Business for Breakfast – Alina Topalova

The first thing which comes to your mind when you see this gorgeous tall brunette is – maan, how much energy does this girl have? The answer is – enough for all of us and even more. She walks through the life on the killer hills smiling and always ready to laugh but make no mistake – as soon as you touch some serious questions, she will express her point of view clearly – and that’s what i luv about her (among millions of other things). She is the one you would trust with your life. Family and friendship are sacred. Having studied law, she has business in her blood so it’s only natural she started her blog and an on-line shop. Coming up with business ideas on daily bases, there is much more to come, i promise

1)    What inspired you to start your business?

In May 2011 I gave up my job in PricewaterhouseCoopers, where I’d worked as a lawyer for over two years. It was a very tough decision for me, because I somehow I felt that it would change my life – I was giving up the whole legal thing for good, and at that moment it was the only “thing” I knew how to do. One month later I finished my masters degree and was officially “free”. Being a very hard-working kind of girl I didn’t want to just sit around doing nothing, and my fiancé encouraged me to start my own business. After thinking for a while about my passions in this life, I decided to open a lingerie store in a large mall in Moscow. La Senza had closed their Russian shop some time earlier and that niche in our market was kind of empty. I wanted something crazily sexy and, should I even say, hot. Pin-up style. Like Agent Provocateur or Chantal Thomas, but affordable. So for many  months I was working on my business-plan and on setting up the whole thing. It was an amazing experience, I worked really hard, read tons of entrepreneur literature, studied statistics, communicated with manufacturers and distributors all over the globe… Until one day I was walking through one large mall and saw the ad of La Senza’s return. They were going to do exactly what I was planning to do, but on a naturally larger scale. I was smart enough not to think of competing with them, of course, so after a week of tough depression I decided to give up on that idea and, sadly, on all the work I’d already done.

I never gave up on the thought of running my own business, though, so when I felt the moment had come again – I got back to that idea. However, having a daily full-time job already, I decided to go on-line with it since it’s cheaper, easier and far less time-consuming. Then a couple of good occasions came up, which I used quite successfully without second thoughts, and in a months’ time there I was – 23 years old and with my own personal on-line clothing and accessories store.

2)    Is your education of any help now?

No. No, no, no. I must sadly admit that it was one big waste of time. What it gave me, though, was great confidence and an amazing argument to the surrounding world about who I am, what I’ve done and what I’m capable of doing. However, if I were to choose now, I’d have gone for PR, management, economics, journalistics even… Because my legal background didn’t even help me when setting up a legal entity. They don’t teach that at my university. It’s basically all about theory which to me was totally useless.

3)    What skill or habit do you think is vital for success?

You should know your possibilities. Not simply by thinking that you’re the best out there, no. You should “evaluate” yourself. Study yourself very precisely. Know what you can do, and what you cannot. Not in theory, but in practice.

Not all people NEED to become a Steve Jobs. Seriously, some people are happy with their… mmm… much more simple and easy lives. It was always a mistake of mine – asking people who I thought could do better on why they didn’t. Why they just sat around missing out on a universe of possibilities. Now I know that some people are happy that way. It’s doesn’t make them good or bad, it’s just the way they are.

So in order to be successful in your own eyes, you need to know what you’re here for. If you’re here to be the founder of a new Microsoft – you have to do it. If you’re here to run a happy family – that’s all you need to do. Everyone has his own place and deep inside we all know it. Just follow that path, listen to your heart, and you shall find success.

And, of course, if there’s anything I’ve learned out of all this experience – it’s that you should never listen to ANYONE around. Only your inner voice. It knows better. “Don’t listen to the world – they say we’re never gonna make it”.

4)    What do you usually wear to work?

Ooooh that’s a tricky one!!! Honestly speaking, I’ve spent too long in enormous offices of large corporations with strict dress-codes. So now I’m a total mess in that way – wearing whatever the hell I want. Thank goodness I work in event organization and nobody gives a damn here.

 5)    Who/what’s your inspiration?

Internet is. Sometimes I feel like a total weirdo because if asked I can talk about the wonders of the internet for days. There is SO much out there. Gosh. Anything you want. And it’s magical in the way that it’s never-ending. Something new comes up every second. Seriously, internet is “Harry Potter” kind of magic for me.

 6)    What’s the best professional advice you ever got?

“Stay hungry, stay foolish.” Does it make me a cosmic freak if I said I wanted those words written on my gravestone one day?….:-)

 7)    Being a lady in business – advantage or definitely not?

Let me start by saying I’m not your classic kind of lady. I can have a man down in seconds if I want to J Not because I’m a fatal woman or an out-of-this-world beauty, of course not, but because of my strong character and will-power that I got from my dad.

For the “girly” girls out there it must be really hard, if not impossible. But for tough ones like me – it’s a game. You can act “girly” and silly when you need to – it makes it much easier for certain kinds of men to communicate with you that way, and you can act strict and very serious at other times. For the business-ladies out there it’s always a game. That’s our advantage. Something men will never have.

 

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