# 170: BOOK OF THE WEEK — 100 Million Hair Ties and a Vodka Tonic (Part II)

Trelles-Tvede, Sophie (2020). 100 Million Hair Ties and a Vodka Tonic An Entrepreneur’s Story.

Story behind the Book Choice

Last week, I started discussing Sophie Trelles-Tvede’s book about the founding and expansion of invisibobbles but I did not get through with the reading (Part I). That is obviously why I have to do my remaining homework today. And I am really glad I took more time for reading in peace and with joy instead of simply rushing through the book just to get it done for the blog. No, books deserve time and I enjoyed it so much to read a founder story from Europe this time. Trelles-Tvede and her co-founder Felix Haffa did a remarkable job in scaling the company within such a short time and at such a young age (she was 19 when they started in 2012). So, let me continue with my discussion of two more passages that I found quite striking.

2. Orange Fish

Trelles-Tvede is talking about her final months in university here. Because of her fierce focus on the business, she did not live like most of her peers. As she is sharing in this passage, this was not a big deal for her. To her, being the “orange fish” is what matters, especially if you want to be an entrepreneur. I think, the next two sentences are even more revealing concerning this issue of swimming against the current — or at least sticking out of the swarm:

“Being innovative or quirky is much more difficult, but at the same time, I think it’s much more rewarding. I never felt like I was missing out on anything.” (Trelles-Tvede 81)

Part of the reason why entrepreneurship is about being the orange fish among the grey ones is because mainstream is not innovative. And only innovation will really get you ahead as an entrepreneur, especially in the startup environment but also in more “traditional” non-tech fields such as the hair beauty business. Yes, it is not easy at times but it is indeed “rewarding.” Only this makes you gain the confidence that you need in order to move forward. Since that determines your priorities and your focus, why would you ever feel like missing out on something? I hardly ever met a founder who was truly in his business, with shiny eyes, filled with energy and who said that he “missed” doing all the things that his/her non-entrepreneurial peers were doing. No, building something that is obviously greater than oneself obviously requires focus in a way that other things become less important — and this is a conscious decision and a privilege.

3. Not a piece of cake

Yes, I am not doing a “literary” discussion on my blog but in the case of Trelles-Tvede’s founder story, I really have to say one word about her style: The narrative is beautifully crafted with a great dramaturgy and vivid language. One gets an idea of her personality and her way of thinking and developing the business which is quite outstanding. Among the narrative techniques she uses to tell her story is the use of illustrative language and very cool metaphors. The analogy of founding a business and baking a cake is one that is not only funny but really describes the ups and downs of entrepreneurship in a way that is simple to understand for anybody in a very humorous way.

The author, by the way, also mentions this importance of storytelling in her final chapter. Not only does she explain the background to her TEDx talk in the narrative, she later also mentions how important storytelling is for running the business. That is especially relevant since invisibobbles is still in the hands of the founderss. For me as a reader and as someone working with founders outside the sphere of literature, this consciousness and awareness of the art of storytelling as a leadership tool is remarkable. Because the reality is, in many cases, founders do not care about their story that much apart from marketing concerns. Especially in the first years of running the business, they are like hamsters running in a wheel against time and the full story — from a big-picture perspective — tends to be forgotten, at least internally. And, of course, as Trelles-Tvede also describes, many founders exit as soon as they get a chance and kind of take the story with them. Not so Trellees-Tvede who emphasizes storytelling beyond sharing her story in a book:

“Maintaining a start-up culture is crucial when you grow — and you can do this by storytelling.” (Trelles-Tvede 209)

As a startup story writer and teacher, I could not agree more. And I do encourage every founder and every student of entrepreneurship to read narratives like this one. As I repeat again and again, I know that we live in an age when ‘reading’ changes, when many people do not take the time to read an entire book anymore. Still, I encourage everyone to still try and pick up a lively story like this one that is not only fun to read but serves as an experience-based startup manual. You read about success and failure, the emotional rollercoaster that goes along with founding a business, and about all the practical decisions that allow you and your business to mature.

So, if you want to read how the cake story above continues in the not-so-simple-case scenario, why not pick up the book?

Reflection Questions

1) Which founder stories do you personally know from European startups?

2) If you were a founder, would you write down your story in a book? Why/not?

3) If you had the chance to found your own business, what would it be about?

Founder & CEO of Companypoets