Don’t be afraid to take another career path than your friends: the most admirable one can achieve in work life is to find something one is truly passionate about. That’s your most important goal, not what others would think of that path.
As a part of our series called “My Life as a TwentySomething Founder”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alexander Langhede Andersen.
From the age of 16, Alexander Langhede Andersen has had a drive and passion for entrepreneurship and technology. A Denmark native, Andersen established his first company at 18 years old. After finding great success with his first company, he went on to establish several other companies including mobile apps and fashion brands, each of which saw incredible growth with Andersen at the helm. Andersen credits these experiences as being integral to his career development, each with their own challenges and successes.
With these successes under his belt, Ana Luisa tapped Andersen at the beginning of 2020 to become their Marketing and Growth Manager. Relocating from Denmark to Brooklyn, Andersen faced a difficult beginning to his New York experience as COVID-19 devastated the world. Through this time that was strenuous, and many companies shuttered, laid off employees, and saw massive decreases in sales, Ana Luisa grew in revenue and workforce, much to the credit of Andersen’s knowledge of the space and innovative approach.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory” of how you became a founder?
Thanks for having me! From the age of 14–15, I always knew that I wanted to build my own business. I never had the career path doubts that most young people go through: I just wanted to build my own businesses and preferably sooner rather than later. I have always been very ambitious, wanting to do something memorable with my life and felt that entrepreneurship was the best and most direct way to make a huge impact on the world. “You succeed or you learn” was always my way of thinking. I joined a network of young entrepreneurs in Denmark and seeing their success was an inspiration for me that made me make the jump as well and led me to launch my first ecommerce store when I was 16.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company? What lessons or takeaways did you take out of that story?
I once participated in the Danish version of the TV Show “Shark Tank”. It was nerve wracking to present our business idea in front of five successful angel investors — having all the cameras and it being a TV Show certainly added to it. We got some offers that we ultimately decided to turn down, and in the process I realized how much you are contributing as a founder by dedicating years of your work life to a startup.
Yes, the angel investors are bringing some money and that’s very valuable — but you’re putting your best years of work into the business. That’s valuable, it shouldn’t be taken for granted and this contribution should be reflected in the investment deal.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Ana Luisa is a sustainability-driven brand in the jewelry industry. We optimize our entire supply chain towards the most sustainable practices, from our production and packaging to our carbon neutrality for the whole organization. We’re always looking to push the boundaries and want the entire industry to follow us so we can achieve the biggest possible impact.
Further, I’m proud of the company culture we have built in Ana Luisa. We have a very transparent and collaborative culture that lets everyone take responsibility and grow. We’re a high-growth company but we still value work-life balance a lot which I think is rare to find.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
For now, I’m committed to helping Ana Luisa grow and become one of the biggest brands in the jewelry industry. After many years as an entrepreneur, I really enjoy working closely with the two Ana Luisa founders on a daily basis and learning all they know about building a direct-to-consumer brand up from the ground. I feel fortunate to have been a part of this amazing growth journey from the early days. Further, I enjoy focusing on the area where I excel: performance marketing. It’s fulfilling to do work that moves the company forward and I’m excited to see what will come next for Ana Luisa.
Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
“Shoe Dog” is my no. 1 favorite book. I love Nike as a brand, everything they stand for and the way they do marketing that is about so much more than the products. The founding story is so fascinating to read about, all the struggles they went through in the early days and how they ultimately succeeded and reached the IPO in 1980. I really like how the company truly is built on a deep and genuine passion for track & field. I want the company I built to be rooted in something that is just as meaningful for me.
What are your “5 Lessons I Learned as a Twentysomething Founder” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- Just go with it: You succeed or you learn. The best way to learn how to build a business is by trying it out.
- Find a market you’re passionate about, not just a good market opportunity.
- Surround yourself with people you really like. You spend so much of your life at work so do the journey with people that makes it fun and fulfilling.
- Don’t be afraid to take another career path than your friends: the most admirable one can achieve in work life is to find something one is truly passionate about. That’s your most important goal, not what others would think of that path.
- It’s a marathon: You will likely have to make some sacrifices in the early days of your new business but aim for the long run. Continue to have a life outside of work.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I want to mention my old co-founder Mikkel Hansen. We ran three companies together for a total of 6 years, spent all our time together at the office, and shared a lot of our first entrepreneurial learnings. We once hired 7 new interns to start on the same date — in a 3-person company — needless to say we learned not to do this again. We went on many 4am ferry trips to other parts of Denmark to pitch investors. We once took a 10 dollars night bus home from Stockholm to save money and had to sit up all night. We went on a 3-week work camp to Spain and worked out of a tiny house. We played hundreds of table tennis games during late office evenings. It was scrappy, and we didn’t end up with a huge pay check for all our hard work but we had so much fun along the way and I’m forever grateful for all the startup learnings and the friendship we got out of it. I’ve no doubt that Mikkel will go on to create amazing and impactful businesses in the future.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
At Ana Luisa, we’ve partnered with North Brooklyn Angels and have employees help prepare food for those in need every month. We have also often launched jewelry pieces where a portion of the proceeds goes to charity organizations.
What are the main takeaways that you would advise a twenty year old who is looking to found a business?
My advice would be to define a marketing plan from the get go. Customers don’t come by themselves and you can’t rely on friends and family to share the word. So it is important to consider carefully what initiatives you will take to get customers into the business. And just go for it. Entrepreneurship is a wonderful journey and you’ll learn so much along the way.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Warren Buffett: I read the Warren Buffett autobiography in my late teens and really enjoyed his life story and lessons. His many business ventures are exciting but all the other life decisions — and his reflections on those — made an even bigger impact on me. Both the good and the bad ones. He has had such an interesting life and I would love to meet him one day.
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This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!