Star Sign: Aquarius
Currently reading: De Tropenbruid by Susan Smit and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R.Covey
Hopes her last meal will be: a good dry-aged Wagyu beef, with home-made fries and grilled vegetables + a nice dessert of course.
Naomi Louwerens, known online as Authentic Chica, loves to travel in an authentic and chic way, with a bit of luxury. Almost 5 years ago she started her website and Instagram account so she could share her passion for travel, photography, beautiful brands, products, and tips all in her own style. 3.5 years ago she started out as a freelancer, marketer, and consultant through her own PR & Marketing agency: Authentic Chic Travel and Lifestyle with a focus on off- and online marketing in the travel and lifestyle industry.
When did you first know that this was your calling?
Actually, my current work and business don’t necessarily feel like a calling but rather an intrinsic need to be free and do what makes me happy. Of course, it is nice to be able to help others as a freelancer and consultant, which you could say is a kind of calling, but in reality, it was more like a strong desire for independence, flexibility, variety, and being able to create myself! I had these needs for a long time. I worked in fashion and marketing for 18 years in various positions at large companies and brands. Often an average of 50 hours a week. Because I was very independent and passionate, I was able to set up new departments, brands, and implement new functions. Although this was a super good learning experience – I still use what I learned to this day – it was hard work and I was limited in freedom because I still created for someone else. I had mixed feelings, especially from working at large companies – such as Bestseller. Throughout the past 10 years, I thought more and more about starting my own agency or fashion brand. It took a lot of courage to dare to take the risk to invest in it myself.
How did you get your business off the ground?
After learning a lot from my various positions in different companies and brands, I finally felt that my experience was diverse enough and my network was large enough for me to begin. But it was a lot of work:
Initially, my main question was, ‘how can I do this with as little investment and risk as possible,’ since I saw that people in my circle of friends got into trouble. I first thought up several business plans and ideas, but unfortunately, they didn’t work out. It was difficult because I didn’t want to be tied to a webshop or store that would make me less flexible and take away my freedom to travel.
So to gain more background I started working part-time for a fashion brand. This was about 5 years ago. I worked doing both offline and online marketing and sales coordination. This was very diverse and educational which was good for broadening my network. In addition to work experience, I also took an online marketing course to train me in the new online and social media marketing (which was very much in development in 2015). Once I completed the course, I immediately built my own website and set up various social media accounts as a business case.
Because I was very passionate, already had quite a bit of concept and marketing experience, and went for it – everything grew quickly. In only a year I was already working with several hotels and companies! Two clients even wanted to hire me as a consultant for their own social media channels and some campaigns. After 1.5 years of working on my website and social media, I finally had enough courage to dare to register at the Chamber of Commerce!
I would advise everyone to first think carefully about whether your own company suits you! Many people dream of being ‘their own boss’ and make it more beautiful in their heads than it actually is.
What makes your company unique?
I have my own style, which in fact makes everyone unique. I try to implement this always and everywhere, hence the word authentic in my company name. 😊 I love style, class, and sincerity in images and text. I find building a community and real connections is essential for my own brand and that of my clients, which is why I implement this in all my projects. I am also a strong conceptual thinker and, thanks to my previous positions, I know how to be very commercial. I like to think along so that I can quickly come up with proposals and respond to the needs of the client. That is why I also offer customized services.
I still prefer to do everything myself, which makes my business more personal than how many other marketing and PR agencies. I can also think very well from the ‘influencer’ point of view because I am very active on social media. This way I can use my website and social media accounts to promote campaigns, while simultaneously guiding the whole as a creative director.
What is the biggest challenge for you as an entrepreneur?
Being and staying relevant, constant networking, and finding a good work-life balance. 😊
What inspires you to continue?
The satisfaction of creating and helping others with things I not only love but understand easily. In addition, I am a real doer who loves to work! Especially when it’s doing something that suits me for positive people. In addition, I have a number of clients with whom I have been working for a long time or through which I am deployed every year for different campaigns. For example, the tourist board of the Dominican Republic. I’ve been able to set up a branded influencer campaign for the second time this year, including a tour of the island. That is really an honor for me and it motivates enormously!
What is your life motto / what mantra do you live?
I actually have several: Good things happen to those who do the right thing. Treat others as you would like to be treated, but also stand up for yourself and set limits.
And a number of clichés which have proved so true in my experience: do what you love, collect moments, always reach for the stars, work hard, be kind & everything you give attention grows.
How do you ensure a good work-life balance?
This remains a huge challenge! Especially because I like my work so much. I actually see social media, for my own accounts, as a hobby – while it’s really just a personal business card. As a result, I still go beyond my own limits too often. I’ll work through the evening, on weekends, and forget to get enough rest. In addition, I easily make new contacts so I regularly meet for photoshoots, coffee, or brainstorming sessions about new collaborations and opportunities. Although this is, of course, important for my company, I have to be more selective while remaining efficient. After 3.5 years, I still sometimes find it difficult to distinguish and choose. I am working hard on this and luckily it’s getting better. As long as I keep myself aware of it and stick to my own timetables and schedules, things will improve.
How has the Corona virus affected your work?
Fortunately, I had already completed many nice assignments and travel collaborations for the year. Plus I still have a few projects in the works. However, all upcoming trips and related projects are unfortunately on hold. It is still questionable whether they can continue at all this year. This is particularly uncertain in the travel industry. I feel very strongly about the impact on my clients. As long as it is still unclear whether we will be able to fly again this year and how the virus will develop, they cannot go further. Unfortunately, I can do little for them, which is very frustrating!
On the bright side, I currently have a collaboration with Nikon Europe as an ambassador for their new Z50 camera. I do social media management for various fashion, lifestyle and travel brands where I also offer private consultations. Because I can also promote fashion and lifestyle brands and products through my own accounts and website, I’ve still been able to work.
What can people do to support you and others in your field?
Because my clients are tourist boards, destinations, travel organizations, hotels, and fashion and lifestyle brands, this is quite broad. In general, I would say; please do not just cancel that beautiful trip, but reschedule if possible! Keep dreaming about traveling and keep hoping that we can do it again soon. Continue to get inspiration through social media and blogs like mine. In addition, it would be great if you can continue to support your favorite brands, local hotels, and entrepreneurs as much as possible – they are having a hard time and continue to run with almost the same costs, and much less turnover. If you keep buying from them, even if it is online or through a gift card for the future, they will hopefully have a budget for marketing and promotion.
What are your plans for the future?
Keep doing what makes me happy, keep developing myself, only work with nice people, and also offer more online services. If we can learn one thing from this crisis, it is that you as an entrepreneur must remain flexible and versatile and that online is essential. That is why I also follow more online courses to continue developing myself. I’ve also been playing with the idea of setting up an online course, either alone or in collaboration with other entrepreneurs who compliment me – because I really love working with inspiring people!
Do you have tips for people who want to start a business (in this field)?
Several – like my mantras – but especially the following five:
1. I would advise everyone to first think carefully about whether your own company suits you! Many people dream of being ‘their own boss’ and make it more beautiful in their heads than it actually is. Unfortunately, this does not match every character and can, therefore, be very disappointing for many. In addition to the fact that you have to organize your own time as a freelancer effectively, you also often have to be of service to your clients. This can give you uncertainty and may issue a lot of risks, as this crisis has shown. In general, as your own boss, you have to have a lot of discipline, constantly network – both online and offline – to get new assignments, work hard, and do a lot alone. You often have to take the initiative and do the annoying jobs yourself, such as administration (or at least be able to coordinate and delegate this properly).
2. I would never say; just go for it and start. Certainly, if it is something that requires a financial investment, I would always first calculate how long it takes you to earn it back, and whether it is achievable and realistic.
3. I would definitely look for something that really suits you so that your work continues to be fun, goes by itself, and the networking is easier for you.
4. Make sure you already have a good network along with some savings to fall back on! Maybe start working part-time first so that you can quietly set up your own company with less risk and save money.
5. I have many more tips and I always enjoy advising or coaching others. That is why I have written several blogs about this and, when my company existed for three years at the beginning of this year, I listed 15 more in this blog.