Interview: Milena Bech and Anne Hauge Stensland, Founders of Online Boutique and Decoration Company Festlige Ting
Milena Bech (36) and Anne Hauge Stensland (36) are two fabulous mothers who left their established careers to follow their dream of running their own business, which resulted in the online boutique and decoration company, Festlige Ting. Not only are they running a successful online store and an inspirational blog, they are also creating breathtaking installations at big events like the Elle and Holzweiler summer parties and NRK Gullsnutten Live Studio, and they have filled Posthallen with more than 10.000 balloons for a Sopra Steria event.
Their motto is: ‘Don’t be a party pooper’, which is the opposite of what these two inspiring women are. We spoke to Milena and Anne about the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur, where they find inspiration for their very creative line of work, their professional insecurities and how they find the courage and motivation to keep growing their business whilst also finding time for their families.
First Of All, What Made You Take The Leap And Start Your Own Business?
Anne: I´m actually a nurse with a degree in nutrition. My last job was a management position in the health industry, so it was quite a big change from where I started professionally to going all in with Festlige Ting. I come from a family of entrepreneurs and always wanted to create my own business, but somehow I felt like I needed to have a “normal job” first. Then, something happened when I was on maternity leave; I felt like I needed a really good reason to go back to work – something more exciting to make it worthwhile.
Milena: It was similar for me. I have always wanted to work for myself and be my own boss, and always felt jealous of the people who had the courage to make it happen. We were actually three girls that started Festlige Ting, and I was invited to join during my maternity leave with my second child. We started with a smaller idea, but as soon as we had the online store up and running, the market led us in a different direction. We adapted, and ended up where we are today. A year ago I left my job in advertising to work full time with Festlige Ting and Anne just did the same!
What Were Your Biggest Insecurities When First Starting Out And How Did You Overcome Them?
Anne: First of all, we had no experience with running a business, and we have had to learn everything as we go along. The business development part of it is especially challenging. We are very good at what we do, but we could need a good business mentor to help us take our company to the next level.
Milena: But, our biggest insecurity is without a doubt networking. We attend so many big events through our decorating, and we meet a lot of people we should definitely talk to. We are a bit socially awkward and struggle with finding the confidence to pitch our business. We do “just work with balloons” and sometimes we get a bit embarrassed about that. Like, who cares about us and what we do?
Anne: But after our last event we made a deal – we both have to go up to and speak to at least two people about Festlige Ting. If we do a good job, we are going to get each other Manolos!
Milena: Just the thought of it is making me anxious, but you just have to push through and do whatever needs to be done to keep moving forward.
What Is The Best And Worst Thing About Being Your Own Boss?
Anne: The best thing is that we get to do something we love every day, and that our work is a lifestyle – not a job.
Milena: And that all the energy we put in to our work is for our business, our baby; every single balloon we have to blow up is for our own benefit. I also love the flexibility, and that I don’t have to report back to anyone.
Anne: The worst part is that there is always something more we could do to take our business to the next level. But there are only 24 hours to get everything done, as well as prioritizing time with our families.
Milena: There is no clear line between work and home life. So I need to be very present when I´m home with my children, and good at prioritizing my time. But, you do get very effective.
Tell Us About Something You’re Really Proud Of In Your Business And/Or Your Greatest Achievement (Don’t Be Shy):
Milena: Founding Festlige Ting and the fact that we have created a brand that people actually know of and associate with something fun and extraordinary.
Anne: And that we have managed to create a full time workplace for the both of us and are able to support two salaries from the results of our business – just a couple of years after starting out.
Where and doing what do you feel most inspired?
Milena: What inspires me the most is the work that we do, and especially when we make big installations. It’s very inspiring when we create something amazing and manage to document it so we can share it with people.
Anne: And also preparing and finding ideas for what we want to do next. We spend a lot of time on Pinterest and Instagram searching for inspiration, but we want to create something original and have to spend a lot of time thinking about new concepts and ideas.
Milena: And I´m very inspired by colours and finding new techniques – it’s so much fun!
How Do You Pick Yourself Up And Keep Going When You Feel Discouraged?
Anne: The good thing is that we are two people and that we are in it together – for the good and bad times.
Milena: And that we have a lot of people cheering us on, especially on social media!
Anne: The other day we had a really bad day, and Milena posted about it on our Instagram. We ended up getting so much support, even from people we don’t know.
Milena: It was great for getting our energy and motivation back. Positive social media engagement is my therapy!
Name Any Woman (Past Or Present) Whom You Admire And Look Up To And Please Tell Us Why:
Milena: Since we are two people, we picked two. Number one is Jordan Ferney, the founder of ohhappyday.com. She’s a super-inspiring entrepreneur who shares all her ups and downs through social media and inspired us so much when we first started out.
Anne: The second one is Silje Landevåg, the founder of getinspired.com. She started her business from her living room in Trondheim, doing everything on her own. We reached out to her early on in our process, and got a long response where she gave us some good advice.
Milena: So here is a shout out to her, if she has more time on her hands now and wants to be our mentor!
What Do Scandinavian Women Need More Of? Less Of?
Milena: They need to let loose and celebrate more. Especially with decorating and making more of the occasion. We see more and more of it, but it’s not really within our culture, at least not here in Norway. The last time I had a party for one of my sons, I actually took a lot of a stuff down because I didn’t want the other parents to think that I went overboard.
Anne: And we are not saying that everyone needs to buy balloons and have children’s birthday parties worth thousands of NOKs, but letting people stand out and do something different and cheering each other on is important. More positivity, less judging and pointing fingers!
If you have one, what is your personal or professional motto?
In unison: ‘DON`T BE A PARTY POOPER!’
Tell Us One Thing That People Would Be Surprised To Know About You:
Anne: That I come from a management position in health and ended up working with balloons.
Milena: And that we are both tomboys and did not use to be into this kind of stuff. So it’s a bit fun that we ended up decorating for a living.
And Finally, Do You Have Any Advice, Big Or Small, To All The Ambitious Women Out There Wanting To Start Their Own Business?
Milena: Do something you really love – starting your own business demands all of you. You need to find something that makes it worth it and that gives you energy even during tough times.
Anne: Ask for help! People are so keen on helping out so don’t be afraid of involving other people. And also – you need to be willing to work hard!
If you’d like to see what these girl bosses are up to or need help for an event click here.
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