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The authority on gender empowerment in business for nearly 20 years.

Q&A with Huenu Solsona

Written by Staff Writer

October 31, 2019

Huenu Solsona is the founder of The Galileo Open Air Cinema

How did your business come about and what inspired you to start The Galileo Open Air Cinema?
I attended an outdoor cinema in 2004 when I lived in Whistler, Canada. It was a freezing night and there was nothing but a screen in a park, but I thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless. The idea remained with me as a dormant seed for many years until it was ready to spring to life in 2012 when over dinner, a few friends reminded me of how great outdoor cinemas were. I decided I’d bring it to Cape Town but with renewed energy, adding food, music, games and a social atmosphere which would be just as important, if not more, than the movie itself.

What about your business idea made you so passionate about it that you decided to pursue it?
I thought it would be something that I’d personally love to attend and at the time, I was ready to start a new business venture. My forte is in creating businesses that are customer centric, positive, fun and that people will talk about.

How does your personal life influence your business?
I always try and see my business from the client’s perspective. What kind of experience would I like to have and how can I make it better? I also love traveling and seeing what creative, intelligent things they have overseas (or just elsewhere in our country) and I see if I can incorporate some of that into mine. Besides that, I live and breathe my business – personal and business life for me are very intertwined.

How did your sporting career contribute to your business life?
Well, I started a fitness company (Adventure Boot Camp) in 2005, largely due to my sporting background which made me very passionate for sports, but in more general terms, sport taught me the importance (and fun!) of teamwork and truly how you can get so much more done if you harness the power of the group, instead of trying to do everything on your own.

Do you believe that individuals should have many careers within their lifetime or not?
Absolutely! Firstly, it’s fun to do different things in life; secondly, you learn so much more if you diversify and thirdly, life is long and I would find it really boring to do the same thing for years and years without change. However, I also think that people (especially millennials) need to realise that perseverance, hard work and loyalty are attributes that greatly contribute to success and hopping from job to job is not a good idea, for neither the employer nor them.

What does it take to start your own business?
Perseverance, passion, hard work, common sense and a good idea to tie them all together. (Not, btw, money, age, education or background – these are the common excuses people often use to explain their failed attempts before they even try).

What about your personality, talents, approach & philosophy have made you a successful business leader & entrepreneur?
Common sense has been my number one right hand assistant, and self confidence has been very important to get up time and again to keep doing those ideas that came into my head. Over the years, I’ve found that listening is absolutely crucial too – to your clients (who have great ideas to improve your business) and to your staff (who often know better than you do). For this, humility is key. I’ve always been eager to keep learning too so if there was ever an area of business I wasn’t very knowledgeable in, I’d go and research it, do a course, read a book or get stuck in any which way available. You should never stop learning and you should never stop growing, in my opinion.

Did you have any support or is it very much driven by you as an individual?
Mostly me to be honest. In the early years, I read a lot of business books and they helped me a lot. The E-Myth and Blue Ocean Strategies are two of my favourites. I’m also a huge Tony Robbins fan and love reading or listening to any of his stuff. He has been a very big and positive influence on my life.

How is your working life different to your parent’s generation and are they an influence in your businesslife?
Well, my parents were the “job security generation” and I think most people today agree that that’s a thing of the past. My parents both did their own business at some point in their lives though and while I didn’t get much of my entrepreneurial knowledge from them, they’ve certainly always supported me in my ideas. My parents’ biggest contribution to my success however has always been a very well paved road in all aspects of life. They’ve been my biggest teachers in terms of being a good person, following my passion and doing what’s right in life and I owe the person I am today to them.

How does your current business offering tap into the local zeitgeist both locally and globally and how does it offer something unique?
We’re living in times where local is lekker and people are paying more and more attention to environmentally friendly initiatives. At The Galileo, we operate outdoors, surrounded by nature and in an environment that requires minimal energy intervention, while making use of the beautiful spaces that our city offers. Our local mini market of food vendors are small business owners who source their food locally and prepare it on location, also minimising the environmental impact. We appeal to the food market trend in this regard, which is so popular today all over the world, and perhaps particularly so in Cape Town.

How do you continue to make your business relevant and competitive?
Good question because that’s one of the most important jobs of an established business. Even the most successful businesses (and often particularly those) need to keep their eyes on the ball and keep up the excitement for customers to keep coming. At The Galileo, we have a two-week long retreat as soon as the season ends in which we discuss every detail of the season – what worked, what didn’t, what we need to change and what will give us the edge next season. Teamwork is crucial during this time and because everyone prepares all through the season for it, we usually have very valuable feedback and new ideas that we can implement the following season.

What advice do you want to give others entrepreneurs?
Follow Nike’s advice and “just do it”. I once read that perfection is the enemy of good and I like that because I often come across people who want to start something but they are waiting for the perfect moment to do it and find excuses to never get started and so they never even start something good. The truth is that your biggest teacher will be experience, and you can’t get experience if you don’t do it. Remember that probably 99% of the things you worry about will never happen so truly stop worrying and trust that if a problem does present itself, you’ll be able to solve it and learn from it. So… just do it!

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