Building a healthier future for our children
By Fati Gorezi
Anett Lindkvist is an entrepreneur from Sweden who lives in Uppsala, a beautiful city located 71 kilometres (44 miles) north of the capital Stockholm. She is the founder, owner and CEO of her own business called ’Kidz Education’. She has always known that she wanted to work with people. She worked as a teacher for almost 10 years and then she started her own school for children from 1 to 5 years old with a work colleague. Within four years they had started up four new schools. After seven years she split away from her business colleague and after that she owned and ran three pre-schools by herself. Ten years ago she said ’YES’ to being an entrepreneur. In the beginning she didn´t know much about running a company, but she has now learned a lot during her entrepreneurial journey.
How do you remember the beginning of your career?
I knew in my early twenties that I wanted to work with, and to help people. I first worked with senior citizens in elderly care. I wanted to continue my education and thougt of becoming a nurse. This would have been natural and the next step, except that I was afraid of needles and didn’t like to see blood. I considered my options and studied to become a preschool teacher so I still got to work with people. I remember thinking in the beginning, ”Wow, I´m going to be part of children´s development,” and I felt lucky to be able to study to become a teacher. Still today I think that meetings with people is the meaning of my life. Meetings so you can grow as a human being. Every person has something to learn from each other, you have just got to be open and curious and listen to what that can be.
What is your business? How did you develop it?
I´m the founder, owner and CEO of Kidz Education. I have three preschools in Uppsala, Sweden. A former colleague and I started the company and we drove it together for about seven years. Today, I run the three preschools myself. I started these preschools because I wanted to make a difference in children’s education and improve the quality of education. I didn´t have any previous experience in business enterprise, so I am self-taught. It took a lot of courage for me to quit my full-time job as a teacher and jump into business without knowing everything about it. So I said YES without really knowing what I was saying YES to. I haven´t regretted it for a day.
In the beginning, of course, we had to do everything and every task by ourselves but when we grew, we had to hire employees. I remember that it was scary in the beginning to hire our first employee because it was new to us. We hadn´t recruited before, but it went well. Today I have 23 coworkers. While we grew we had to hire managers to run the daily operations. In the beginning of being an entrepreneur it was hard work, of course, especially the first years. Most hours of the day we put into the company. It is still the same today, but I think it is a lifestyle, and I feel freedom in being able to decide for myself when I want to work and during what hours on any given day.
I also have the freedom to direct the company based on values I believe to be important. I think one of the reasons I am still in business is because I learned to handle obstacles, to not take it personally when difficult things happen. I simply have to figure out how to handle whatever situation comes up. If I fall, I get up again. When you have a mindset that obstacles are natural and belong to life as well as in business, then it gets easier every time the bombs come. I love to come up with solutions for whatever arises, and in that respect, I think I always have been an entrepreneur. Another thing that I think has contributed to the company still existing is that I change when things change. I have to do things differently when changes come. For instance, when I started more preschools I had to hire managers. I had to let go of control and that wasn´t easy in the beginning but it worked well, one just has to work with new routines. So being able to adapt and think and do things differently is important in business I think.
What defines success for you as a pre-school teacher?
To me, success for a preschool teacher is when I see a child grow and dare to try something they didn´t dare to try before, and to see the joy in their eyes when they experience self-esteem and confidence. Success is also when our team of teachers grow as individuals and with each other as a group. When the team feels safe with each other, they dare to be themselves and that creates magic. It´s the same with the children. It´s important to work for and set an environment so that they feel safe and feel that they can be their authentic self.
What is the biggest challenge on working with children?
I want to impact children’s health. Health issues is a challenge for the whole society. Many children move far too little and I want to increase their awareness about their health, moving and playing, and the food they eat. At Kidz Education we serve healthy food and teach children about healthy food choices. The food is ecological, near-produced and cooked from scratch. We also spend a lot of time outdoors and in nature because we believe that children stay healthier if they breathe and play in the fresh air throughout the day.
Describe the process you would follow for business development?
I think that to be a successful business owner you have to work on yourself and continue to develop yourself. During the past ten years that I have been in business, I have continually worked on myself as much as on my business. I also ask for help from others who have already done what I want to do, or from people that know more than I do. I think it is important to ask for help and I have also had mentors helping me. For me, it is also important that everybody in the organisation collaborates, and sets routines so that everybody can contribute. After all, I believe that everybody wants to contribute and to be a part of something greater.
What do you consider to be your key strengths in dealing with your employees?
I consider my greatest strengths are that I am responsive and that I listen to my employees. Everybody at Kidz Education has a voice. I think it is important that everybody is heard because as I said before, everybody wants to contribute. The dream would be if my co-workers felt like this is their own company and I´m on my way in working to achieve that. I love to see an employee grow when giving them time and support, and when they have the opportunity to do things they didn´t dare to do before. My strength is also that I see the whole and I also love to organise. I am rather quick thinking, which I believe is an advantage when you have a business.
What do you think defines a great woman leader?
I think a great woman leader listens and is responsive. I also think she possesses courage, a strong belief in herself, and I think she takes a stand for and follows her values.
As a woman, do you believe it is easier to work with co-workers or senior management?
To have a good work relationship I think one has to be rather close to each other. To meet each other often so your co-workers can ask questions and get an answer rather quickly, where they feel that they are heard and close to the decisions made. Communication is the key to good relationships, so to always work with communication in different ways is crucial. I have routines to facilitate a good relationship, both between the co-workers and the management. To create a permissive environment of everybody being their authentic self and co-workers daring to have an open communication, helps in developing good work relationship.
What skills do you recommend other women should develop to help them advance in their careers?
For women, I think it’s important to develop the skills needed for networking and that the more you do it, the easier it becomes. When you network, you get to know other women and you can help and lift each other. When you can do business with each other and you get the feeling that you always have support, you don´t feel alone. I also strongly believe in asking for help from others. Especially from those who have experience from your area, or know more than you know in the area that you want to be in. Sales is also a mindset that is good to develop because I think that many women are afraid of selling. So I would recommend getting more selling skills.
Photo Credits: Marie-Therese Karlberg