Give it more time than you think is needed. When I started my business I expected success to happen overnight and if things didn’t work out like I wanted them to, I ended up frustrated and unmotivated. I gave up on ideas without putting true effort into them. Be patient — it will require a lot of experimentation and many failures before you succeed.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michelle von Kalben.
Michelle von Kalben, a female entrepreneur from Germany is the owner of a digital company specialized in social media and digital art. By offering educational content online, Michelle helps thousands worldwide to successfully build their brands on social media and take the next steps towards starting an online business and creating an income by doing what they love. Besides that she travels with her partner, creating unique content for brands all around the world.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in a town called Solingen in Germany. I had the privilege of being raised by two loving parents as an only child. I grew up without having to worry about much , but that’s also why I didn’t learn to be very independent early in my life. After graduating from high school I had the idea of moving to the other side of the world for a whole year and that’s when my chapter in New Zealand began. It helped me to find the real me, all of my biggest passions and skills. After New Zealand I made quite a few bad decisions in Germany which eventually led to me realizing that I really want to become my own boss and focus on building a business online that focuses on helping others create an income online by doing what they love.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“ Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing.” — Pele
When I started my own business I began to realize more and more why (Even though there are big risks involved with it) it was the best decision of my life. Turning my passion into my job has helped me so much with staying motivated, determined and curious. I’m now looking forward to getting up every single day and there is no such thing as “Monday is the worst day of the week.”
Every day of the week is great, because I get to do what I love, none of this was given to me — it wasn’t an ‘accident’. I made the conscious decision to risk leaving traditional education and forgoing financial security without knowing the outcome. I now work really hard every single day. I don’t have free relaxing weekends and I don’t really have any time AFTER work, because my mind is constantly occupied with all of the business related topics. It‘s not easy, achieving success is not a goal, but a long term process and it is totally worth the effort.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” was one of the first business/mindset related books I read and it helped me to get a better understanding of money and how many wealthy people think about it. It encouraged me to look further than just working long hours on a day job and planning all of my expenses around a “pre set” wage. I didn’t know much about the ways money works and how you can benefit from it on a bigger scale but the book opened my eyes completely.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
I was one of the unlucky people who decided to start their business right before the pandemic began. While many of my friends and colleagues from the same industry were depending on working with brands all around the world, I knew from the beginning that I wanted to build something that allows me to do that while also having a passive income stream. Until the beginning of the pandemic I was still in the phase of figuring out my WHY and the real purpose of my online business, which resulted in many failures at first.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
As I said earlier already I didn’t want to depend on anyone else but me, that’s why I solely focused on building my social media and online presence. Nowadays people tend to think that social media platforms like Instagram are useless for new users, since it is “impossible” to grow. I started at zero and was able to grow a big audience fairly quickly. Doing so opened endless doors for me and I got a lot of big opportunities in a very short amount of time. I want to make the “impossible” happen and that’s why I set it as my goal to teach others to achieve the same, so that they can eventually earn money with their passion as well.
Since MANY people were stuck inside their home for a long time, a lot of people decided to grow as a person, learn new skills and knowledge via online courses/educational content.
That’s exactly why I was able to start my successful online teaching business in the middle of a pandemic. Even though COVID19 has limited many of us, it also forced us entrepreneurs to get out of our comfort zones and that naturally resulted in many more opportunities — especially online.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
My “Aha moment” was rather a set of events that helped me overcome my fears of not earning enough and of failing. I feel like I subconsciously knew that I wanted to pursue a career as a photographer and digital artist and build an online business with my passions as the foundation, but I wasn’t truly aware of it yet.
If I have to name one moment of realization, it for sure was the first day of attending university to study “business psychology”. Only a few minutes into the first lecture I realized that I would be investing a lot of energy, time and money into something for the wrong reason: security. Nothing else. Once I realized that studying wouldn’t necessarily give me financial security, I started opening my mind to other possibilities and it helped me gain a lot of valuable knowledge and skills within the first year. Since then I was able to meet many like minded people, including my boyfriend who runs a successful online business himself. Meeting likeminded people helped me to believe in myself and realize the endless opportunities the modern digital world had to offer.
How are things going with this new initiative?
My first product launches have been successful after I started to focus on what’s relevant and where the actual demand is. Currently I’m building the online business further and I will to implement a value ladder with different educational products forming my marketing funnel.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My boyfriend. When I got to know him, I basically met the prime example of what is possible online if you are passionate and dedicated. He experienced and followed my whole progress — from a clueless girl with a passion who didn’t believe in herself to a determined and hard-working woman with a straight vision. I don’t know if I would be in the position I am in today, if I didn’t know him. He recognized my potential early on and supported me from day one and to this day, has never stopped telling me how capable I am to achieve anything I put my mind to. I am very thankful that the love of my life became my biggest inspiration.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
After everyone telling me that it nowadays is impossible to grow an online presence with the type of art I share I believed it for a second — and then I decided to prove everyone wrong. I put all my energy into improving my skills and taking things on social media to a whole new level. I started doing things I never thought I would be capable of and slowly started seeing results. The momentum I had was incredible and I was able to grow my online brand exponentially. This has helped me to boost my online business, work with incredible brands and hotels all around the world and get more confident about myself and my work. So if anyone ever tells you that you won’t make it: prove them wrong.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Even when trying to prevent mistakes, mistakes are inevitable. Instead of focusing on the negativity, use them to learn and grow as a person. Here are a few things that I wish I’d known before I started my own online business:
1. Give it more time than you think is needed. When I started my business I expected success to happen overnight and if things didn’t work out like I wanted them to, I ended up frustrated and unmotivated. I gave up on ideas without putting true effort into them. Be patient — it will require a lot of experimentation and many failures before you succeed.
2. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. As an entrepreneur you have to leave your comfort zone — the earlier the better. I sometimes fell into my comfort zone in the beginning but once I realized the value in being comfortable with being uncomfortable, I slowly started seeing more and better results in my business.
3. Find balance. I made the mistake (I still do sometimes) of being glued to my screen 24/7. It is VERY important for your mental, as well as for your physical health, to set limits and find balance outside of work. Sometimes I completely forgot to take breaks and occasionally went full working days without food, which can get very dangerous.
4. Be ready to invest in yourself. A lot of people try to learn all of the skills and knowledge required to run a business for free. To truly succeed you have to get away from the mindset that you are able to learn everything you need from free sources. You can definitely learn a lot for free but it is much more efficient and to pay for proper education from experts. A mentor, as well as paid coachings or courses are so valuable and will set you ahead of others in many areas. Getting a step by step system is always better than scrolling endlessly for tiny pieces of information on the internet.
5. Be passionate — Working on something that you are not passionate about will never be as good or as satisfying as it would be by doing what you love. Don’t start a business for the wrong reasons. I made that mistake and it resulted in me not looking forward to getting up in the morning. As soon as I changed my mindset and began building a business around my passion I started to succeed because I got to do what I love — photography, digital art & helping others.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
There is one strategy that a lot of people will instantly disagree with: STOP watching (mainstream) news. It has helped me to “forget” about the panic that is caused by the media and I’ve been able to completely focus on improving my business and mental health. As long as I know that I will be informed about the most important things happening in the world, I don’t think it is necessary to check the number of COVID infections 2 times a day. Staying aware of the changes within your industry is always important but focusing on the right sources and being critical towards what is written on the news and media is a skill you need to stay focused and healthy.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I want to help people to start believing in themselves. Society forces us all into a specific mold and YET some people don’t have the courage to be different and pursue their goals. I have noticed that the creative industry that I am in is highly dominated by men. That’s why I especially want to inspire and encourage women to head towards a different path than the one many automatically fall into. The fear of starting a business doesn’t come from a lack of skills or knowledge, it solely happens because of the fear of the unknown. That’s exactly why every single one of us is capable of achieving great things if we use the right tools and mindset.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
I would love to chat with Gary Vaynerchuk. There is something really inspiring and motivational about his brutal honesty and I would value his opinion on my goals and strategies a lot, since he has many years of experience and basically started from nothing. He is the best example of what is possible if you are passionate, dedicated and hard-working.
How can our readers follow you online?
I am the most active on my Instagram Account @michellevonkalben where people will find my personal work as well as business and mindset related topics.