I remember the very moment as if it was yesterday. New Year’s Eve 2019, a magical moment. After two years of all-nighters full of research, legal documents and development, I was sitting on my couch in my living room. 

I just came back from putting my little daughter to bed and my husband was waiting for me with a glass of champagne to celebrate 2020. We have been planning the launch of DUŠA & KAMEN down to every detail and were very confident that 15th of February we will be going live, selling our products.

Fast forward 3 months – 1st of March 2020, me sitting on the exact same couch, crying my eyes out. What has happened? Well, the world is in the middle of the worst pandemic we have experienced since the Spanish flu. All my launch plans are scattered in pieces. 

The product couldn’t be bottled because the suppliers were only working part-time and need to bottle disinfectant with maximum priority. The legal processes came to a hold because government agencies are not processing these non-priority files now. Our packaging was waiting for us at borders within the EU because the EU customs processes and the Schengen Convention are at an absolute freeze to fight the spread of COVID-19.

I thought to myself: “This is it. We are never going to launch our products in 2020. We will be running out of money before the first product is even packaged.”

Fast forward 5 months into the future. 31st of August 2020, we have been live since July and have sold more bundles of our new skincare line than I could have imagined. Our customers are leaving top reviews every day and even during an ongoing global pandemic we were able not only to get everything done but also excel at customer service and selling luxury skincare products all over the world. 

This was no easy task and I was about to throw everything under the bus every other day. I fought the battles and I won, I made it. 

There are five key lessons that I learned launching my company in these crazy times and these will help me to grow my company and maybe will help you, too. 

Plan ahead – what is the worst-case scenario?

I know, I know, nobody could have predicted what was happening in 2020 and most businesses and startups have been hit hard by all the issues and problems that this pandemic has caused. However, one of the biggest learnings for myself was that I did not even have a worst-case scenario. I was so pumped up with positive feelings and my can-do-attitude that I made a crucial mistake. I was not looking at my plan and asking myself: “What could go wrong”. I think that most businesses and startups operate that way and that is something we must change in the future. 

My advice, we cannot predict what exactly will be happing, but I am pretty sure something will go wrong along the way – so plan for it.

Control your bottom line

This might be a no-brainer for most of you, but I have neglected it for my entire startup process, so I need to mention it. Manage your costs. It is crucial to look at your monthly expenses and write down all your overhead. And then try to reduce it. I was astonished when I found out what I was spending exactly, and I was able to reduce it by 50%. 

My advice is to check your costs monthly and eliminate everything that is not currently needed.

Be careful when adding dependencies to your production process

That is a big one, also it is hard work to do it. Before COVID-19 it was quite easy to log into some portals searching for suppliers all over the world and adding them your supply chain. Every supplier and every new country you add to your supply chain adds dependencies to your production process. 

So, my advice here is wherever you want to start your business, it is always a good idea to work with local businesses because complex supply chains and production processes can really harm you when something goes wrong – like a global pandemic.

Manage your mindset and yourself

This might have been the biggest challenge for me. When my initial plan failed I was devasted. I had a task list with a couple of hundred items and a lot of priority 1 issues. I also had to take care of my daughter because our kindergartens have been closed. 

I thought about cutting my loses multiple times this year and getting back to my old job. Some days I was not even able to write a single e-mail before 9pm because it was just a crazy situation to be in. 

To overcome this I started to work on my mindset and started to do meditation daily. I was able to control my fears and focus on the happy moments even in the worst of times. That really helped me get going again and work through that pile of issues to get everything ready for my launch in July. 

So, my advice here is that there will be issues along the way that is something that every founder will tell you but the way you cope with those issues will determine if you are successful or not. There are some tools like meditation or mentoring that will help you to work on your mindset and you should if you want to be successful even if the whole world seems to be against you.

Hana Boppre

When Hana’s friends and family started to see the change in her skin most of her friends started to ask for their own little toners and oils. Every night for more than six months she started crafting new formulas and was tweaking the existing ones multiple times until DUŠA & KAMEN was created.

I recently had the honour of connecting with a powerful leader and an incredibly creative business owner and interior design expert, Allison Crawford.  Allison is an interior designer and founder of Hotelette, an award-winning collection of luxury short-term rentals in Austin, Nashville and Dallas.

In this interview Allison shares with us about a bachelorette trip that inspired her business, why we do not need to have a huge budget to be effective in our marketing, and why the interior design doesn’t have to be a “fussy experience”.

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For many, attending a job interview can be a highly pressurised and nerve-racking situation. If you were to Google search for job interview strategies, you will generally find a whole lot of advice. Advice including how to dress appropriately, researching the company you are being interviewed by, and anticipating interview questions. Whilst these strategies will help you to be well prepared for the interview they might not help you stand out from other interviewees.

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As recruitment becomes increasingly complex and competitive, employers need new modes of differentiating candidates and candidates need better methods of evaluating their abilities.  Artificial intelligence (AI) is being introduced into recruitment processes to save time, narrow down the number of applicants, and we hope, eliminate unconscious biases in the recruitment process. So, let’s take a deeper look into ai in the recruitment process.

It’s expected that AI recruiting tools will become mainstream by 2030, however, recently AI has developed a justifiably poor reputation. Concerns about reproducing cultural biases, as opposed to eliminating them, are rising. 

So where does this leave HR? We would like to assume that AI would enable a company to hire a person solely based on skills that are needed for the job, making it a merit-based system. The algorithms used to assess candidates are based on quantifiable data and can be purposefully built to discard prejudices. However, it’s important to consider who is designing these products and for whom they will benefit.

The irony is that while the tech industry has large gender disparity problems, technology also seems to be a way to combat unconscious bias, the gender gap and equalise opportunities for minorities. The use of these systems can only increase over time. This means it’s important to explore both the potential positive and negative outcomes of introducing AI recruiting tools.

AI in the recruitment process for candidates

People undoubtedly connect with those that look or sound like them, have the same interests and come from similar backgrounds. It’s no surprise therefore that employers tend to hire people using a similar process. The use of AI can become such an easy method of avoiding such predispositions. New technologies will identify the right candidates based on a number of characteristics that the job itself requires. Factors that unconsciously influence the decision-making of the employer, such as gender, race and class, could be entirely ignored. Instead, candidates could be judged first and foremost on their skills and abilities to problem-solve or handle stress.

However, we must also think about how these systems can be seriously flawed in their design. To think that we can create something that is totally objective is simply naïve; but more seriously, ignoring the risk of creating products that favours some candidates over others based on their gender, ethnicity or accent is severe. PwC’s recent study found that women hold only 5% of senior positions in the tech industry – a disturbing figure considering the products created tend to benefit those creating them.

As entrepreneur, author and keynote speaker, Maragaret Heffernan said, ‘the tools we create reflect those that created them’. The smart screening verifications may in fact create disadvantages for people with particular socioeconomic backgrounds. Amazon’s recent attempt at creating a recruiting engine in 2014 showed exactly this. We need to take this conversation to the developers for them to show that they’re taking this responsibility seriously. Showing that they are doing everything they can to build the diversity and inclusion agenda into the design.


AI in the recruitment process for the company

AI in hiring is an inexpensive solution for recruiting candidates for a position. It may not find the employee that a company will hire, but it reduces the mount of CVs for recruiters.

Recruiting engines will also be used to diversify a workforce. The importance of creating a diverse workforce in this age is essential to a company’s productivity and success. Importantly, a diverse board of directors or managers generates more varied and original thinking. This leads to greater creativity and innovation in the company. A wide range of perspectives allows issues to be approached from multiple directions, reaching finer solutions. 


Reflections for the future

It seems that the only way to equalise the system is if the engineers confront their own biases and cultural privileges. We must consider who creates the algorithms that will judge which candidate has a higher value than another. While AI may be a way to avoid bias, it also could sustain biases and reproduce structural barriers for various groups of people.

Companies are increasingly choosing to hire external keynote speakers to guide and share their opinions on the future of recruitment. HR is traditionally human domain, positioned around the cultural elements that make up a company. These include workers rights, advocacy and building a relationship with the employee. Sociological and technological experts should be sharing their views on the transition from a human sector to a technological one and its impact on society, the workplace and the workforce.  

About the Author

Flora Meadow Ai in the recruitment processFlora is a freelance writer, holds an MA in Media and Communications from LSE and works in the entertainment industry in London. Flora’s interests include digital anthropology, photojournalism, the politics of documentary filmmaking, and the mediation of memory and ideology.