Planet Venus Women: Helga Mjöll Oddsdóttir

We had the pleasure of meeting Helga several times at our Coffee Morning networking events. Last week, although virtually, she spoke to us about her journey with her upcoming company Nu Ninja and much, much more. Read on!

Tell us about yourself … who are you?

I am from Iceland and I’ve been living in Barcelona for a little bit over 4 years … time flies.

About my story – I am educated as a fashion designer and I studied in Denmark. I lived there for about 6 years and I did some costumes there for movies and advertisements.

Then I moved back to Iceland. I did a little fashion designing and later I started doing costumes for theatre which was a fantastic job. I found myself liking it more than just fashion. You can be more creative whilst having to think about many more things.

Bit by bit I also started coordinating for the theater. I got hired as a project manager and I was doing all the organizing to put up a play. I was connecting all the threads and organizing the whole process.

For example, you need to ask: what is the director’s vision of the character? You also work in a team with the sets of the theater. I just loved that job – It was a lot of teamwork. Meanwhile I also got gigs as a designer. I was on both sides of the table simultaneously and that was a win-win for me because I loved the balance of being creative sometimes, and then other times I was using the other half of my brain to stay organized.

I found it was very pragmatic in my job to know what the both parties were thinking. For example, I had to know what the theatre’s budget was and follow all these rules to make everything fit. Meanwhile, as a project manager I also knew that on the more creative side of it all – the designers and the artist needed their creative space and couldn’t only follow a square budget. I loved it and I did that for a few years.

And then I moved here to Barcelona! Now I work as an office and project manager in a gallery downtown called Base Elements. It’s focused on urban art such as graffiti and street art. I’ve been there for a few years now.

I’ve done a bit of everything with a lot of layers, but always in the creative sector. I just love so many types of art and I’m really fortunate that I am able to mix that all in my career until now.

Describe yourself with 3 words.

That’s a tricky one, ha-ha! I am very creative, I am balanced and honest (I couldn’t’ rip people off).

What do you do?

I am creating this production company called Nu Ninja. Nu means now in all of the Scandinavian languages. Ninja is a ninja, so Nu Ninja is a ninja of the now. Just like a ninja, you have to know when to be forceful and when to be soft – the balance thing that I keep talking about.

Nu Ninja is a cultural production company and it’s focused on Scandinavian art. Basically I want to produce art featuring Scandinavian artists and present them here in Barcelona. When I say art, I mean all sorts of art. Nu Ninja could, for example, host a concert with bands; produce some kind of booklet with grassroot literature; host a gallery show; showcase short films, design and all sorts of creations, really. So Nu Ninja can be thought of as the company that creates products, organizes, and puts everything together … and, of course, works with artists in doing so.

At the moment I am at the planning phase. While I already did one festival in cooperation with Base Elements, it wasn’t with a Scandinavian focus. It was after that event that I developed the idea of just focusing on Scandinavian art.

Currently I’m building the website, a solid idea, some financial planning. A lot of work but also very fun.

What do you aspire to do?

I just aspire to build Nu Ninja and make it a real company. I have this vision of what it can be and what it can do. What really excites me is that I have very good focus points and it’s narrow. Yet, inside of this narrow focus I can do so much. I’m just very excited to see what will become of it. I’m very ambitious about really doing it and not let it die as a hobby.

What has been your biggest struggle as an entrepreneur so far?

That’s definitely risk taking, especially towards finances. I have stress with “This is going to cost so much”, “Where should I get that money from?”, “Is my family going to suffer from it?”. This just builds pressure on the fact that it has to work. Because I don’t want to be spending the money I have with my husband and my kids on something that might go down the drain.

Since I’m also doing the financial planning now, when I put all the numbers together I’m thinking “Oh my god, that’s a lot!”.

I just remind myself that women can be a little bit more careful when it comes to risk taking, in my view. So, I try to tell myself that I can do it, just like people are doing it all over the world. If I believe in my idea, which I wholeheartedly do, I just really have to make it happen; because if not, I will regret it.

Can you elaborate more on why you think women are more cautious with taking risks?

That’s the million dollar question! We’ve actually been talking about this at Planet Venus’ Coffee Mornings I’ve been going to. One of the things that has come up is that we all have the feeling that it is our responsibility to take care of our surroundings and we have to be sensible.

That if something goes wrong, we as women, have the tendency to think that we were being selfish or that it was more of a failure.

I don’t know exactly what DNA it is in men that makes them better risk takers. In a lot of cases women entrepreneurs lack that, or at least I can totally find that in myself. I want to be better at it and I’m working on it because I know that if you want to be an entrepreneur, you cannot always be safe. That is just not gonna happen. Or if you are going to be safe all the time, then you can’t fly, you know? That’s my favourite quote: “What if I fail? Well, what if you fly?”

How are you coping with the pandemic?

Good health is the most precious thing we have, so it’s heartbreaking to hear about the impact of the pandemic. I worry first and foremost about the physical and mental strain on people around the globe right now.

From a business point of view I certainly feel for people that have been struck financially by this pandemic and I see businesses around me struggle.

In regard to my own, I guess I’m very lucky because I haven’t really launched the project and I haven’t invested money into it yet. I’m just in the beginning stage.

On the other hand, we have to just consider this in our planning somehow. For example, I know that I just can’t have an event the day after the quarantine is over. We have to be careful, the world economy is whatever it’s going to be.

I’m just not sure that even when they open the doors and we can go out, that it will be a good idea to have big events right away. People like me who are planning events have to consider things that we didn’t have to before, because we know better now and I hope we will learn to take adequate measures in making every event safer from now on.

Any piece of advice you want to give?

The advice I would give is what I constantly tell myself as well: plan things but don’t get stuck in your planning. Eventually you need to make things happen. Numbers can be scary on the screen and tasks can be overwhelming, but just do things one step at a time and definitely start before you are ready! Because you are never going to be completely ready and your plan is never going to be 100% bulletproof. I’m trying to take that advice myself!

How do you feel about the Planet Venus community?

Planet Venus was the first MeetUp I went to. Immediately I got a very positive feeling about it. It was very welcoming; I never felt awkward or nervous. It was very natural and inviting. After talking to women in the meetings I just got totally hooked. Now I just go to every meeting because I love it so much. I love hearing all their stories because a lot of people are further along than I am; but still they all have similar experiences of what I am going through now.

Sometimes when you go on talks, the speakers have moved too far along. While they can still give you advice, it doesn’t feel that real. But when people in the group give me advice, I can really feel that they totally understand where I am at, because they were there and they are not judging any feeling that I have since they probably had that feeling at some point. I just always come out of the events very optimistic about my plan and vision and I get a lot of energy from the other women.

It is very important to me since being an entrepreneur means that you’re often alone, if you don’t have a partner. Just talking to these women about your ideas and getting feedback is so priceless.

I would encourage female entrepreneurs to just go to these networking events. It doesn’t matter how far along you are on your journey, it is for everyone at any stage. You meet so many types of entrepreneurs and where they are in their process!

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