Entrepreneur Interview: Alliv Samson

Alliv Samson is a young female entrepreneur who has three developing and successful business on the go, one that is taking the world by storm since its June launch.

She owns a fashion, lifestyle and beauty website, an online fashion boutique store and has most recently developed a google chrome annotation tool which is already proving a success in the US.

What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture?

I have always wanted to do tech, publishing and retail. I am lucky that I am able to do so now. 

I started early while I was still in the university with XYNZ Magazine (NZ Style Collective then) in 2010. Then Notable at the end of uni in 2012. And Livs Boutique this year with my family. 

How did the idea for your business come about?

For Notable PDF, we saw the need for better PDF reader on browsers and the market opportunity. We immediately worked on the beta and gathered feedback and data from our early adopters. 

For XYNZ Magazine, it started as a side project while I was still in the university. Publishing, especially digital publishing, will always be a part of me. I have been working in the publishing industry for almost ten years now, and I would see myself being in it for a few more years.

Compared to the other two ventures, Livs Boutique is more of a challenge. It is quite a change venturing out from online to retail. But every day I learn more and I try and implement my digital skills to further find the strengths of the business. 

How do you find people to bring into your organization that truly care about the organization the way you do?

I am lucky that for XYNZ Magazine that we get almost two interests a day to join the team. The most-difficult part is selecting the right people that I think will work for the organization and also the team. I also prefer to work with a team of people who are driven and inspired to learn and make a difference. 

​How important have good employees been to your success?

Very important. For Notable PDF, we have a very unconventional setup in the office. Us three founders are almost in the office working 24/7. So our employees have to have the initiative, knowledge and experience in their field. Not to mention, they have to understand and appreciate how a startup works.

What three pieces of advice would you give to college students who want to become entrepreneurs?

Start now. I don't see any reason why college students should not be entrepreneurs. It is the perfect time to take the risk. Even though you are still in school you can start small. Find a problem that people encounter and offer a solution. 

If you are a little bit more serious about startup, I would say allocate two to three years to try. Whether or not your business will be successful, by the end of it you will be more skillful and more experienced than other people your age. I would highly recommend reading the Lean Startup and learning more about the Lean methodology. 

If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?

No, it has not been a perfect journey or an overnight success. But where I am at now, I have learnt more than any books or classes could teach.

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

Risk-taker, patience and confidence. You have to be a risk taker, but you must also know your boundaries and celebrate failures. Second, you have to have a lot of patience. And lastly, confidence. If you believe you can do it, it shows in your work and in the way you present yourself to other people. Having a little bit of confidence is not bad, it's what fuels you at the end of a stressful day. 

What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?

I've been on a lot of failures, big or small. As I mentioned, failures should be celebrated. At the end of the day, you learnt more about yourself and learnt more about why and how you failed. Move on and use the things you have learnt to become successful. 

For example, when Notable's first product Notable.ac started in 2012. We were will in the university and still figuring out how a tech startup works. We might have created something amazing but was not good enough to give us the results we wanted. So we decided to pivot and end the first product. This lead to Notable PDF, we used everything we learnt and looked back at the mistakes we made. Three months on since the beta launch, we are now over 100,000 users around the world. And we are growing rapidly and created partnerships with Fortune 500 companies and K12 schools in the United States. 

How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?

It took us a year before we pivoted to Notable PDF. It was enough for us to gather all the data we needed. And learn more about the market we are trying to focus on.

How many hours do you work a day on average?

I work around 12 hours a day seven days a week. Yes, I don't have weekends at the moment. 

​Describe/outline your typical day?

I go to the office around 10 in the morning and back home around 8pm depending on the day. Sometimes I have to stay a little bit late if we needed to finish something or talk to a user overseas. 

How do you generate new ideas?

I start with what I need. Then I find out if other people have the same problem. If I see the potential then, I go test it out and try if my solution would work. 

What is the best way to achieve long-term success?

Invest in yourself. Businesses may come and go but if you focus on learning and gaining more skills then whatever venture you work on you can be assured that it will be successful.

Where did your organization's funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?

For Notable PDF we are backed up by some of the top tech investors in the country. We are lucky enough that we got approached early on when we are still starting out. 

XYNZ Magazine and Livs Boutique is more of a personal investment.

To what do you most attribute your success? 

My eagerness to learn and to have no fear of failing. 

What would say are the five key elements for starting and running a successful business?

1. Find a good problem and solve it with the simplest solution.

2. Listen to your users/costumers.

3. Constant reinvention.

4. Having a strong vision is a must. 

5. Know your strengths and weaknesses.

Where do you see yourself and your business in 10 years? 20 years?

In a couple of years, hopefully I am still doing startups. I love creating products that people find useful and love. By then my current businesses may be different or have successfully exited. Hopefully I am able to help and invest in startups then.

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