Today we ran 10 km with Laurence Machiels, through Bourgoyen-Ossemeersen, a nature reserve on the outskirts of Ghent.
Laurence is a freelance garden journalist who writes under her own name for Flemish and Dutch magazines like Libelle, Feeling Wonen, LandIdee and VAB-Magazine. She has a monthly column in Tuinseizoen and every Saturday you can find her gardening page in the newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
That I still learn new things every day, even after doing this job for 13 years. And that I now have the luxury of working with people where I feel really comfortable with. I had to learn to say goodbye to those people that I don’t like to work with.
How did you become an entrepreneur?
I first studied Romance philology, earned an MBA at the Vlerick business school and worked as a manager in big IT companies. I had a good salary and a big company car, but after a while I started realizing this wasn’t really what I wanted to do with my life. On the other hand, I had a big passion for gardening. During weekends I sold herbs at garden fairs. In addition, I enjoyed writing, which I had been doing since I was young. At a certain point, it just felt natural to combine those two passions.
With running, you sometimes suffer from injuries. Same with your business: sometimes you have setbacks. You just have to be confident that it will get better.
How did the first years of your business go?
Difficult. Originally I offered marketing consultancy services to gardening companies. They were all very enthusiastic about what I did, but few were prepared to pay for it. So after a year I reoriented myself to what I currently do.
How did you find your first customers?
I researched which editors were in charge of the gardening pages of newspapers and magazines in Belgium. Then I wrote personalized letters to these people, telling them that I thought I could improve some of their gardening pages, that I might do better. I proposed to write a free article for them, to prove that. Today, I still work with almost all of those first customers. Certainly in the beginning it was important to approach the right people. Just sitting at home behind your computer won’t get you very far.
Which similarities do you see between running and entrepreneurship?
- With running, you sometimes suffer from injuries. Same with your business: sometimes you have setbacks. That’s just part of the game. You have to learn to believe in yourself and to have confidence that it will get better.
- You have to set goals. For me personally, my goal was to become the best garden journalist of Flanders. My running goal last year was to run the 10 miles of Waasmunster for my 50th birthday. So, set goals, stay focused on them and do everything you can to achieve your goals.
What was an important moment in your career?
When I started, there was one other well known garden journalist. When I took over his column in the most important gardening magazine of Flanders and Holland, that was a big milestone for me.
And finally, do you have any tips for starting entrepreneurs?
- Believe in yourself, know your strengths and believe that you can do better. Define your unique selling proposition.
- Keep your focus. This is hard, certainly in the beginning, because you’ll be tempted to accept any job just to generate income. Always follow your gut feeling.
- Stay critical and take time for self-reflection: ‘how can I improve myself’? Stay with both feet on the ground.
- Start lean. Just as with running, it doesn’t make much of a difference whether you have an expensive Nike sport outfit and a top-of-the line Salomon backpack. More important is to keep a good eye on your finances.
- Love what you do and radiate that passion.
Want to know more about Laurence? www.laurencemachiels.be