Irina Alionte, entrepreneur & founder of Born2Succeed event, wants to help young, ambitious entrepreneurs and people who want to make a change in the world get the most cutting-edge and invaluable advice to turn their ideas into reality. For this event, she brought to Bucharest entrepreneurs with six and seven figure businesses who want to share all their secrets with participants.
Alionte started a business in UK after graduating school, Club Cardio, after obtaining financial support from Rockstar Youth, one of the many online platforms for young entrepreneurs.
How did you start Club Cardio?
When I was 24, and after I graduated Warwick Business School, I decided to start a business from scratch in London, a city where I had no connections, no family, nothing. My friends and I had always disliked the way traditional fitness classes looked like, with all the mirrors and bright lights making you feel self-conscious, so I dreamed of changing people’s attitudes towards fitness. This is how I came up with the idea of creating Club Cardio. I was lucky to have my mentors who coached me along the way, who helped me find clarity and ask myself the right questions in order to succeed. The idea of organizing Born2Succeed conference came from this very fact – that there must be many other young people in Romania who, like myself, want to start on their own, have a good idea but don’t know what to do with it.
How does Club Cardio function?
Club Cardio is a new workout experience that blends exercise with easy-to-follow dance moves in a nightclub setting – a friendlier environment to everyone, including gym-shy people that feel more comfortable exercising on the dance floor, no nosy mirrors, no judgement, only fun!
Do you plan to expand in other locations in the UK?
Yes, I plan to expand my business in other locations in UK as well. We are already talking with a national government agency to help me license the project and give the fitness instructors the possibility to set-up their own Club Cardio event.
It all started in my campus in Warwick but it quickly spread to other campuses as well. I would really love to develop this business and to help as much people as possible gain self-confidence and believe in themselves.
How difficult was to apply for Rockstar Youth?
The application process wasn’t so difficult (you have to apply online, then to fill in a business plan template with your business info and take part at an incubator event) yet they have well-defined selection criteria and it depends on several factors. Nonetheless, in the UK there are many initiatives that offer loans & grants to young people that want to turn their propositions into reality. Rockstar Youth also provided mentors, whose experience, expertise and connections were vital in helping me gain the confidence and build a solid action plan.
And because I want to pay it forward to my fellow Romanians, three of my mentors – Tosin Ogunnusi, Ketan Makwana and Justin Devonshire – will come to Bucharest this weekend, for the Born2Succeed conference, to inspire other young people who have big ambitions and ideas but often feel lost, whose fears of failure hold them back from great things and who need more clarity to what the next step should be.
Can you name the differences between being an entrepreneur in UK versus Romania?
The biggest difference is the support you get from the government, or the lack of it, in Romania. There’s an increased level of bureaucracy that makes it really hard to turn your idea into reality. So the young people that might want to start on their own would rather postpone doing it or give up completely. At the same time, the British system constantly encourages children and, later on, young people to nourish their creativity, to find things they feel passionate about and turn them into business. They are supported by the school, friends, family and the system.
In Romania, on the other hand, the standard class format up until high-school level make it hard for children and young people to develop skills required in the field of entrepreneurship, soft skills, essential for the business environment. But things are getting for the better, as far as I can see. More and more grants are available and more successful & inspirational stories get in the news. We are definitely on the good track and what I want to do with Born2Succeed conference is to help the young people who feel they don’t have enough courage or self-confidence to turn their dreams into reality to find the resources within themselves and to take the next step. I hope that in a few years we will talk about a community of successful young people in Romania, like-minded people who want to overcome obstacles and fears, a community supported and appreciated by the government.
Do you believe that a business like yours can maintain on the Romanian market?
Actually, today I just received an informal proposal from the Academy of Economic Studies (during an event) to bring the concept to Romania and hold classes for its students. So, there is a lot of opportunity even in Romania and I am currently looking into it.
I am definitely thinking about bringing Club Cardio in Romania as well, but so far I find it difficult to implement it as most of the clubs in Romania don’t have the wide dancing floors they do in UK, the bar is usually in the middle of the room and it is quite difficult to exercise and dance in a set-up like this.
What is your personal key to success for your business?
Having seen my mother turn her passion into a successful business has clearly influenced me in choosing my professional path. My mother is a former English teacher who owns & runs a successful English Learning Center. She is the one who made me believe that everything is possible as long as you believe in your dreams and in yourself. At the same time, having my mentors to guide me along the way and to give me the courage to take the foot off the brakes made a big difference in the success of my business.
Born2Succed conference takes place March 15 – 16, 2014 at Marshall Gardens Hotel, Bucharest. Tickets for this conference can be bought from MyTicket network.