• Women 2.0 HowTo Conference San Francisco, September 30 - October 1, 2014

Way Outside Silicon Valley: Starting Up in the Alaskan Wilderness

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This founder started up in a log cabin in small town Alaska. Here’s what she learned.

By Hannah Wright (Founder, Makeoverly)

It’s no mystery that the startup scene is on the rise in places like Boulder, Silicon Valley and NYC. But for those of us outside these meccas, we face many of the same challenges that big-city startups experience – plus a variety of other obstacles like managing remote teams.

My beauty startup Makeoverly was founded in a log cabin outside a small town in interior Alaska, where winter temperatures can drop as low as -50 below zero. Here are some lessons we’ve learned about operating a startup from such a remote location:

Implement a Virtual Workplace

For companies that exist in remote or rural locations, it isn’t always easy recruiting employees. In our case, the closest town is small – barely big enough to have a grocery store. All in all, such a place is not the typical location for a beauty startup – and job applicants aren’t foaming-at-the-mouth-eager to relocate under these circumstances.

The solution? For us, the answer was to establish an efficient and well-organized virtual workplace. Now more than ever, there are countless tools and resources to assist in managing remote teams. There’s Asana for project management, Harvest for time tracking and Skype for video conferences. With these tools, it’s simple to effectively communicate with your team from a distance, check in with your team regularly, and make it easy for them to record their progress at work.

To Avoid Burnout, Take Advantage of the Great Outdoors

Every entrepreneur out there can admit to pulling all-nighters before launching a new feature or project. While this can be an effective tactic for completing tasks, it could also lead to long hours and burnout. It’s so important to get outside and stay active when working remotely. Something that’s not often addressed is the fact that cabin fever can be a very real phenomenon when working from home. To stay sharp, go for scenic walks or enjoy your morning cup of coffee on the balcony. When living in a remote location, take advantage of the surrounding beauty for an extra boost of inspiration. In addition, consider switching up your daily routine by working in different areas of the house.

Embrace Difference

It’s okay if your business doesn’t match the status quo – accept these differences and be confident about your quirks. When founding the company I often thought, “Most beauty startups are located in California or New York. This is totally crazy.” At first it seemed too unusual living in such an isolated area and operating a startup, but we embraced it regardless (and wouldn’t have it any other way!). Discover what gives your company an edge and let it empower your business. Don’t be afraid to be a little unconventional.

Network and Travel

When it’s not a viable option to attend every startup launch party or event, instead engage people that interest you over email, teleconference or video chat. If you can offer help to another startup in the industry, don’t be a stranger – drop them a line and introduce yourself. Network with others in the startup scene, create a positive atmosphere and connect. Branch out, take opportunities that come your way and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.

It’s also great to stay open to travel by seeking out conferences and in-person networking events. Connect with inspiring individuals, listen to stories and learn how they overcame obstacles in their business – you never know what you might learn along the way.

Did you start up in an unusual location? Share your experience in the comments or email [email protected]

hannah-wright-makeoverly-headshotAbout the guest blogger: Hannah Wright is the founder of Makeoverly, a beauty startup connecting anyone with makeup artists online. She currently resides in Alaska and has worked for startups such as Beauty.com. She is passionate about technology, startups, beauty and the outdoors. You can follow her company on twitter @makeoverly

Image credit: Keith Williams via Flickr