Trine Sofie Tveen Nielsen- Co-Founder & Co-Director, LinkFacility Sdn Bhd
A brand consultant and marketing strategist by profession, in 2008 Trine founded Boosting Business, a successful brand bureau in Denmark prior to moving to Qatar, where she co-founded LinkFacility in 2016. This was where she gained inspiration to help professionals and entrepreneurs see an understanding of the potential to become authorities in their field in a global setting – and the mindset, guidance and roadmap to make it happen.
Trine has been involved in multiple speaking engagements in Denmark, Qatar and Malaysia as a lecturer and guest speaker. A strong advocate of networking and personal branding, she constantly emphasises its importance in all her lectures, talks and firmly believes it is one of the most powerful tools for people and organisations. Trine also co-founded Women in Business, one of the most popular professional networks for women in Denmark. After spending nearly two decades in the branding industry, Trine knows what truly drives communication, market positioning and powerful brand identities.
Trine is a graduate of the College of Art, Craft and Design, Denmark. She currently serves as a Board of Director at the Malaysian Danish Business Council. She spoke extensively to AsiaBizToday on her defining moments, strengths and her views about chasing your rainbow.
Your Career, Journey & Passion?
When I look back, I think I’ve always been an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurial mindset varies from person to person, but in general, I think, the seed for entrepreneurship is planted very early in our lives. I was born in the Faroe Islands, 18 volcano islands tucked between Iceland and Norway in the North Atlantic Ocean. One of the world’s most beautiful and challenging places to live. My parents are Danish, and my father’s job brought us around in Scandinavia. I was only 6 years old when we arrived in Denmark and I was fluent in Faroese, Swedish and Danish. I quickly got many new friends but remember the feeling of differing from my classmates in many ways, as our relocations across borders, cultures and languages made me a very independent and outgoing 6-year-old.
As a child growing up in Denmark, you are expected to find a job around your 13th year. Not a full time one, but whatever it takes to earn pocket money and learn how hard work pays off. I handed out newspapers. Well sometimes I did and sometimes I outsourced it to someone else and earned a cut. I think this was first time I started thinking in business strategy.
On graduating as a Graphic Designer from College of Art, Craft and Design I started as a freelancer and quickly built a business with promising clientele. Got hired into a client agency and then resigned shortly thereafter to set up my own branding consultancy venture. Connections grew and so did my business. And I was already a mother to three kids by this.
So even as my personal life and career were in top gear, I always kept feeling that the world outside was calling. Opportunity came our way to move to Doha, Qatar when my husband who works in the offshore oil industry got a posting there. This also meant selling off my business.
The experience of moving to a new place was thrilling, but after some time I started feeling hunger pangs of not being professionally engaged. The beauty of entrepreneurship is that you attract people with same interest and mindset. The invitations for ladies’ brunches, water aerobics and home parties soon got replaced with conferences, business meetings and networking events. I was back in business!
Your experience being an entrepreneur as an expatriate – in Qatar and now in Malaysia?
Destiny literally knocked on my door one day in Qatar. The doorbell rang and there stood my future business partner. I had never met her before, but at that moment she was a worried mother looking for her son who had gone missing. A persistent lady she was knocking on all the 385 houses in the complex searching for her son. Before long we ended up talking about entrepreneurship opportunities in Qatar and fixed up to meet the day after to see how we could support each other.
Nima Hassan Ali, who eventually became my partner is an attorney, a globetrotter, a Canadian citizen from Djibouti, East Africa and is specialized in international law. So, we soon realized that our skills and professions were very complementary. By joining forces, we could offer a total solution for global entrepreneurs, supporting them on the full journey from business idea to business setup and market positioning.
Slowly the concept took shape and one year later we launched LinkFacility LLC in Doha, Qatar (2016), with positive responses from media and industry! The first global concept supporting international industry in retention of global talents by a solution-based career and entrepreneurship program for expat spouses, and help expats solving the dual career issue.
Setting up a business in Qatar and Middle East does come with its own set of challenges. This was something that we learnt along the way and partnered a local young woman Muna Saad Al-Sulaiti. We opened a remote office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia simultaneously with launching LinkFacility in Doha. The idea was to aim a global reach.
Starting up LinkFacility in Malaysia was in so many ways less complicated than in Qatar. In Qatar it took more than 6 months of hard work launching LinkFacility LLC, compared to Malaysia where we launched LinkFacility Sdn Bhd in only one month.
Your views on the challenges and opportunities for women in entrepreneurship?
I think women representation is one of the most passionate topics of discussion all over the world, and with good reason. Women’s business and career challenges vary and depend on culture, politics and religion and most of all depends in which part of the world she wants to succeed.
Initially I joined a professional community of 450 professional women to help establish a network even as I was starting up my own business. I got deeply involved in a very short time and ended up transforming the network into a business entity in partnership with the chairperson then.
Those years working with Women in Business was a great experience, and even today I tend to take decisions based on my learnings from then. To me it is very clear, not only about HOW women professionally differ from men but also WHY.
Obstacles that you have faced in your initiatives?
The greatest challenge we have faced to this date was while launching LinkFacility in Qatar. Oil prices dropped and the industry was cutting costs and laying off thousands of expats. We realized that our target market was shrinking rapidly and we could do nothing about it.
It was a situation over which we had no influence, but we decided to take advantage of it instead. Though many expats left the country, many also stayed back. And the ones who stayed back realized the importance of having dual income. So that’s where we stepped in and helped spouses get going with businesses & careers.
Specific challenges because of being a woman?
No. It would be convenient for me to use that as an excuse for my challenges. But to be honest, I can’t recall a single situation where my gender was the reason for any limitations. I do agree that some women do struggle, particularly those who work in male dominated industries like oil, construction and even financial markets.
Your source of inspiration?
Books! I know it sounds old fashioned, but I am addicted to big and heavy historical novels. And I believe we can still find answers from the past to many of our present day questions.
My biggest inspiration comes from networking. Every time I join a conference, gathering, lecture or even LinkedIn, I gain strength by meeting inspiring, motivating and ambitious people willing to share their experiences and know-how.
It is important to understand that networking is not about selling. It’s about meeting, connecting and building relations with people you can inspire and be inspired by. As you gain people’s trust you will feel how your network slowly starts working for you. It has a growth potential that everyone can benefit from. But it only works well if you contribute also.
Through networking I’ve met game changers, students, multi-millionaires, entrepreneurs, politicians and many more. To me it’s most important to meet professionals from all industries, nationalities and levels of society. It helps me gain insights and reflecting on my goals and work around to reach them.
Your definition of success ?
I am aware that many people measure their success through other people’s eyes. I don’t. To me success is the feeling of capturing the moment that I was always meant to have! It may sound a bit “sticky” but we all feel we were “meant to be or do something bigger”. The biggest challenge is defining our mission, or we will never realize when we reach the goal, as it is human nature to push goals to next level even before we reach it. Celebrating our achievements, no matter what they are in size or purpose, is crucial to keep up motivation for pursuing the next goal.
Your advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs, especially women?
Firstly, I believe women entrepreneurs should tune their skills for negotiation, to sell their service or product at the best price, and also negotiating the best prices for outsourcing!
Secondly, they should keep focus on the business concept, development and growth and only consider charity aspects when there is a profit for the purpose. When sitting in the air plane next time, notice the little information folder in the pocket in front of you, instructing you to wear the oxygen mask or life jacket before helping others. You can only be useful if you survive. Simple logic.
My last advice is stop focusing on the limits. Limits can be turned into an opportunity by being the first mover. If people say “you can’t do it” its often because they imagine they wouldn’t be able to. You can do exactly what you want, and you are the only one who can either prevent it from happening or make it happen.