Facing the challenges

Many people told me that I was very ambitious when thinking of such a big plan as I have almost nothing in my hands except ideas, some old cameras and a little budget. Especially since I am building it in a foreign country. A Norwegian friend even said I was a «roadless traveller» when he gave me the book of the same title as a present, both to encourage and to express his concern for the road I am going. Some good friends even feel afraid to complain about their difficulties of their businesses when they talked to me since they thought I was the one who should have complained. But I chose to look forward…

I have read many books and articles around the internet about how difficult it is to run a start-up, but only when you enter the race you know how tough it can be. It was the reason why in the previous article, I call my project at the moment just the first step of a thousand mile journey. However, I believe in my feelings which always tell me that this is the road I want to go and should go for. Therefore, instead of being afraid of obstacles or trying to avoid to mention difficulties, I want to choose to face the challenges, and share with you in this article, both to welcome advice and to motivate other people who are also experiencing the same journey.

«Your idea is too ambitious»

I am realistic enough to know that the idea I am chasing is big and cannot be built in few days. Therefore I am never surprised and sometimes feel funny when I see many people’s reactions after I tell them about my projects. Many has reacted as if they thought I wanted it to happen after a night. If I will make a video to sum up the periods of NORICAC later on, it would be interesting to start with the reactions when people hear about my project. I guess it would be a funny video with diverse facial expressions. Most of those would look like they are trying to shake my shoulders and shout at me: «Hey, small woman, are you crazy!», «Wake up, you must be realistic», «Let me see how far you can go!»…

However, before the internet was created, did you imagine you could read this blog online? We all know that everything seems impossible until it is done! Nevertheless, it is true that one of my biggest challenges is to convince people, including sponsors, that the idea is big but not impossible, and that it has an obvious demand. We just need to find a way to do it properly and to match the contents with the demands. We are trying our best to do it.

In fact, I am awake and never paranoid that we can produce all the programs soon or can do it all as planned if we won’t get the funding we need soon.

I am realistic enough to know that the biggest programs we are creating, such as Vikingbarna or Stories of Norway, may not be produced in one year, or even will never be produced and replaced with smaller-scaled programs which are more feasible at present. The truth is during the time building the project, we have changed the formats and ideas many times to adjust to the current situations, though the direction is always stable which is to provide informative programs about Norwegian culture and society for foreigners in Norway.

Besides, we are struggling between whether we should build NORICAC with mass information first and care about the optimal qualities later when we have frequent access to proper equipments or we should be more careful to give out improper quality videos and try to produce high quality ones first. This has become a big topic in our team discussions, and we have not always agreed with each other. The problem is due to the small budget, our access to good equipment and labour forces is limited which is another challenge I mentioned below.

All these have required me to make decision and have suitable adjustments to not waste time and keep the project going forwards.

Challenges to build a team

A strong team is the key for all strong businesses. However with a start-up, it is never easy to build a team when you are short of everything, being foreigner and a too new face in the field.

The most disadvantages for me to build a team is perhaps I didn’t have and still don’t have a strong network yet in the field of media in the country. In fact, I did not wait until I had a team to produce the contents for NORICAC. I designed the plans for every step I could go and started to produce some first contents for the channel to test people’s reactions.

I was quite happy to get feedback from both Norwegians and foreigners, friends, families and unfamiliar viewers. Most of them are full of encouragement. However, I cannot ignore the requirements related to technical problems which requires me to have proper equipment and technicians. Moreover, I cannot do it alone, nor do it well when I have to care about business strategies, applying for funding, building the contents and organizing productions which I have taken over at the beginning and still most of the times now. My question was always where to find the stable members for my team to make the productions happen frequently and at the best quality we can. I have been working with several cameramen and technicians in promotion projects where we earn our living. However, to produce videos paid by clients is different from producing videos for an unpaid project. All of them are supportive and willing to join whenever they can, but we are living in one of the most expensive countries. I understand when they can work with me when they have daily bills that call.

I was lucky to meet young filmmakers such as Fara, Max, Lev, Martin, Kjetil, Alex who were the most interested in the project who supported me whether to build ideas or join me to film certain contents for the shows. Besides that thanks to cultural events and events for creative professionals I organized for people in Oslo I have had the chance to meet with awesome people who later voluntarily supported our projects with designing or technical issues such as Markus, Jan, Sahil… There were times I thought I could build a permanent team for the project but the fact is that we still cannot run it smoothly when the funding is needed. At present, we still have limited access to both labour forces and proper equipment and still in the process to find cofounders and cameramen who can work frequently for the project. But during the time we do the best we can to make new shows that we release as soon as possible.

How to get funding is still a big question

First of all, I really have to say thanks to all the friends and filmmakers who have been supporting me whenever they can, even though I have not been able to pay them properly yet.
As you know, funding sources for social entrepreneurs, especially in businesses like ours are very limited. Besides, being a new face in the field is also a limitation to prevent us from getting funding for the project when people do not know you yet. In addition, producing TV programs requires a lot of technical requirements which need us to frequently have proper equipment and labour forces, which again requires budgets. This is a difficult math lesson to solve.

To run the project, I have taken all of my savings and worked days and nights on my other work and businesses as well as worked for other employers to keep me from being broke. However, I know this cannot last long if we do not find funding, from the government or sponsors, that we have applied for funding. I have written a lot of emails to seek for advice from many organizations which have funding sources but most of them got no answers or being denied for direct meetings and advice.

I did not feel hurt nor too disappointed anymore when I got rejected for applications since it did not solve the problem. Instead I am trying to encourage myself to make decisions on some changes to make it feasible to produce more frequent programs.

However, I still keep hoping that our recent applications for funding will be considered, and, who knows, maybe we will get funding soon. Before that, we still have to keep working part-time to fund the project, and during the time trying to release more good contents so that we can proceed to build an app for the project where we may start to make some bigger profits.

And of course, speaking about funding, I would like to say special thanks to kind and helpful friends such as Chris, Merete, Kjetil who have helped me with useful advice about funding sources. That has helped me a lot, and saved time and energy while I am working on fundraising for the project. I also have to say sincere thanks to my loving family and friends who supported me and believe in me during the time I am determined to build the project, though they may not be happy about it.

I guess the stories for challenges still continue all the way later when we are building the project, but let me share with you more concretely next time in our coming articles.

Av Thuy Thu Nguyen

I am the founder of Norway Information Culture and Art Channel (NORICAC), established to build an online TV channel for foreigners in Norway. I have background in international relations, media, human right laws and graphic design, but I have worked mostly in the field of communications and media. Read more about Thuy and NORICAC here .

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