Interview with Ondrej Vlček, founder of ezapalovace.sk, student by Michal Tomek
So you really, truly need to pull off that master’s thesis while working on your business? Here’s the deal – lock yourself in a co-working space, and things start to happen. Honestly. At least that’s what worked for Ondrej Vlcek.
Number one in search
Ondrej sells Zippo lighters through an e-shop he built on his own titled ezapalovace.sk. Even though the Zippo headquarters discouraged him initially based on their previous experience with our market, he managed to get a 200 EUR order already from his third customer.
“I hadn’t had the deal with a distributor closed yet, so I ordered the lighter straight from the US. Delivery? Three weeks. Over the time the guy who had ordered it already forgot about his Zippo. However, it boosted me a lot.” Several years have passed, the e-shop is Ondrej’s primary source of income and has been number one result in Slovak Google search for the word “lighter (zapalovac)”.
Ondrej graduated in June and now plans to launch a new business venture alongside ezapalovace.sk. “I am simply trying to answer the demand. My friends provide engraving services for lighters, mugs, keychains, photos, and other stuff. And it is truly a time-consuming activity when you need to ask the client for every detail to get the order ready.”
Thus, he wants to help the team automate the process through a website where the potential customer easily clicks out the answers needed. The team then receives just a form based on which they proceed with the actual engraving.
Master’s thesis savior
First, it was quite a challenge to study, write a thesis and run an e-shop, though. During his studies, Ondrej felt profoundly ineffective working from home, so he stayed at the university's lobby to finish his projects. However, the wifi was poor. Therefore he started to look for something else, not knowing he was actually searching for a co-working space.
When his brother told him about Campus and the opportunity for students to use the space there for free, Ondrej pinged one of the founders. “We arranged a meeting, and he showed me the place. It looked awesome, and I realized that this was something I had been looking for all this time. Something nice where you can simply sit down and do your work.“
Ondrej commenced commuting to the place regularly and forced himself to write immediately as he sat down at his hotdesk. “I don’t know how I would have finished the thesis without Campus. There was such peace in there, especially during the nights. Working at nights works best for me; I can’t concentrate during the day.”
Without the student status, the membership in Campus means higher costs in Ondrej’s life. However, he is willing to pay. “Before, I would have been thinking very hard whether to pay for a co-working place and just see afterward if it is a fit for me. Now, I am fine with paying for that. Giving students a free membership is a great strategy. They can experience the atmosphere and decide later if there is a value for them. If there is, they will happily pay for the spot.”
Pushing the limits
The value of the Campus co-working space does not lie only in the chance to focus and being effective. Mastermind group and various events were a big game-changers for Ondrej too.
Mastermind is a concept of regular meetings of no more than ten people who share their actual problems while others try to help them or advise them. A different guest expert comes each week and gives his insights.
“We set up goals we wanted to achieve for the next mastermind meeting and then worked on them during the week. The fact that it was in English was also great as I brushed up my speaking skills.” Students from various fields were part of the group which helped to balance it out – a dentist, an IT guy, a marketer, a manager, an entrepreneur, and others.
One of the events that was of great value for Ondrej was a Startup Grind discussion with Jaro Chrapko from the top Slovak e-commerce business. “The events are free for the members which is great. The one that struck me the most was a fireside chat with Jaro Chrapko from Dedoles. I was eager to listen to his story as his e-commerce company is growing so fast and is of great inspiration to me."
The first thing that comes to Ondrej’s mind when saying Campus is community. "Even if you freelance from home all alone, thanks to such a space you feel that you belong somewhere.” He has never experienced negativism or any negative attitude in the community. Everyone is just chilled and very open to support you. “Campus represents a space where I have the best conditions to work on my projects. I simply come, have a coffee and start working. I feel comfortable there, and people are very nice.”
Your most favorite treat from Campus bar?
Which app or tool do you regularly use that most people around you do not know aka your „secret weapon“?
The best personal hack that helped you become more effective/productive/healthier/less stressed/get things done over the last 6 months?
Were you not doing what you do, what career path could we see you pursuing?
A quote you live by?
It’s one of Casey Neistat’s tattoos that drew my attention. It’s pretty short – “Do more”.
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