Launching a start-up in another country during a pandemic

Launching a start-up in another country during a pandemic

by Rob Hill on October 11, 2021

What’s life without a little challenge?  The decision to launch a new start-up business, in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language, fully appreciate the cultural differences and in a completely new industry no less, is not for the faint of heart.  But overcoming the intellectual, cultural and businesses challenges, which were significant, certainly adds to the sense of achievement now as we reflect on the successful completion of our launch phase for Tovi Foods.

So, what have I learnt during this incredibly challenging and complex time? Belief, trust, sacrifice, humanity, and giving back are vital in getting you there (plus perhaps a little bit of bravery to take the risk in the first place!)

The belief, both your own and what your loved ones have in the business concept, help both maintain and strengthen the vision and excitement.  Their encouragement, support and guidance are all critical.  Without the very small core team of believers the whole concept wouldn’t have even started. Equally the belief (or blind faith) in oneself to invest, pack up your home and move country is just as important.

The trust given to our team by several key players such as our wonderful suppliers, friends, and business colleagues, have all been vital to our successful launch.  As random as the universe is through simple serendipity amazing people enter your orbit.  Perhaps it’s the universe’s way, when doing something bold, to create a self-fulfilling prophecy – validating your decisions and letting you know you’re on the right path. All I know is, through these trusted relationships - by a few stunning humans – we surely would have floundered. 

Dreams cannot come true without sacrifice.  From enjoying a successful global career and having worked alongside many impressive entrepreneurs (including within my family) it is apparent that sacrifice was needed to achieve success.  For me this meant moving away from my loved ones (10-months and counting) and taking massive financial risks. Yet without risk there is no reward.

One of the greatest personal rewards has been bearing witness to the many acts of wonderful humanity, generosity, and kindness.  It has been a life changing reminder that, irrespective of the cultural, language or wealth barriers we perceive these acts have nourished and enhanced my belief in humanity.  So many touching acts of support, assistance, advice during a time of hardship and uncertainty have helped to widen my appreciation of life.

Enshrining a commitment to give back to our community was pivotal. It is truly nourishing to see the transformation - from an idea delivered on a PowerPoint presentation - to the actual manifestation of the ‘Giving-Back’ ideal.  From our ability to donate to those most in need - in genuinely impactful ways, through to providing employment and training opportunities to our growing team at Tovi. 

But we have made plenty of mistakes along the way, a few concepts blown out of the water as real-world realities forced us to course correct, and certainly have had to adjust as the pandemic impacted and challenged the foundations upon which we operate.

Today we are about to enter what we refer to Tovi 2.0 – the next exciting phase of our evolution which will see us grow massively over the coming months – hugely expanded workforce, entering new countries, expanding, and evolving our business operations ready to scale.  Personally, I couldn’t be happier…The reward for the many risks taken over these months are already being enjoyed including a much wider perspective on what is important, a deeper cultural understanding of the wonderful people of Sri Lanka and, importantly, how we can effect meaningful change on our world.


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