Marina Tognetti: Stepping Up with Resilience

When an unwavering passion and unending enthusiasm join forces, achieving something near impossible, seems like a cake walk. However vivifying these qualities requires resilience. Once someone achieves it, any challenge becomes an opportunity. In the world of business it is something that everyone strives for.

Marina Tognetti is the perfect example of a leader stepping up with the resilience. She is an entrepreneur and business executive based in Amsterdam. She is the Founder and CEO of mYngle, a pioneer in live online language education that has become a significant player in its segment. Headquartered in Netherland, mYngle offers customized language training programs to organizations and individuals. The language lessons are given live online through a virtual classroom to professionals around the globe. In an interview with Insights Success, Marina has briefly discussed about her unique platform and has also given insights about the entrepreneurial traits.

Below are highlights from the interview conducted between Marina and Insights Success:

1. Give a brief overview of your background as an entrepreneur.

I am a tech entrepreneur, founder of mYngle.com. I have a bit of an atypical profile for an entrepreneur, as before founding mYngle I had a successful corporate career by large multinationals: Procter & Gamble, Philips, The Boston Consulting Group, eBay. It was when working as consultant on a project on internet strategy that I fell in love with the internet. I saw its potential to disrupt entire industries and change forever the way we buy/sell/interact. Following that, I went to work for eBay to learn about this new ‘world’ and from there I decided it was time to start a business for myself. I moved from managing large budgets, teams, projects to starting a company from scratch. Quite a change!

2. How do you diversify your organization’s offerings to appeal to the target audience?

We are very focused on our target and try to understand their needs in depth. We constantly monitor our users’ reactions and try to adapt accordingly. This also reflected in our internal KPIs and how we assess our job, using adapted versions of NPS (Net Promoter Score), which defines that only excellence counts. Being OK is not good enough for us. 95% of our learners rate mYngle trainings as excellent. The average lessons’ scores are 4.8/5.0.

3. Describe some of the vital attributes that every entrepreneur should possess.

First of all, an entrepreneur must not be afraid of taking (calculated) risks. In order to develop something new, you have to step out of your comfort zone. You can never make the path completely safe. And you will never know unless you try.

Secondly, must be able to constantly adapt. One fault of the inexperienced entrepreneurs is that they get attached to the initial idea, and are not willing to let it go. Keep on evolving till you get it right. It is how you deal with uncertainty and change that sets you apart.

Last but not least is resilience. A true entrepreneur never gives-up. If you don’t succeed at first, try again (and keep on trying).  There is always a way to solve a problem. If you believe that, there is (almost) nothing that you cannot achieve. Keep on trying, and if the hurdle seems too high or the goal too ambitious, split it in smaller steps.

4. What are the frequent challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in the workplaces and what are the ways to tackle them?

Let’s face it: being an entrepreneur is tough. Being a woman entrepreneur is exponentially tougher, despite all the improvements that have already been made. If we start by recognizing this, we are already on the path to change, and each of us can become a role model for the next women to come.

We need to show different role models and different example of leadership, of what it means being a successful entrepreneur. A strong leader is not the one without faults, as we all have faults, but that which is so self-confident to be able to show her vulnerabilities without being scared that it would impact her strength. I believe this can be the strength of a female entrepreneur.

5. What were the primal challenges and roadblocks you faced during the initial phase of your career as an entrepreneur?

The main challenges and roadblocks were not at the beginning, but when we had to ‘pivot’ from the initial business model to a completely different one, which is the mYngle we are now. We had launched mYngle as a marketplace, something I knew very well from my previous eBay experience. We thought we got it all: funding, lots of Awards and PR, a very motivated team. But something in the business model was not functioning as we expected. We listened to our customers and they gave us the new direction, from an open marketplace to a quality global online school. That brought us in a ‘different place’ where companies more than consumers were interested in the service we were offering. The second ‘pivot’ was from B2C to B2B. That is the mYngle that you see now. My biggest lesson here was that change is an essential part of being entrepreneur. That was the key to success of mYngle.

6. Where do you see yourself in the near future and what are your future goals?

It is in my nature to want to constantly improve, and it is in the nature of the entrepreneur to always see new opportunities or areas of development. The future for mYngle will surely hold new challenges, as we will need to keep on innovating and being ahead while the market moves from early stage to more mature. Standing still is like going backwards.

For me personally it will be time for the idealistic voice inside to speak, the voice that believes in giving something back for a better world. mYngle already is a very positive product: education overall is a positive force, and language education, in particular, can be a mean to bridge cultural differences and reduce communication barriers between people. My future will hold new discoveries for the inner me, looking for ways to make a difference, make the world a little bit better.

7. What is your advice for budding and emerging Shepreneurs?

The advice that I would like to give to other Shepreneurs is to stop comparing. Don’t think too much about all doomed scenarios, don’t listen to people that only see limits and barriers, and especially do not compare yourself to anyone else. The stories you read about the few that “got it all’’ are rare exceptions and often not the full truth. Women in particular tend to do injustice to them: if we are not perfect, we feel we are not good enough. Let go of all of that. Let go of trying to imitate types of leadership you see around but which are not you, and be really true to yourself.

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