they have a lot of knowledge but they don’t have the most important thing, they just don’t start doing, they stand still. So the answer is very simple, just go and start acting, despite your doubts and fears. Along the way you will get the answers as you make mistakes, you will understand how not to do it and you will get closer to how to do it. So it’s a very simple question, just do it, make as many mistakes as you can and you will get your result. It may seem trivial, but in this simple truth, in action, the results are born.
― Do you believe that there is some kind of pattern or formula for becoming a successful entrepreneur?
No, each entrepreneur has an interesting and successful his own way; each one manages to reach a particular goal in different ways. The world is so multifaceted and different that there are a huge number of ways and formulas, it seems to me that there is no one formula. But to be frank, I like one formula that speaks of genius, I don’t really remember the exact figure, but as I remember, about 40 thousand hours is required for any person to make any action so that he/she can become a kind of genius in their area. 40 thousand hours if a person spends on some business he/she will become in it almost perfect, therefore it is necessary to decide on your business and do it for yourself, not considering the opinion of society. Probably this is the most important thing, which can be considered as a formula if you find a business that you really like, a business that you sincerely love not just for money, and even do it as a hobby. Then in this sphere, you have more chances to get very good results and become successful, at least you will be happy because you do what you really like and then life will thank you in the money equivalent for doing what you like. Because when you do what you love you will do it with pleasure, you will do it 100% well and you will feel great and it doubles the probability of a great result.
― Are there any new projects or plans for the future and what direction do they take?
I made a decision for myself that I want to do business that is connected with ecology or helping people and nature. Even quite recently I formulated for myself the mission of my life – to live a happy life for the benefit of society and the environment. Thus all my businesses in the future will be connected with it. One of the closest is a marketplace, production of recyclable materials, products, building materials from the trash, in general, I want to turn trash into recyclable materials and something useful. I also love to travel so I would like to create small eco-friendly glamping hotels in nature away from the hustle and bustle of the city. So, these are the nearest things I would like to do.