In 2005 and just a year out of Columbia Business School, Hilmarsson quit his consulting job and started his own yogurt company, specializing in Icelandic skyr, a creamy, low-sugar yogurt he ate growing up in Iceland. Starting out was rough.
"I had literally no money and no income from the yogurt for a really long time," Hilmarsson says, adding his parents sometimes helped him pay his portion of the rent and bills for the apartment he shared in Manhattan. "But the idea of giving up didn't occur to me."
Good thing it didn't. By 2018 the company was expected to bring in $200 million in sales when it was bought by French dairy firm Lactalis for an undisclosed figure, with Icelandic media estimating the amount to be around $300 million. Siggi's is now in over 25,000 stores in the U.S. and more than 15 countries across the world, Hilmarsson says.
Best Money Advice
"The trick I tell people is to start your business right out of school because you are used to not having money," he says. "I basically didn't have a job for a long time, I worked nine months in a real corporate job and I had so much debt in student loans, I never really geared up my lifestyle working that job, and that helped me a lot. I went through a long time where I could not pay myself a lot of money living in New York, and if I had the expectations of a high lifestyle, that would have been hard."
Mistakes to Avoid
Hilmarsson says he can't think of big money mistakes he's made but has identified a lesson that might help others.
"Don't live to the max of your means," he explains. "Particularly for entrepreneurs, when you start working in the real world and you've been broke for a long time, people are so happy they have a job, they scale up their expenses very fast and then people get used to a certain lifestyle. They tailor their lifestyle to their current income. Once you become an entrepreneur, that lifestyle is very hard to break with, and they find it hard to scale back."
Source: Read Full Article