Egija Gailuma is co-owner and manager of OX Drive and the former manager of CityBee Latvia. Last year, Egija was also included in the 'Forbes Latvia 30 Under 30' list of the most successful entrepreneurs. She is also one of the supporters of the Novatore Impact Summit. This international forum will take place in Riga on 22 to 23 September. Its main aim is to encourage and motivate women to aim for the highest goals in their careers by realising their full potential.
What is your career story? Did you build your career purposefully or were there any events that drove your career?
Yes, I have been building my career very purposefully since I was 15 years old. I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew from a young age that I had to get involved as much as possible wherever I could, get to know different people and communities, and help others.
Therefore, I have done a lot of things for free, just to help and volunteer – it has paid off handsomely.
The main event that showed me that I can do anything was around the age of 15, when I organised the first mix-breed dog show in the Baltics, which was a charity event for the Labās Mājas animal shelter, and as a total beginner I managed to attract many different supporters and sponsors.
In a recent magazine article, you said that you agree with the statement that you should "make friends with different people, and not with those who think alike". Do you consider yourself a divergent thinker? How do you think the ability to look at things from different perspectives affects business results?
This statement is my motto in life. I believe that even a homeless person can teach you a lot, for example, about the ability to adapt, the basic laws of survival and the psychology of begging – and this knowledge and food for thought/insight can help you in realising your next project or dream.
I think I am able to look at things differently, but I assume that I, too, am often a victim of the media and that a certain way of thinking is instilled in me. What I know for a fact – I am very open to new things and a completely different view of life, I am interested in it and try to take something from it, learn, and remember that nothing in life is simply black or white.
You are associated with Novatore not only with the Impact Summit, but also with MISSION: EXECUTIVE programme, which you once said that you were very happy about. What are the lessons from your personal business experience that you would like to convey to Novatore followers?
Failures and fear are temporary. Endure and overcome. We humans tend to seek out familiar emotions even when they don't serve us, but they make us feel safe.
I always try to inspire people to overcome their fears, to do something crazy and they will see how the world opens up to them and what opportunities suddenly emerge – all because we stop giving in to fear and take action!
In one of your blogs, you wrote that Sara Blakely is one of those global business personalities who inspires you in your personal career. What have you learnt from her? And what would you like the summit audience to take away from you as inspiration for their future careers?
Yes, Sara is an absolutely fantastic woman. She breaks one stereotype after another. One of the many things she has taught me is that when you are in business, you don't have to suddenly become serious, wear boring clothes and speak in a low voice and slow pace. Sara says: "Why does business have to be so serious? Who made these rules anyway?
I think one of the biggest myths about entrepreneurship and running a business is that you have to get really serious to be successful. Why? Humour is important in business."
What should a woman who sees in herself both the ability and the potential to start her own business or take a managerial position do? How does she go about it with confidence?
In very simple and very familiar words: "Just do it" and that's it. If you feel that you want it and every cell in your body starts to move by just thinking about your plan, then literally get up and start doing it.
Our biggest fear is what will others think about me if I fail and have to go back to the same point or even fall to a lower one ... This is a completely normal feeling, but imagine the opposite – imagine that you stay in your safe environment for the rest of your life, you will look at others and continue to compare yourself with others.
At the age of 80, you will regret not taking the risk, because then you will realise that it doesn't matter what others think, it only matters whether you LIVE NOW or JUST EXIST?
Everyone has their own way of living, there is no single definition, so just go and do what you want. I'm not saying drop everything and don't plan your finances, no, I'm saying plan and think, but go ahead, move and start doing, get involved!
In 2020, you were included in 'Forbes Latvia 30 Under 30' in the “Management & Leadership” category. What does this recognition mean to you? And how much of a role do the team and fellow human beings in your life play in your achievements?
Forbes Latvia 30 Under 30 was a dream of my youth. I wanted to be in business since I was very young, so I read Forbes and other magazines very, very much even then. Around the age of 16, I set a goal for myself that one day I would be there – no matter how, I would. And it happened, I was so happy and still am. Such a recognition is one of my happy moments, I like recognition and I am aware of it, so I consciously go for it, because it fulfils me and I feel that I am living a life that I can enjoy!
The team is the most important thing – I'm lucky that I've always had the best people by my side in every single project; these are people that I am ready to go into the trenches with – without them I wouldn't be where I am now!
You can come up with an idea by yourself, conceptually build it by yourself, but there will always be people along the way who were encouraging, who believed or did not believe in it, and in this way gave even more motivation to you. There was someone who gave you a contact, someone who let you go to the front of the queue when you were in a hurry to print a poster, or someone who shared their post on social media – it's all the little things that help you get where you're going! Therefore, I am inexpressibly grateful to all the people who were, are, and will be in my life!
You tried the She Goes Tech programme. Why did you take the time to do it, and what were the benefits? How does developing your personality help you in running a business?
I have an insatiable thirst for new knowledge. I always want to learn something new, and I also understand that the future will become more and more technologically advanced and more complex, so I must continue to learn and understand.
A wide range of knowledge will help in running a company, because as you have more knowledge, you have a broader look at things and you can make more creative decisions.
Because it's Tesla, it is something mind-boggling/extraordinary/astounding. Everything is different, it is part of the future. Tesla is a brand that everyone is talking about and everyone knows. It is a very controversial brand, but at the same time, everyone wants to try it. We wanted to create something that would not only improve the situation in the city, but also bring joy to our users!
How do you find balance between business and personal life? Do you like animals, dogs and horses, do you have a pet at home?
I don't try to find it, I try to follow my feelings – at the initial stage of the business we have to work a lot and spend most of our time on work, but I really like what I do, so even when I'm tired, I can't stop working. Other times, I want to switch off and not think about anything, so I try to do that as well.
I do a lot of sports, play beach volleyball, dance and ride horses, which gives me that sense of balance, because during training I completely disconnect from everything and forget that there is anything other than this training!
I have been a lover and defender of animals since my childhood, so even now I continue to support animal protection organisations, and get involved as much as I can. When I still lived with my parents, I always had two dogs, but now that I live in an apartment, I can't afford a pet because of my lifestyle, because I'm rarely at home.