2014 Recap – 5 entrepreneurial lessons I learned the hard way

2014 for me is what I’d like to call a “catalyst” year. Those who know me know that I like putting myself in tough situations on purpose, just to see how I can handle them. That’s my own little way of evolving – by throwing myself into the deep. Last year I took the biggest plunge ever, by turning my back on a financially secured life of an employee and founding my own company.  I will never forget the unique combination of anxiety & fear, but also hope & curiosity, which fuelled my motivation for change. Now, a year later, stability is still a word I cannot freely use in my daily life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way, and here’s why.

Teddy TonevaThere’s the old debate on whether entrepreneurs are born with a set of skills or if this is something that can be learned. If my humble experience is any indication, I would say all entrepreneurs I met last year had one key trait in common – bravery. They were brave enough to dream big and to pursue those dreams with everything they got. I became part of a community of individuals where I could exchange ideas, discuss problems and grow our businesses together. And I’d like to think that I’ve slowly started adapting the mindset of these lunatics, experimenting with different fields and business concepts and seeing through those, which I’ve been able to grow into actionable plans. So what’s the conclusion? The skills you need to be a good entrepreneur are skills learned in the right setting with the right environment, as long as you’re crazy enough to give it a shot.

But it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. 2014 was full of challenges, both personal and professional, and I am so grateful to have come out of it stronger and with a clearer vision for the year to come. Here are 5 lessons about entrepreneurship from my own experience, which I learned the hard way (not that I would have it any other way!).

  1. Actions are always louder than words – It’s easy to get caught into the “think tank” mode, constantly exchanging ideas with fellow entrepreneurs. But ideas are just that – ideas. A good business partner is the one that acts on them in a systematic order and has a clear plan of the steps that need to be taken to get things done. If you have a great idea but cannot imagine the whole process from A to Z, then perhaps you should put it back in the think tank for now and focus your energy on more viable projects.
  1. Choose your battles – If you’re striving to be a flexible entrepreneur with good contacts and the right partners, chances are you will attract many new friends who want to do business with you, because of your background/ profile/ field, etc. One of the hardest things I had to learn in 2014 is to say “no”. Prioritizing is key. Have a clear idea of the pipeline of projects for the year. Which project will take the most of your energy or resources, which will yield the most return on investment and when? What added value will this project bring in the long run? Those are all questions you should try to answer for yourself before you take on more work. You will soon start recognising the good opportunities from the ones you should politely say no to.
  1. Long VS short term goals – this one is tricky. How do you balance your projects in such a way to not lose focus of the short-term deliverables, but also to keep thinking about the bigger picture? My solution is – learn to think in phases. Each project I divide into primary efforts / execution/ results & growth. This way I don’t lose track of where I am and where I need to go in 3, 6 or 10 months. Set best case and worst case scenario goals for each phase and monitor how well you are performing in each. Chances are, by mid-phase 2 you will know which project to drop and which to focus more energy on.

Choosing the right partners

  1. I’m lost without the right team – When I started my first business a year ago, I did it all on my own, which was frustrating, to say the least. Along the way many people wanted to work together on various ideas and through a trial-and-error approach I was able to find the right mindset for my company, making it easier to find new partners, when you have a clear idea of the profiles you are looking for. Don’t underestimate the process of funnelling business partners/ employees. I don’t find the right people for a job, I find the right mindset and create the job around it.
  1. Self-analysis is key – We tend to overanalyse projects and businesses, thinking about ways to better the product, the marketing efforts or the scale model. However, we often forget to do the same about ourselves as entrepreneurs. I like applying the same criteria when working on a project to my own self. The person I was a year ago and the person I am today can’t be further apart, but I choose to analyse each change. When and how did it occur and am I a better person for it? Thinking about my skills as a separate business has really helped me drill on what I need to improve or change to keep growing.

All that being said, I am very grateful for the amazing people I met in 2014, the cluster partnerships I founded with the great companies I work with and the variety of projects I have the chance to be involved in. 2015 is the year of scale and the goal is to take my core business to the next level, by doubling the internal team and the accounts we work on. I believe that if the right foundation was laid last year, this year should be twice as challenging and twice as rewording as a result. I am excited about the opportunity to keep learning every day and I cannot wait to see what this year brings on the table!




Teddy T


Losing weight on national television – the journey

I am not sure how to begin my story, so let’s go to the very beginning. Back in August, I was moving out of a place, because me and my boyfriend got our own apartment. As I was packing, I had the TV on in the background. And that’s when I saw the commercial: “Do you want to change your life, do you feel like you are not realising your full potential?…” I didn’t make much of it, but I snapped a pic of the show and the e-mail for submissions.

The beginning:

The studio!

Two days later, here I was, taking “before” pictures and writing my motivation letter. An emotional ordeal in itself, as I poured my soul into it. All the setbacks, all the injuries, the depression and the excuses I made for myself over the last 4 years… all in 1 sheet of paper. But I was determined. I had already lost 10 kg over the past year or so, I had 20 more to go to get back to my normal self. I soon found myself invited to the official casting, where the team got to meet me, we shot a couple of scenes and that was my first exposure to the whole business and what was to come. At that point I was just one of the many who applied, no idea that I would eventually get selected.

The journey:

But sure enough, a week later I got the call and the adventure began. Looking back at it, I am so incredibly grateful to the team for all the opportunities they gave me, but I am also proud of myself for having the courage to take them. This is what Zdraveto Otblizo on BNT is all about – giving you the necessary tools to change your life, what you do with them us entirely up to you. That was the push I needed. The incredible support system the team provided me, paired with the healthy fear of disappointing not only the people close to me but an entire nation watching at home, was my recipe for success.

Make no mistake – none of it was easy, none of it was handed to me on a silver platter. I had to shed sweat, blood and tears to get to where I am today. But most importantly, I had to be ready for the journey. I have been preparing myself for over a year. I had stopped smoking almost 6 months ago, I had already changed many of my consumption habits. It was time to level up!

What followed next was weeks of hard workouts with a personal trainer, as well as group workouts emphasising on cardio. I was introduced to cross-fit trainings and using your own body weight to shape and tone yourself. I was always sore, my muscles burning from the tension.  However, during the 3d week I started feeling stronger, faster…better! My knee, which had sustained a very serious injury in the past, was feeling stable. Nothing could stop me! All this was combined with a custom-tailored daily meal plan, meant to help my weight-loss process.

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Perhaps the most helpful part of the program was the access to a psychologist, who helped me work on some of the deep-rooted issues, the hidden reasons for my initial weight gain of 30+ kg. I feel so much more self-aware today, then I was 3 months ago and that is what truly makes me stronger than ever before.

And that is not even all! I was able to get out of my comfort zone, to try out new things, like free-fall flying in an aerodome, like carting races with the team, like alternative mind and body therapies. And the people…I met so many, so different and so amazing individuals along the way. The memories we made together, this is what was truly beautiful about this whole experience.

What’s to come:

I am finally myself again – confident, full of life, full of hope for change. I can’t believe that I let myself get lost for such a long time. Thanks to the show I now know what my purpose for 2015 is: I want to help others feel as good about themselves as I do right now. I want to help teenagers in my country understand that they are beautiful, amazing individuals, just the way they are! I was bullied a lot while growing up, I never quite fit in anywhere, because I was a bit different, the way I perceived my surroundings was different. At the time I didn’t know that was OK. It took me 10 years of self-discovery to realise that each person is beautiful just the way they are!

Me :)

This is my new mission. I have an incredible team behind my back, we have conceptualised the idea and are on our way towards founding and NGO that will travel the country, going to schools and talking to young minds about body image and promote anti-bullying. We are confident that we can grow this idea into a community with the help of our friends and supporters. BNT gave me the strength to dream again, and this wild dream of mine, I am yet to make into a reality! Wish me luck 🙂



How shaking things up affects productivity – both personal and professional

Time for change

Productivity is one of those words that have different meanings to each individual. For example, I never feel ‘lazy’, I simply strive to find quicker, more efficient solutions to problems. I never used to mentally go through my tasks of the day, I simply try to accomplish as much as I can, as fast as I can. Some might not understand my definition of productivity, but I’ve recently found a formula that works for me and I think it just might work for you too.

A couple of months ago I made a life-changing decision, which had an astonishing effect on how I go about my activities. I stopped smoking. There’s a lot of health-related research on the continuous effects of smoking tobacco, however I must admit that the psychological and behavioural effects of quitting took me by surprise. Suddenly, a habit that took up to 25% of my day was eradicated. The result was a dramatic shift on productivity and efficiency, both professionally and interpersonally. I believe you can draw your own conclusions based on my experience:

Week One:

  1. I started counting my time, I was more aware of the present. Result: I was able to efficiently draw mental notes on how much time it took me to complete specific tasks.
  2. I began noticing ‘gaps’ in my time – those were the times I would stop and have a smoke. Result: I tried to fill these gaps with errands or small tasks, so I wouldn’t have the time to think about the habit.

Week Two:

  1. I became more eerie about what I put in my body. Result: Started a cleanse that cleared my mind and boosted my concentration on the work place.
  2. I stopped drinking coffee, because I associated it with the habit. Result: After a couple of days of adjustment I was able to achieve better sleep in less time.

Month One:

  1. I noticed a continuous growth in energy. Result: It started taking me half of the time to complete previously tiresome tasks.
  2. I started wanting to do more, to be more. Result: The ‘additional’ time allowed me to focus on other projects, grow my partnerships and my client base.

How to step out of the box:

We all have our vices. I’ve begun to understand that our habits are an embodiment of our com
fort zones. They seem like essential parts of our being, until we decide otherwise. 

Shaking up those habits forces us to step out of the box we so comfortably inhabit. Now I try to change small routines on regular basis, because that keeps me on my toes. Being on your toes, especially when you are running your own company is essential. So why not try to change something in your own routine?

  • Take a different route to work one day of the week
  • Change a regular drink (let’s say coffee) with something you wouldn’t normally get for a couple of days
  • Try the YES approach for one week – whenever someone asks you to do something (go out to a party, meet new people, do a task, etc.) simply say YES!
  • Talk to a complete stranger at least once this month – gives you perspective on your own life and your path to personal success
  • Get out of your regular circle – go out of town, take a hike or a walk alone and use this time to contemplate

In the end, my simple advice to you is – Keep growing, keep aspiring to do better and don’t be afraid to shake things up. You never know how changing smaller details can help you gain sight of the big picture.

10 types of people you need in your life

If you’ve had the luck to be brought in a good family environment, like I was, you’ve probably heard from an early stage this washed-up (but still relevant) sentence: ‘You can be whoever you want to be when you grow up, it’s up to you!’

And don’t get me wrong. For the most part, that’s right. I feel in control of my destiny, I know success won’t fall into my lap, I gotta work hard for it. However, a lot of people don’t realize that your values, your beliefs and understandings in life are inevitably going to be influenced by the environment you are in and the people you surround yourself with. Even though we keep insisting we are adults and have figured all of this out by now, we also realize that we keep changing and learning till the very end. That’s why it’s important to have the right people along for the ride:

1. The wise guy – doesn’t care about what your opinion is on a subject, he will tell it like it is. You can try and bullshit your way into a relationship (platonic or otherwise), but he will see right through you and walk away.

Why you need them in your life: That person will bring a realistic perspective on any situation. You know you can trust them and you respect them for not pretending to be someone they are not. They will keep you grounded every time you are tempted to lie or misrepresent yourself.

2. The social butterfly – this person seems to know everybody who’s anybody. They are always at a social event or meeting new people. That’s how you probably got caught in their orbit – you were charmed after 5 minutes of talking with them and you know you’ll never get bored when they are around.

Why you need them in your life: Great way to meet new and inspiring people, great way to keep you motivated on your own goals in life. Tonight you’re going out with a bunch of hipsters, tomorrow you’re having coffee with a high-end designer or the CEO of a local company. Variety is key.

3. The ‘party hard or go home’ – you have a special relationship with this person. You might not see each other every day, but when you do it’s a night to remember. You know each other’s dirty secrets because you’ve probably shared them over a beer or five.

Why you need them in your life: Despite their ease with which they get you in trouble, they also keep your young and rebellious spirit alive. And it’s just nice to know that once in a while you can let your guard down and act like a teenager without anyone judging!

4. The comedian – it’s plain and simple, this person can lighten the mood at any time. They can actually make you laugh out loud!

Why you need them in your life: They always know what to say to make you smile and chances are, they are usually the ones you call when you are feeling down and need good old cheering up.

5. The ex – hear me out. I don’t mean the great dramatic love story went wrong. I mean that sweet individual that you used to go out with a long time ago, that somehow turned out to be a better friend than significant other. They get you on a level that other friends don’t, because of the already shared intimacy.

Why you need them in your life: Because they are genuinely great people who care about you because of you, nothing more. If you need their help they will come running and vice versa. Just because you care and wish them well.

6. The couple – they are always together and seem to have life all figured out. They go to the same social events, they’ve probably already bought an apartment and are planning a wedding in the near future.

Why you need them in your life: These people are the picture of a perfect relationship. They seem to have life all figured out and you can actually call them adults without chuckling. When you start feeling like a kid that doesn’t know anything, you take a look at them and know that yes, it is possible to be that confident in life.

7. The couch potato – because let’s face it, sometimes you just want to stop running and relax with some good company. They don’t care how you look or how presentable you are. All they care is that you can relax and have the occasional glass of wine/ beer with them at the comfort of your own homes.

Why you need them in your life: They are good at slowing you down. They are the ‘stop and smell the roses’ types. Around them, you realize beauty is in the small things and in occasionally having a break from life and recharging your batteries.

8. The sports freak – opposite to the couch potato, these are the people that will make you push your limits and get out of your comfort zone.

Why you need them in your life: They scream out discipline. Their crazy daily routines make you feel bad about sleeping in. They can motivate you to change your habits, to get out there and to try new things.

9. The entrepreneur – these people are the ‘crazy ones’. They always have great ideas or are always running to another meeting with a potential client. And even though their schedules are crazy busy, they always seem to have a smile on their face.

Why you need them in your life: You simply can’t get enough of their enthusiasm. They inspire you to want more from life and to look for true happiness. Their minds are sharp and always ready for a good debate. And that stimulates you to keep working on yourself.

10. The ‘you in 10 years’ – they are basically who you aspire to be in 10 years. They have the same way of thinking, they’ve already made the same mistakes you were thinking of making, and are happy with who they’ve become.

Why you need them in your life: They can be great mentors. You need to picture the person you aspire to become and if you actually meet them, you can learn a lot from their experience and wisdom. And it’s kinda cool to think you could be this awesome in 10 years.

And there you have it. The 10 types of people I need in my life to keep me going.


Teddy T

P.S. I love all my friends and wouldn’t have it any other way. I thank all of them for putting up with my crazy self and I thank them for always being there for me.