“From Avocation To Vocation: How I Turned My Hobby Into A Career” With Sebastien Vanderlinden of Yumi Nutrition

An interview with Phil La Duke

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Get a proof of concept out … and quick! The best way to see if an idea is good or not is to test it. Do not waste time trying to make it perfect, it never will be. So don’t waste time. Get your product and service out there out as soon as possible and get feedback, sales, data etc. If the feedback is good, great continue on with the business, if not do not waste your time trying to make something that has not be proven or is in demand. Do not convince yourself that the more hours you are putting in will result into success.

As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sebastien the current CEO and cofounder of Yumi Nutrition a chewable vitamin ecommerce business based in Manchester, UK. Yumi Nutrition is now one of the leading chewable vitamin companies in the UK. The 26-year-old entrepreneur is responsible for the company’s management, strategy and growth.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

My childhood was relatively interesting. I grew up in a small village in Belgium in a family of four. (One younger sister, mum and dad) I used to love playing outside and pretend to be a Power Ranger! I had no interest in school, I thought school to be incredibly boring. I was shy and kept mostly to myself.

My dad was always away on business, I only got to share weekends with him and my mum was a stay at home mum. Eventually at the age of 7, both of my parents separated as result of this. This is when my childhood took a turn. My sister and I woke up one day being told by our mum that we were going to visit friends but we instead ended up driving from Belgium to Manchester, UK to stay with our uncle. My dad was not aware of this happening.

We stayed with our uncle for a couple months up until my Dad came one night with the police to take us back to Belgium. Since then my Sister and I only saw our Mum a couple time a month.

This taught me at a very young age how drastically life can change without being in your control and non-ordinary it can become. From then I’ve always sought to take as much control of my life as possible.

What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?

I’ve always been quite entrepreneurial, at 17 I quit school to get a job, saved money and taught myself how to create mobile apps for small to medium size businesses. I eventually got a job offer I could not turn down from a digital agency. I was doing the same as I did before for myself but on a bigger scale. I managed to bring in my first years nearly $1 million worth of sales, something the company had never experienced. Although being happy to have achieved this I couldn’t stop but think that I would have been a lot more fulfilled if I had achieved this with my own company. This is when I started Yumi Nutrition on the side, with the goal of being one day in a position to quit my job.

Tell us more about your business. What are your missions with the business and where do you see it in 5 years?

Yumi Nutrition is an eCommerce brand that specializes in chewable vitamins. We started selling in the UK and quickly became one of the top chewable vitamins brands. We are now expanding internationally such as the US, Middle East, India and China. In 5 years’ time, we want to become an internationally recognized brand and be known as the go to place for the best and tastiest chewable vitamins.

There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?

This is a problem that a lot of starting entrepreneurs have. You may have a good idea but how feasible is it? Do you have the appropriate skills, money, team, knowledge to pull it through? These are some of the issues I came across with prior to Yumi. With Yumi and starting out an ecommerce business I could just rely on myself. I had all the appropriate skills, co-founders and the investment was minimal. We were also able to get a proof of concept quite quickly. Once we started making over $10k a month we knew we had a proper business in our hands.

What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?

I would recommend to do something you can start on the side of your job. Try and get a proof of concept as soon as possible. (by this I mean getting people to pay for your product or service) Be prepared to learn a new set of skills and invest the necessary time it needs, doing a hobby and running a business are two different things.

If it does not work out you will have taught yourself new skills you would not of have had before while enjoying what you are doing and with a minimum of risk. You should not be scared to achieve your own ambitions and dreams.

It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?

You need to be doing something that fulfills you and take time to appreciate the successes you have had. It’s important to remember why you started this path and what motivated you. Running a business has its ups and downs, and can be underwhelming. What personally helps me overcome the downs is remembering how far I’ve came and that I am lucky to be doing something I am passionate about.

What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?

Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual role and how you thought the role would be?

I enjoy being in control of my own destiny, there is nothing as fulfilling to see something you started from nothing turn into something.

The downsides are you will have to sacrifice a tremendous amount, friends, relationships, events, etc. Starting a business makes you realize what is essential to you in your life because you will have to give up a lot for it.

The biggest difference is that I spend more time that I would have imagined managing people, the people in the business make the business.

Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so how did you overcome it?

Yes, a few times but having experienced working for myself I could not see myself working for someone else. Life may be a bit more stable but ultimately it would not make me happier.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I first started out I was incredibly naïve, I thought to myself that it would be able to achieve $1 million worth of sales in my first year selling apps. I was so convinced, I used to say this to our accountant and he would laugh back! I was only selling my apps for around $1,500 and took me a couple weeks to make them. It was impossible to achieve but I was so focus on reaching a million dollars. It is good to be ambitious but you also need to be realistic and patient. We live in a time where we want everything now. But starting and building a successful business takes time, it can take you a couple years and a few failures before you find the right business and make it!

Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?

My dad, he passed away with brain cancer when I was 19 but even through all the struggles he went through he still kept fighting and pursued his dreams.

From this I could never justify giving up in anything I do as long as I am healthy.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

To our surprise our sleep and CBD product has taken a lot of interest from the autism community. It has helped thousands of parents who have kids with autism or ADHD. We have now taken a lot of interest into that community and do as much as we can to help.

It is important to give back. We donate to charity and I love advising aspiring entrepreneurs. This is something I hope to do more of.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Don’t listen or take advice from friends and family. Your friends and family even though they mean well they can often not give you the objective view you need. They want to please you and not upset you.
    If your Dad is a builder he is probably not the best person to seek advice to about running a tech business. Find advice from people you look up to and that have succeeded in business or in your sector.
  2. Be honest with yourself. Can you launch the next multi-billion dollar app with no coding experience, team or investment? The chances are very slim… Take into consideration your situation and choose which business to go into appropriately.
  3. No need to re-invent the wheel. There is loads of digital agencies so does that mean you cannot launch a successful agency of your own? No! I find it useful to look at different businesses in my industry and see what they do well and how we can add our own touch to it.
  4. Get a proof of concept out … and quick! The best way to see if an idea is good or not is to test it. Do not waste time trying to make it perfect, it never will be. So don’t waste time. Get your product and service out there out as soon as possible and get feedback, sales, data etc. If the feedback is good, great continue on with the business, if not do not waste your time trying to make something that has not be proven or is in demand. Do not convince yourself that the more hours you are putting in will result into success.
  5. Surround yourself with the right people. You are a product of your environment. Surround yourself with people who will elevate you and not bring you down. It is not a coincidence that most successful people are usually acquainted by other successful people.

What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Get out of your comfort zone. This is essential for growth.

Do something that will challenge you mentally and/or physically.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The biggest danger in life is to put your goals very low and be able to reach them rather than putting them very high and not being able to reach them”

My dad taught me this during the final years of his life. Even through his successes, failures and sicknesses he always strived for more.

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 with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

David Goggins, ultra-marathon runner and retired navy seal. If you don’t know him search him up! I find the guy fascinating, I would be curious to find out more about him personally, he seems super human.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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