Kristian Mejstřík is a young, energetic entrepreneur with a lot of experience. He worked for several years as a social coordinator at a hotel, where he created the programme for guests from all around the world, and also served as a coordinator at various events and as a guide. With his knowledge of the market, background in acting and desire for independence, he decided to put his experience to use and founded the company Prague Local Friends;-), which offers not only tours of Prague for tourists, but also events for major companies, night-time walks through Prague and excursions to interesting historical places such as Terezín, Kutná hora and Mělník, for example. His team currently numbers five people, and as he says himself: “My dream is to be independent and to dedicate myself fully to every client, whether that involves a couple or an event for 350 people. And the positive response pushes me forward and forces me to work even harder. Now I’m truly doing what I enjoy.”
Kristian, what was the greatest challenge for you? Money, time, the team?
Of course, the challenges change in the course of doing business. At the beginning, the biggest challenge was gaining independence. The fact that suddenly everything is up to you. That you’re putting a lot of money, time and energy into it and maybe nothing will come of it. You don’t have money to hire specialists in marketing, accounting, administration, etc. On the other hand, I didn’t have much time to focus on those things because I had a lot of work with the launch. I managed to put together a high-quality team of people whom I like and whom I trust for one hundred percent. Now our challenge is to approach more potential clients and to expand the portfolio of services, and to finally make a Czech version of the website and launch a blog.
You have already participated in Start-Up Academy from Inventi – why did you get involved in it and what did you get from it?
I went back to school after ten years and in the possible in the course of case studies, we were offered the opportunity to participate in Start-Up Academy, which was organised by Inventi. I immediately decided to sign up, as it was clear to me that I would get the best know-how from people who are active in business day in, day out and encounter practical problems rather than at the academic level of graphs and diagrams. Not to mention new contacts. And I wasn’t mistaken. And, what’s more, everything was free. Thanks to SA, I began to consider the product and the workings of the market a bit more.
How do you contend with competitors? There are loads of travel agencies and local guides, the whole internet…
Of course, you keep an eye on competitors, but we don’t have a lot of time to struggle with them. We mainly compete with ourselves in order to always be somewhat better. And that takes quite some energy. Furthermore, we collaborate with other colleagues whose work we respect and if we aren’t able to provide a service in sufficient quality, we send the client to someone who can do it better. Therein lies professionalism – knowing what you can do and what you can’t.
How big is your team?
Right now, the core team, including me, is composed of five people and we collaborate with external workers whom we engage if we aren’t able to cover demand with our own resources.
And what are your plans for the future?
In the last season, we introduced excursions outside of Prague, tailored to the clients, and for the next season we want to expand the portfolio with organisation of events, which I would like to focus on myself. And, of course, the goal is to offer high-quality service to a sufficient number of clients.
Why did you choose to go into business?
Every time I worked for someone else, I struggled with the fact that certain things could be done better and more effectively or, in the better case, “differently”, and I decided that I would work for myself. In its way, business is a creative activity, though on the other hand, it is not limitless – it gives you clear boundaries from which you can proceed. And that suits me. Not having boundaries would paralyse me. (Laughter.)
And finally, you work with a foreign clientele every day – do you see any differences between the Czech and international approaches of people?
We work with a Czech clientele only in the context of team-buildings or very exceptionally, so I can’t really judge that. I think that it mainly has to do with the fact that, in general, Czechs still are not sufficiently accustomed to financially rewarding services. And where, for example, Americans (among others) are concerned, I’m not really able to objectively describe them, since our typical clients are well-situated, educated people with an excellent view of things and sense of humour who are on holiday (and thus in a great mood) – and so my impression of the average American is perhaps rather exaggerated.
We wish you much success!