Meet Me Monday: Gert-Kristjan Rungi
- Introduce yourself shortly.
I’m your usual Estonian guy from the capital of beer culture, Saku. An ex-paperboy, sound engineer, downhill skier and footballer.
- If and how has EBS affected your career?
Coming to study at EBS, I intended to gain useful knowledge for my company regarding financial management, HR, marketing strategies and export. I can confidently admit that EBS has benefitted my career in these fields. Working and studying hand-in-hand has been the best way to put the knowledge into practice.
Secondly, the new contacts – both students and lecturers – have been very important. I have even found employees and a co-founder for one of my current projects.
- You’re known as a young inspiring entrepreneur. How did it all begin?
The idea was planted already in middle school when I got into economy literature and bookkeeping. In the tenth grade, I got the opportunity to create a student company which showed that it’s possible to break through in the industry even when you’re young. Although our products were simple self-designed T-shirts, the sales and marketing were what determined the breakthrough.
Inspired by that, as a 16-year-old, I created a real enterprise which dealt with importing various products. I gained a lot of experience, contacts and capital. Then 3 years later, I had an important lunch meeting in Stockholm with the CEO of Vitamin Well. The reason was simple – I saw potential in selling the vitamin drinks in Estonia and I was adamant on selling them here. In order to do that, I had to come up with an attractive offer and I was really motivated to get the deal. Despite the fact that I lacked the know-how of working with a big brand and that my English was terrible, I managed to impress the owner. As he later said, I was just so bright-eyed and enthusiastic during the lunch that he was ready to take the risk and give me the opportunity of a lifetime. That’s when the hard work started and we’ll keep on going until our products conquer the world.
- What has been the biggest challenge and the biggest accomplishment of your career so far?
I faced the biggest challenge while waiting for the first truckload of Vitamin Well to arrive in Estonia. I had put all my money into that truck and I was sure that I would be the first one to enter the market with that kind of a product. To my horror, one of the biggest Estonian wholesale companies introduced a similar, slightly less expensive yet a strong brand to the stores. I was in a situation where nobody wanted to sell Vitamin Well since they already had a similar product on sale. The following six months were definitely the toughest time of my career and by the end of that period there was a 50-50 chance either to quit or continue. Fortunately, I was lucky and our hard work paid off and 6 months after the first truckload had arrived everything started going uphill. It still is.
One challenge I did not accept was trying to enter the Latvian-Lithuanian vitamin drink and smoothie market. I was naïve thinking they’re similar to ours, both economically and regarding the consumer habits.
In my mind, the biggest accomplishments are the personal relationships my job has created. It’s amazing to hear your former employees saying they worked in a dream team or for the dream boss. It’s a bigger accomplishment than any sales or profit number.
- Three things on your Bucket list.
- Building an Estonian-based brand that becomes globally popular and is in great demand.
- A round-the-world trip with great companions.
- One of my goals every year is to offer my close ones an experience that will bring joy and contentment to me as well.
- How do you spend your free time?
I enjoy spending time with people close to me and playing football – I just can’t do without it. Once when I had a 2-month break from playing I even started dreaming about it. In addition to that I enjoy snowboarding.
- If you could live the life of anyone famous, who would it be?
Sander Rebane – the best (young) Estonian actor.
- If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
The ability to fly – it would give the chance to see life in the bigger picture every day.
- You’ve accomplished a lot and inspire young people. Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Career-wise, I would like to add extra value to Estonia by increasing its export. I wish that one of these young people who I advise today would make it worldwide. It’s hard to tell where and what I’ll be doing but I hope that whatever it is I will enjoy it and be surrounded by happy people.
- If you could start your career all over again, what would you tell your younger self?
Create your first company already in primary school. Think about where it would be by your 25th birthday…
Most likely bankrupt. I’m quite happy I started my first company with 50 euros because that didn’t allow me to make any big mistakes or investments. I had to think through all my decision, otherwise the company would have been done. For example, I was ready to sell my car when I wanted to add a new big brand to our portfolio in order to come up with the money to do that. Even though the ad was already up, I managed to keep my car and get the brand deal.
In conclusion, the one thing I’d advise is to get into entrepreneurship earlier since it’s the perfect time to develop your company when you’re still in school. You probably have no monthly obligations that would stop an adult from quitting their daily job. Then again, being a wage worker is not always that bad – it all depends on what you’re doing and who you’re surrounded by. Sometimes it can be better than being an entrepreneur.
- Your favourite quote.
“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars.”
Translator: Triin Tikk
Editor: Kart Mättikas
Photo: Gert-Kristjan Rungi