Spark.me - Budva - Montenegro

Why I want to attend Spark.me 2017

Spark.me 2017 is headed this way quickly. The annual conference is already shaping up to be another stellar affair with a speaker line-up sure to deliver. Spark.me is a conference about emerging and innovative business models, disruptive tech, digital marketing strategies, and transformative initiatives. With a pristine location just outside of Budva, Montenegro on the Adriatic Sea, there are no valid reasons to skip Spark 2017. However, some still need reasons to come.

Inspiration v. Motivation

Right now, it is easy to scroll through Facebook or any other feed and find countless “motivational” speakers that try to get people amped up to go do something. Anything. While motivation may be necessary at times, I find it lacks substance that will push forward day after day when the grinding is the hardest.

The majority of what I take away from Spark.me is inspiration. Inspiration feeds on what is already beating deep down within us, and gets triggered to burst forward and outward. The stories shared at Spark.me, those sitting around you, and those who take the stage offer inspiration to make the decisions and actions that have been hiding deep within you. The substance of real examples and the information being dispersed do not push you to a pipe dream belonging to someone else. Instead, they provide practical and applicable steps to accomplish goals while overcoming real challenges.

Spark-Me-Brian-Solis

Interactions with the Speakers

While Spark.me may not be biggest conference regionally, the organizers created a venue to allow attendees to get up close to world class speakers/practitioners. They are not only speakers. These are people who are currently leading changes in their fields and expertise. And the intimacy of the venue produces the perfect environment to interact, engage, and learn. This would be my third year at Spark, and I cannot wait to see the list of speakers continue to unfold.

What I have found helpful in leading up to the conference, is reaching out to the those who are especially interesting or inspiring. I did this over the last two years and received quite a bit of openness for future projects. Spark.me is the first opportunity that I had to connect in easy and natural ways with those who graced the stage. BTW, reaching out prior to Spark also landed me some excellent coffee thanks to Jovana and Frank!

Beyond the Speakers

Spark.me is so much more than the speakers, venue, and other things that usually stand at the forefront. When you sit down in your seat, look at the people around you and introduce yourself. Go to lunch and roll up on someone to introduce yourself. Meet the media companies present, the bloggers, and whoever else. NETWORK.

Spark.me is the perfect place to network. Again, not overly crowded where networking can be intimidating, but also large enough to strengthen your network internationally. Start expanding the brand, and possibly learn new skills or meet the person that will help overcome specific challenges being faced.

These are my top 3 reasons for why i want to attend Spark.me 2017. Do not hesitate. Pick up your tickets hereWhy do you want to participate this year? And when will we meet for coffee? 🙂

Past talks and posts from Spark.me are linked below:

Chris Fabian and Innovation Solving World Problems 

How to address change

Reflections from 2015

As a bonus, here are some ways to explore Montenegro when visiting for Spark.me.

photo credits: Jennifer Buxton visit www.RealPoshMom.com to chat travel, food, fashion, and work.

Lifestyle Montenegro - Bojana Minic

Lifestyle Montenegro: Bojana Minic and the need to ask “why?”

Bojana Minic, founder of Lifestyle Montenegro, is only 25, but has a resume that is full of diversity carrying the mark of a learner. She studied law, but does not have the ambition to be a lawyer. She only leverages the skills learned to push her passions further. She received a recognition  award from Amnesty International for her work across various projects regarding human rights and cofounded the Organization of Montenegrin Students Abroad which, over time, has placed students into approximately 25 countries. The organization still continues to work and thrive. Once, she even took a position simply because “she is obsessed with big brands and how they work.”

“If you think that it’s right, do it. But think twice.”

Bojana finds her greatest support in her family. She comes from a family that worked in public service. Her father offered Bojana and her sister the freedom to choose their own paths not pushing them to follow his own profession. His advice to them: “If you think that it’s right, do it. But think twice.” This type of support instilled freedom along with a sense of wisdom and intentionality which guided Bojana in her young journey.

 Lifestyle Montenegro

After an internship with Porto Montenegro and working with Hard Rock Cafe in Podgorica, Bojana launched her own brand shining a light on the growing wine industry in Montenegro. She started Fine Wine in 2015, but found out that she did not have the knowledge needed. Using the desire to spotlight her home culture and spread the appreciation for Montenegrin traditional products, she transformed Fine Wine into Lifestyle Montenegro.

Lifestyle Montenegro promotes a blending of traditional and modern lifestyles in Montenegro. Bojana’s passion emphasizes the traditional industries such as cheesemaking, farming, and natural resources, however, she does not shy away from the growing draw of tourism in Montenegro. So why not blend the two together connecting brands and the local culture. One example she gave was a supermarket chain beginning to sell local goods produced in the northern part of the country.

While building her brand, Bojana emphasized the need for PATIENCE. Too any times people become impatient and do things too quickly, without proper knowledge, or poorly execute causing more damage to their brand. Bojana believes that building new skills or enlisting the help of others is an important step in creating a new brand. Constantly learning, but being able to allow someone else to grow and execute builds a community along with the brand.

 

Šoljica

While building Lifestyle Montenegro, Bojana and her younger sister started a second brand/service, a one-to-one truly customizable coffee mug brand, Šoljica. Only launched about a year ago, she will give this more focus later, but she is excited to see how it gained life on its own. And being a coffee mug fan myself, I look forward to ordering a few. 🙂

Takeaways

  1. Do not expect everything to be handed to you. Entrepreneurs do not wait for handouts.
  2. Do not limit yourself based upon your school studies. Bojana is not a lawyer, but obtained valuable skills while studying law. Academic life does not define who we should be.
  3. Ask “Why?” Constantly question the world around you and look for opportunities to create something better. Create a better system or product, but begin with asking why things function and look the way they do. Think critically, and do not accept the status quo. When asked about the number one thing to change in her environment, Bojana’s answer reflected this sentiment. Her desire is to see the youth think outside of the box they have been given, and question more. Then learn the answers
  4. Be patient. Learn the skills you need and grow. But do not feel the need to rush and complete everything  at once. Bojana was satisfied with waiting 6 months or longer for something to make sure she got to an acceptable point before launching out.

The continual questioning drives some crazy, but the failure to do so prohibits growth. Learn to think critically about the world around us making it a better place, and helping each other grow in the process.

Moving Abroad: First Steps For Success

The thought of moving abroad has always been a part of my dreams. Living life in what was the “normal” context was not appealing. The feeling was so strong that even when I was dating, I would ask their feelings to adventure through life outside of the U.S. However, living abroad does not come without challenges, and a mental struggle that will force many people back to the U.S. (or their country of origin). The expat life is not for the weak heart.

As I reflect on 4 years of living abroad, and doing business in a foreign country, here are some suggestions that I wish someone had given me.

Make connections before arrival.

This was the single most important advice that no one ever gave me. As you settle on where you will move and the business that you will conduct, begin making connections with others working the same or similar fields. Local groups exist which will be a valuable support network, and offer a way for one to begin automatically giving back to their host culture. Too many times, this gets overlooked, or people think they will grow their network upon arrival. However, this can be a slow process depending on the culture. Research and find out who the influencers and more interactive people in the community where you will move, and reach out to meet as soon as you arrive. Making connections before arrival will speed up trust building a relationship prior to setting foot in a country.

Social media is your friend.

Before leaving the U.S., I was warned of the “dangers” of being too active on social media when trying to adjust to a new life and culture. It would cause me to be too homesick, worsen culture shock, etc. For me, this was not the case. Social media can be and should be your friend for building your network, meeting new people outside of your normal context, and keeping up with current events that are not available because of language barriers. A majority of the people I meet come via Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. I have been able to meet government officials because of one tweet. Relationships for me have started long before meeting someone for the first coffee or business meeting because of the interaction through social channels. Active and genuine engagement are important for social media and the personality that is put out there, but this is a later post.

Begin learning the language before departure.

Another valuable insight that did not get mentioned. Learning the language is important, and usually gets emphasized upon arriving in a new country. However, one can start prior to arrival. For most, hearing the language is a struggle. Before leaving for your new home, take time each day to listen to music, radio, or stories in the host culture’s language. This will begin tuning the ear to the new sounds. Most linguists say it can take up to 6 months of just listening before one truly hears the unique sounds. This is an easy task to complete each day while driving, working, cooking, etc. that will pay off in the long run. Also, learning simple phrases and introductory conversations is easily accessible online. There is no reason to wait. Start the learning process before departure.

Learn new skills. Adopt new hobbies.

Photography

I am an advocate for life long learning. Many people will pigeonhole themselves based on their degree or background. Never stop learning. Moving abroad is the perfect context to take up a new hobby or learn a new skill that has been sitting in the back of the mind. We are never truly defined by our past, and should look to move forward in our careers and activities. The internet makes acquiring new skills such as coding, marketing, along with other the skills highly accessible. Again, social media, will open opportunities to learn about local clubs and hobbies that peak our interest. For me, it was cycling, blogging, and photography. These have been two things that have introduced me to new people, and given me another creative outlet. Do not be afraid to try something new and stretch yourself.

Humility goes a long way.

a lesson continually learned: humility. Sometimes approaching a new culture can bring a sense of pride as if the one entering has something to teach their host. The opposite is actually more accurate. The one entering has much to learn from their host. Enter the new culture with humility willing to ask those you meet for help. A space of humility creates trust and builds friendships faster and stronger than acting in the reverse. Maybe this one was told to me, but I was not humble enough to receive it. 😉

These are some suggestions for moving abroad. Some things can be done to help the transition process. Those mentioned have been what has impacted me the most. If you live abroad, where do you live? And What lessons have you learned?