The best ideas come when you’re not on your phone - Majukooo entrepreneur Maja Szotkiewicz

Kilkeel based entrepreneur, Maja Szotkiewicz, reveals the ups and downs of growing her Majukooo business, offering advice to other young entrepreneurs

Maja Szotkiewicz holding one of her house plants in her right hand, and the artistic print of it in her left hand.
Maja Szotkiewicz's burgeoning business Majukooo is inspired by nature

From starting with an investment of just £60, Maja Szotkiewicz has seen her business ‘Majukooo’ - which sells illustrated and houseplant inspired jewellery, stationery and prints - flourish.

“I feel like the hard work is really paying off,” says the 22-year-old, who came up with the idea during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Maja says she comes up with her best ideas when she is “out in nature”. “Definitely find time for yourself, get out in nature, that’s what really inspires me,” she explains.

“I feel like we all spend so much time on our phone and compare ourselves to others online... so switching your phone off, going out in nature, even going out for coffee, you get the best ideas when you’re not on your phone.”

Maja is in her final year of a Graphic Design and Illustration degree at Ulster University. She has been able to sustain herself from her business since she was 18. Whilst this started out as a hobby, Majukooo became more serious when she took part in an enterprise placement in her third year. This gave her access to a grant as well as some good connections in the industry and access to mentors.

She moved from Poland when she was nine and felt being a new immigrant in the north was challenging in itself.

“You don’t have any contacts and English isn’t my first language,” she said. “I feel like even my accent, it’s not from here, so that was a real challenge at the start when I was putting myself out there.”

I feel like we all spend so much time on our phone and compare ourselves to others online... so switching your phone off, going out in nature, even going out for coffee, you get the best ideas when you’re not on your phone

—  Maja Szotkiewicz

During her teenage years in particular, Maja felt she wasn’t being listened to.

“It’s hard to change that mindset at the start, you really need to kind of be like, ‘OK, this is what I have to do to succeed, I have to put myself out there and just do it, and do the things that make me uncomfortable’.”

To capture people’s attention, Maja has posted content on Instagram, building nearly 12,000 followers.

“I’m really grateful for the community I’ve built out there and that’s where I’ve got most of my jobs from.”

Some of Maja's artwork based off houseplants
Maja Szotkiewicz is balancing growing her business with completing her university studies

Growing and developing Majukooo has not been without its challenges. With her degree coming to an end, Maja has found she has had to put some of her business work to the side, especially during her first semester.

“I was overworking myself, I was honestly trying to balance my business and my degree, doing the same amount of work for both, but that just didn’t work out,” she confesses. “I was just really burnt out all the time and all the work I was doing was mediocre quality.”

By prioritising her university work, Maja hopes to build up her portfolio and prepare herself to be an illustrator. She then plans to introduce those illustration services to her business.

Maja will graduate in July and hopes to do the graduate in residence programme so she can use the university’s services and resources to run workshops for the younger students from her illustration degree.

“I would even love to run business themed workshops for creatives because I feel like that’s knowledge that a lot of people lack and are scared of,” she says. “I really want to make it less scary for them and show them that it’s definitely possible.”

Since settling into the north, Maja sees her difference as a ‘superpower’: “Obviously I’m different than everyone here but that is a really good thing and I’m using it to inspire others who may also be from an ethnic minority background and just showing them that it is possible to be an immigrant and to have a successful business.”

To those in similar situations, she says: “I was definitely so nervous at the start especially with public speaking. I would say honestly do what makes you uncomfortable, because that’s what will get you really far in your business journey.

“I know it’s really hard and you need a real mindset shift at the start but it’s just what you have to do. Definitely also remember that everyone started from zero and everyone was in a really similar position to that, so it’s totally normal to feel that way.”

She encourages people to reach out to those in the industry and to find programmes like Go Succeed, which is run by the 11 councils, or look at the schemes run by Invest NI.

“Reach out, because I feel like the worst that can happen is they say no, or they don’t reply. So definitely do the things that make you feel uncomfortable because that’s what will get you the best results.”