From bankruptcy to launching a successful business: How Leza Klenk bounced back from her failure

From bankruptcy to launching a successful business: How Leza Klenk bounced back from her failure

e27.co·1.1k views·2020-01-18 10:00

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Fuckup Nights, a movement where entrepreneurs share stories of their failures, is getting immensely popular globally. Audiences are drawn to seeing entrepreneurs speak openly about their challenges–and what they learn from it.

The failure-turned-to-success story of serial entrepreneur Leza Klenk is a perfect embodiment of this spirit.

Before she founded Spendless Group, Klenk was a mother of three with no degree, skills, or personal networks to rely on. But that did not stop her from launching a million-dollar company that is now worth double the size of her first failed venture –a hairclip company, Bewbrow, which went bankrupt in 2014.

Spendless Group comes from the concept of “spending less”. The firm aims to empower individuals –with limited tech or retail skills– to earn money or gain skills by working remotely.

The company has branched out to three major units: Spendless Cosmetics, Spendless Academy and Spendless Creative Studio. As a founder, Klenk has also disclosed plans to launch a joint venture with a legal tech firm, to offer legal services at minimal costs.

In an exclusive interview with e27, Klenk shares some of the lessons she learned along the way.

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Kill the ego

Admitting that you are not smart enough can sometimes be a big blow to your self-esteem, but it can also be the first step towards learning.

During the interview, Klenk candidly declares that she does not think that she was smart enough, which is why she had failed. “I knew the reason why I failed was that I did not know enough about people’s behaviour,” she says.

Coming from a background where she was unable to afford a degree, Klenk says that she had little knowledge about the industry, fundraising, and legal aspect of setting up a company. So it was crucial for her to gain better insights using unconventional methods.

She promised herself after the bankruptcy that 2015 would be the year when she would invest primarily in learning. To get there, Klenk decided to go on a lunch spree to learn the ins-and-outs of each person’s expertise within their specialised fields.

“I didn’t have a degree, so I decide to learn from the people who have it,” she quips.

Learn from the best

So, how did Klenk manage to convince top-level working professionals to share their knowledge with a stranger?

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The entrepreneur reveals that she would go to networking events and pick a diversified group of people to connect to every week.

“I decided to ask out different people from different areas of the industry for lunch, close to their workplaces. I was very strategic about how, when, and where I asked them,” she elaborates.

“People also generally tend to comply more when you make it more about them and less about you,” she adds.

With this newfound thirst for knowledge and tenacity, it was not difficult for Klenk to reach her goal. In no time, she gained a firsthand perspective on the industry and human behaviour in general.

She also stresses the fact that it is not easy to do this as it requires the “utmost patience.”

What investors want

When raising capital, as a founder with no “proper” background in business, can investors be biased towards one’s background?

According to Klenk, the key to winning investors is to assure them of your intelligence and tact despite your background. “Investors need to be convinced that you’re smart,” she quotes.

“Here are some of the ways they come to this judgement: Through the way you dress and your conversations,” she explains.

This does not necessarily mean that one has to wear fancy clothes while pitching their product, Klenk stresses. But it leans more towards being “neatly” dressed, as neatness reflects a mindset that is structured and organised.

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Investors are also interested in the kind of conversations that interests the founder. This reflects their attitude towards the industry. If they are someone who is simply fixated on their product, it shows that they have a closed mindset.

Therefore, it is crucial for entrepreneurs to keep up with the changing trends and have ample amount of information not just about what they do, but what and why everyone else in their industry is doing.

Paving her way through bankruptcy, employee boycott and raising funds, Klenk proves that entrepreneurship is a series of endless possibilities if only hurdles are seen as opportunities and not excuses.

Image Credit: Leza Klenk

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