Mirna Bačun knows what it’s like to be broke.
In April of 2016, she walked away from the startup she had founded two years earlier in Sofia, Bulgaria. She was in debt, her friends and family thought she was crazy, and she didn’t have a plan. But she knew she wanted to build her own online business.
Fast forward nine months. Today, Bačun teaches fellow entrepreneurs how to get clients through LinkedIn. Last month, her annual revenue hit over $45,000 (about $320,000 Croatian kuna) — nearly 7x the average annual salary in Croatia, where she is based.
We caught up with Bačun to find out what it’s like to zig when everyone close to you tells you to zag.
How did you get started with your business?
I got fired from my full-time job in Croatia after I busted my leg. After my injury, they told me, “Don’t come to work tomorrow because you’re no good to us.” At that point, I thought, “What the hell am I going to do now?” So I decided to try freelancing, which nobody was doing at the time in Croatia.
Then, after two years of freelancing as a video editor, I decided to start a software company. We built software that helped nutritionists work with their clients online. Around that same time I purchased GrowthLab’s Zero to Launch. I wanted to see if I could apply what I learned about online business through the course to my software company.
The company did well — we had investors and everything — but I wasn’t happy. I was the CEO, but my heart was never in it. I couldn’t contribute in the way that I wanted to because I’m not a programmer. And when you have investors, you’re basically working for them, so it didn’t really feel like my own business.
About two years in, I decided to shut down the SaaS arm of the business, which I was running. At that point, I was drowning in debt, but I was so happy to not have the software company anymore. My sister was like, “Are you insane? You don’t have a penny to your name. You’re closing the company down and you’re happy?”
I felt this huge sense of relief. I was ready to start another company. My sister said, “How are you going to do that? You’re in debt.” And I was like, “I don’t care. I’m just going to start it.”
And so I did.
How did you come up with your business idea?
I had no email list, no product. I had used LinkedIn to promote my software company and actually made $50,000 in a year without spending a dollar on ads. I had even helped other people build LinkedIn Groups for their businesses and I charged for it, but I never thought of it as a viable business model.
So I went back to that idea and used the Zero to Launch course to validate my idea and get my first client. I started sharing cool LinkedIn video tips on Facebook about how people can use LinkedIn to get more customers. People started to engage with the content, and I decided to create an online course about using LinkedIn for your business.
In the first month, I made $3,500. And after a few months it really started to flow. After eight months, I was around $37,000 in total sales. I ended the year with over $45,000 in revenue.
Mirna Bačun’s monthly revenue from April 2016, when she started her business, through the end of the year. Her revenue during her first nine months in business was over $45k.
I’ve expanded beyond my online course into one-on-one coaching and group coaching programs. Recently, I’ve also been helping clients write amazing, evergreen lead magnets and set up sales funnels. But I started out by positioning myself as a LinkedIn expert, because it’s easy to understand.
Anyone who starts their own business deals with a certain amount of pressure from their friends, family, and society as a whole. It sounds like for you, in Croatia, that was especially true.
In Croatia, people don’t have online businesses. They have no idea what that is.
When I started my business, I didn’t know anyone in Croatia who was doing the same thing, but I was poking around online and I found things that made sense to me. I wanted to travel the world, work from wherever, and set my own hours — all the typical “freedom” stuff. And I knew that doing freelance video editing or staying at my software company wasn’t going to allow me to build the life I wanted.
In the beginning, I didn’t even tell my parents what I was doing because they would have told me to get a 9 to 5 job, do it for 20 years, and eventually retire. I would rather die than do that. But now they’re super-happy for me and proud of what I’ve accomplished.
What is life like now that you have your own business?
I travel a bunch. Just in the past couple of months I’ve been to Italy, Belgrade, and the Netherlands. I’m going to Thailand in January to work there for two months with friends, and I’m planning to go to the United States later this year.
I don’t worry about money anymore. Croatia had the war 20 years ago, and everybody has been struggling ever since. Everybody constantly thinks about how to save money. It’s this mentality of not spending, not fulfilling your dreams, playing it safe, because it’s easier, right?
And everybody complains that it’s too difficult to start a business. My response is: “Guys, there’s money. There’s plenty of money around. You just need to grab it.”
This is what owning an online business looks like. Bačun (center) with her best friend, sister, and niece on the Island of Krk, Croatia, last August.
What are your goals for the future? Where do you want to take your company?
Right now, I’m focused on automating my business and providing as much value as possible so that I can raise my prices. Last month, I enrolled in Ramit’s 6-Figure Consulting Course and landed two $10,000 deals within seven days of starting the program.
But for a business to work, you need to want something really badly. Money is just a means to achieving a goal. Rather than saying, “I want to make a lot of money,” figure out why you want to make money. What is it that you really want?
For example, I’m doing all of this because I want to buy myself an apartment without taking a loan from the bank. I want to have my own apartment at the end of 2017 or beginning of 2018, which means that I have to make around six figures this year. So that’s my goal.
And after that, I want to buy a house on the beach. Croatia has one of the most beautiful coasts in the world. Eventually, I want to make enough money so I don’t have to work. I want to work because I love what I do, not because I need to. That is my ultimate goal. Who knows when I’ll get there … maybe in the next five years.
So I have big goals that would make me extremely happy, and I’m very motivated to make them happen. I can see myself waking up at the seaside, drinking coffee with the water nearby, and it just keeps me going.
These are really good goals.
Yeah, I know exactly what I want. And when I tell my friends that I’m going to make enough money to buy myself a house and an apartment, and pay in cash, they think I’m crazy. Because everybody in Croatia takes out loans to buy homes. Then they’re paying off their loan for 30 years, but they basically pay off the equivalent of a house-and-a-half or even two houses because of interest.
But I don’t want to owe money to anyone. I never want to be the bank’s bitch like that. If anything, I’m gonna make the bank my bitch.