17/3/2015 - 12:00 am

Age Shouldn't Matter: Story of Successful Student's Startup

Written by Olena Kagui

“Having a challenge and doing new things that no one has ever done before motivates me,” says Vojtech Stehno, the owner and CFO at Foreigners.cz. Together with Andrea Teichmannova they started the company in 2009 when they were both 23-year-old students at the University of Hradec Kralove.

The project provides a variety of services for foreigners including accommodation, insurance, immigration, assistance and pretty much everything else that a newcomer may need. The company has offices in Hradec Kralove, Brno, Pilsen, Prague and Olomouc.

“We were students working for the ESN buddy system,” says Teichmannova, owner and CEO. The idea for the company came from a combination of their experience at the student organization and complaints from their foreign friends. The foreign students used a similar agency to help them with accommodation but they weren't satisfied, so they asked Stehno and Teichmannova for help. They wanted foreigners to get the same prices and advantages as Czechs and so the idea for Foreigners.cz was born.

“It was very spontaneous,” explains Stehno, “we decided to try it and figure the rest out later.” The timing was right because he and Teichmannova were still studying and had no other prior commitments. They knew they wanted to have something of their own with a passive income. Stehno was inspired by Robert Kiyosaki's book Rich Dad Poor Dad

“We wanted freedom and independence,” said Stehno, “I was interested in running a business and Andrea enjoyed helping foreigners and wanted to create something.” But at the beginning their vision was very constrictive – they originally wanted to call the company 'Flats in Hradec Kralove'. However that would have limited the services that they could provide and the city where they could operate.

“I'm happy that we chose something more general that allowed us to expand,” says Teichmannova. She explains that it's important to think about a company or product without trying to tie it to one place or to providing just one service. Stehno laughs remembering when they went as far as importing Ouzo to sell to their Greek clients. Flexibility allowed them to open up their second office in Brno, which came with it's own set of challenges. Before opening the office, they rented out a big office in advance knowing they would have to work hard to in order to cover the costs.

“Having a commitment and goal motivate you, forcing you to do a good job and not to procrastinate,” says Stehno. The same principal was used in opening the office in Pilsen, a franchise – they got the choice either to pay the franchise costs or the office for the first year. By choosing to pay for the office it forced them to work their hardest from the very beginning. 

Stehno and Teichmannova have big plans for the future. Stehno is working on Czech Universities, a project that he hopes to make worldwide. Czech Universities bring students from abroad to universities in the Czech Republic.

“There is always a place to grow and go somewhere new,” says Stehno. He and Teichmannova envision adding coaching and personal growth as services available for foreigners and see even more potential for expansion in the distant future.

“It's good to find someone to help you with the business,” said Teichmannova, “someone who isn't the same but instead supplements what you lack.” Choosing the right business partner is very important when starting a business. She and Stehno give the following advice to young business starters:

- Be naive sometimes, don't think too much and just try it.

- Don't be afraid to make commitments – they will force you to work hard and push yourself.

- Be confident in your idea/business.

- Be ready to work hard: if you have an idea and want to make it a reality, 3 hours a week won't be enough. Be prepared to spend months working every day until midnight.

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