Sigrun was unemployed in 2012 – now, she’s made millions: “I found my treasure.”
In just six years, Sigrun has built an international coaching company with an annual revenue of $2.2M, growing 30-50% every year. She has worked with over 2,000 clients and helps women from all over the world build their online businesses from scratch.
Managing a Company at 33
Sigrun currently lives in Zurich, Switzerland, with her husband and two step-sons. She originally graduated as an architect from the Technical University of Karlsruhe in Germany. This was in the late 1990s, the early days of the internet, and once Sigrun discovered it, there was no turning back. She completed a degree in computer aided architectural design at ETH Zurich in Switzerland and began working as an information architect. She became head of the department at Landmat, an Icelandic software company specializing in the commercial use of land information. After participating in a 3-month entrepreneurial course, Sigrun began to study computer science while employed in her full-time job.
She continued her career with management positions in IT companies in Iceland. As the CEO at Innn, a web software company, she achieved a turn-around in a short time after the company had been losing money for seven years. At the age of 33, Sigrun took over as CEO of Tæknival, which was sold 15 months later. She took on further development with Innn, until the company was eventually sold to Kögun, which merged with the web company Eskill. After Eskill and Innn merged, Sigrun left the company and went to London to complete the executive MBA program at London Business School.
Being Able to Work from Anywhere
Sigrun graduated from the program in 2008 and moved to Switzerland where she took up a position as Managing Director of a Swiss medical technology company. However, she got sick, lost her job, and was unable to work for seven months because of repetitive strain injury. After her recovery, she took over as Country Manager for the Icelandic software company InfoMentor in Switzerland. A year later, she suggested the company hire a managing director in Germany to save costs, and lost her job as a result.
“I got sick and lost my job twice in two years,” Sigrun says. She signed up for unemployment benefits. With her specific education and extensive experience in management positions, it wasn’t easy for her to find another job. Sigrun says that for her, this was a clear message from the Universe: Now was the time to start her own business.
“I started to become interested in online businesses. I wanted to be able to work from anywhere in the world, have time to take care of my health, travel and enjoy life.”
She was invited to a course organized by the employment office in which participants learned how to create their own business. “I had this idea of setting up an online shop and sell Icelandic products. I visited a company in Iceland, talked to designers and tried to figure out how it all works. I realized that the cost of shipping was very high, and that this was not the ideal business for me. So I kept looking for an idea.”
At the time, Sigrun was reading the book The Alchemist, the story of a young boy who travels around the world in search of a treasure. When he returns home, he understands that the treasure was within himself all along.
“That’s when I found my treasure. I wanted to become a business consultant. I started out as a traditional business consultant, but soon discovered that I’d rather offer my consulting services online through coaching programs and give advice to individuals, especially women, to help them build their own online businesses. During this time, I was very active in Facebook groups and was always helping people, not to sell but to build trust. For example, I offered a free course teaching people how to find their business idea. People started noticing me and came back for more help. That’s how I got my first clients. The thing is, people want to pay. If you’re looking for free information, you usually end up doing nothing with it. Free information is great for getting insights and ideas, but usually you don’t do anything until you have paid and invested in yourself.”
Sigrun says it has been a big step to market herself in this way. “When you go to work for yourself, all kinds of strange feelings come up. You are very exposed. It took me two months to finally post on my site ‘1 hour business coaching: $180.’ On March 26th, 2014, the first client bought.”
She started by offering 1-1 coaching, but it was always her intention to offer online courses. She agrees that it’s essential to start small. “If you can’t sell to one person, you can’t sell to two, ten or twenty.”
In summer 2014, Sigrun also began offering webinars. Six months later, she had 2000 people on her mailing list. In 2016, she knew it was time to offer group coaching to replace 1-1 coaching. Since then, Sigrun has only offered group courses with a duration of one year. “You don't get an idea and start a business in four weeks. After you get the idea, the questions come and you need help and restraint and follow-up. “
The women who seek to work with Sigrun are highly educated and have a great deal of work experience. “Many are around forty. I often say that this is the best time to start a business. They have experience and if they have children, they’re not small anymore. My clients are very diverse. I have dog trainers, interior designers, architects, stylists, doctors, nutritionists and many more.”
“Everyone can create an online business,” says Sigrun. “Let’s assume a photographer comes to me and wants to start a business. You can't take pictures of people over the internet, but you can teach others to take their own pictures, you can help people prepare for photography, you can offer a VIP day where people come and get a makeover and a shoot. The possibilities are endless. There is always a way, you just have to think outside the box. But because it has become so easy, people need to know how to market themselves. It's hard to stand out.”
Sigrun says that she created a unique position for herself. “I'm from Iceland and talk about it. I also have education and experience that is rather unique,” she says. “I always wear red too! It helps, people talk about it. I’m also known to be very direct when I give advice: I don’t sugarcoat things. This works especially well with my German-speaking clients, for example,” she says and smiles.
Vigdis Paved the Way
Sigrun says that in order to achieve equality, women need to make their own money and be role models. She remembers Vigdis Finnbogadottir, a single mother who became president of Iceland in 1980. “Vigdis taught women and girls that everything is possible. You can become president and you don't even need to be married! I read an article in a rather unusual magazine, the Barbie magazine. It said that when girls are five years old, they no longer believe that they can make their dreams come true. I want to show everyone that you can make your dreams come true. You don't have to have an investor and you don't have to have a million dollar business idea. If you already have some experience and knowledge, maybe you just need help turning it into a business. I have often told my clients that sometimes you need to do something you haven’t done before to get the wheels started. “
The Biggest Project to Date
Sigrun will host the Selfmade Summit, an international conference in Reykjavik, Iceland, on June 18 and 19, 2020. The Selfmade Summit is for women who want to start and scale an online business. Sigrun points out that men are welcome, too.
“This is my newest project, and the biggest one so far. There are speakers from all over the world. And everyone shows up in red! The speakers are all ‘self made’; women who have built their own businesses with their own capital. And they all have at least a million dollars in annual revenue. I'm doing this for all the women out there who want to make their dreams come true. It will impact the next generation of girls, so that they no longer believe they can’t realize their dreams, but instead make them come true.”
In 2008, Sigrun attended a lecture with Tony Robbins in London. The participants had to write down their vision and where they wanted it to be in 10 years. “I lost the piece of paper where I had written down my vision, but found it again 10 years later. My vision was: I own my own business, I have a million dollars in annual revenue, I've achieved gender equality, I've run a marathon. I’ve achieved all these goals, except for running a marathon and achieving gender equality. They are next on the agenda.”