Denmark’s Millennial Entrepreneurs: From Concept To Carlsberg
Like many entrepreneurs, Carl Kronika became one three years ago because he couldn’t find a job. But Carl, at the time, was just a kid — barely a teenager.
“I wanted to earn money to buy cool stuff,” the 17-year-old he told me in an interview from his home in Denmark for this blog. “I applied for every job I could think of, but I was just 13 and everybody said I was too young. So I started my own thing. It wasn’t like, ‘I want to become an entrepreneur;’ it was a natural progression.”
And so, in 2014, at a stage in life when many youngsters — at least of former generations – were working in supermarkets or delivering papers, Kronika founded Copus a social media company to design software solutions, media campaigns, PR, and websites. The company name comes from “opus,” the Latin word for “work,” and the “C” from his name, Carl. A year later, Kronika took on a partner, computer sciences student Andreas Olesen, five years his senior, who continues to work with him today.
Learning On The Go
Since 2014, Copus has grown its client base from non-profit pro-bono cases (“we took any work we could and learned as we went along”) to small and mid-sized Danish companies (“they were mostly involved in sports and education”) and then to the jewel in the crown: Carlsberg Group who hired the young firm to handle its strategic social media communications as part of the brewery’s 170-year anniversary celebrations at the end of this month (August 2017).
The Carlsberg contact came through someone they knew who worked in the company; Kronika then contacted the company with a proposal and landed a contract. His client selection has been equally strategic and well thought out from the beginning. “We started by communicating to young people,” he explains, “and then I began targeting larger groups, for example on LinkedIn. And typically they answer.” (Editor note: he does the same thing with journalists…)
The company now has its own offices in Odense, not far from Copenhagen, the capital Denmark, at a facility dedicated to startups with a staff of 2-3 students. He and Olesen plan to hire 3-4 permanent staff later this year.
Quite an accomplishment for a kid with one more year of high school to go who has never actually studied “communications” — but who has at an early age the presence of mind to know what he doesn’t know and the wherewithal to learn it on his own. “When I didn’t know how to do stuff, I looked it up on Google or found YouTube videos, or I asked other entrepreneurs,” he explains, eager to credit such Danish entrepreneurial rock stars as Mads Byer, Mads FIurholt, Martin Thorborg and Claus Dyremose for their assistance.
Kronika’s parents — both teachers — are keen for him to continue his education. “They’ve been very supportive of my efforts so far,” he says. But he plans first to apply for a sort of internship with Mads Faurholt-Jørgensen, a successful Danish entrepreneur who runs Nova Founders Capital. The company builds and invests in companies that reshape finance. Each year, the company takes on a group of five promising young Danish talents to work within their offices in London. “It’s a chance to learn from a larger perspective,” he says. “Then after that, I will think about higher education. I just hope Brexit doesn’t mess things up.”
Such an experience would give Kronika the chance to learn what it’s like to follow, rather than give, orders, to learn real-time and up-close from an expert in the field. He already reads every book he can get his hands on by and about entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. But it’s clear that he believes leadership is his long suit. “I really like deciding where to take the company, the direction, where and when to work,” he says.
Advice for Millennials
Meanwhile, Kronika has three bits of advice for ever-younger Millennial entrepreneurs wanting to start their own businesses.
1. Be yourself. ”Don’t fake it or try to act like a guru,” he says.
2. Don’t be afraid to contact the big guys; they’re willing to help you. “It’s like in the fitness,” he points out. “The bodybuilders are always kindest because they’ve already made it.”
3. Just do it (with a nod to Nike). That’s the attitude you need to keep in the face of obstacles – not the least of which can be bureaucracy.
Indeed, it seems Kronika follows his own advice. And in five years, what does he see in store for him and his business, keeping in mind that in five years he will be just 23, an age when many young people are just entering the business world. ”I want to grow Copus into one of the most successful communications agencies in Denmark.” Not a dream, mind you – a business plan.
“I wanted to build something,” he says of Copus. “I just couldn’t help myself. It’s super fun.”