Behind the Business
In our Behind the Business series, we interview entrepreneurs from all over the world. From copywriting freelancers to the founder of the new Facebook, we’ll talk to them all.
In this week’s article, we are in conversation with Sandor Csatlos who is the founder and CEO of MILAV software agency along with running a startup, ParkUpKeep. Read on and find out how exactly Sandor expanded his business and kept it afloat amidst a financial crisis.
An Introduction to MILAV
Who are you?
Hello, I am Sandor Csatlos. I live in Transilvania, Romania and I’m a software engineer by profession. I am also an entrepreneur and the CEO of the MILAV software development agency, and I run a startup called ParkUpKeep.
What is your business?
Our target audience is small businesses who need an online presence but cannot afford to buy big applications. We help these businesses to integrate their smaller applications for smooth functioning. For example, we integrate e-commerce websites with ERP applications for these small businesses and make the services accessible.
Let’s go back to how it all began
How did you start your business?
I started my career 15 years ago. I was working for a software company as a web developer and a few years down the line I started to get some project-based jobs. Interestingly, my first client was a UK-based company and even today they are our strongest partners.
In 2007 I started to hear and read about the global financial crisis. Even in the background of a crisis, 2008 and 2009 were good years for me. I still consider that I probably got lucky and the financial crisis didn’t affect me.
In 2010, I quit my full-time job because everything was going well. However, a few months later my partners were hit by the crisis leading them to cut expenses. As a result, I had to cancel all the freelance contracts with the people I was working with. I struggled for a couple more months in order to get some more projects but even when the market started to get back to normal, I still didn’t have enough projects. My only way out from this was to get a full-time job to earn myself a living, while continuing with the project-based jobs outside my working hours. Luckily, slowly things started to get better and I could finally quit my full-time job. With all things back in line, in 2013 I started my company, MILAV.
When you started out, did you already have one or more employees?
Actually, for a long time our company had 3 full-time employees, including me. I hoped for things to go smoothly from that point. We got a couple of projects and also a contract from a bigger client. Everything was going fine until one of the employees left the company to work abroad. Of course, that’s nothing unusual, but the company lost 30% of the working capacity and we still had to deliver all our projects on time!
As you may expect, we couldn’t manage to quickly find a new employee for that position. So that meant we started to miss deadlines, which led to unfinished projects and unhappy clients. Due to losing projects and clients because of working under capacity, we started having financial problems. That was really a major struggle, and perhaps one of the most difficult times in the life of MILAV.
That sounds incredibly difficult. So what did you do to get out of that situation?
To overcome this, I again started to look for full-time freelancer contracts. Finding one wasn’t a problem, but it again meant that I would have to work for 10-14 hours a day on my freelancer projects along with working on the company. This is something I had to endure, but eventually, I managed to get my “independence” in 2017 and that’s when we opened our first physical office not only in Romania but also in Moldova. So that’s really when we were out of the difficult waters.
Life Lessons and Future Plans
And now you don’t just run MILAV, but you have another company as well! Tell us about that.
Sure, well after 1-2 years of prosperity we got the opportunity to start our own startup. In 2018, we started to develop our own application, ParkUpKeep, together with two partners from the Netherlands. ParkUpKeep is a software application for the maintenance and inspection of adventure parks (or ‘klimbossen’ in Dutch). Of course, our funding ran out really quickly, but since we believed in the application we continued to invest resources into it.
After a little over one year of development, I came to realize that my technical knowledge and endurance were not enough to have a successful startup. So as a solution, I started to read books on entrepreneurial journeys and attended conferences where I learned a lot about and from a network of startups. This was also how I came to be a member of Enter Network! And that really helped, although it hasn’t always been easy for ParkUpKeep.
What have you learned along the way and what do your future plans look like?
Funnily enough, my failures and accomplishments led me to understand that I did almost everything backwards. I think I made most, if not all, of my mistakes when running my startup: ParkUpKeep. There were specific points in time when I was willing to give up. The only thing I still had to do was attend a conference, before putting my projects on hold. Amazingly, at this last conference, we won the Best IT Solution Award for our product!
So of course I was motivated to jump back in action right away. Right now, I have some really interesting leads and we are really close to having 2-3 big deals. However, I can’t really share any information about it right now but you can keep yourself updated here. I’m working really hard, and my plan for the next year is to share my experiences, failures, and success stories and help out other budding entrepreneurs at Enter Network and beyond.
That indeed was quite a journey. Thank you so much, Sandor for sharing your experiences with us. If you want to read more articles like these, check out our blog!