Kristina Mand-Lakhiani is an entrepreneur, international speaker, and artist. As a co-founder of Mindvalley, she brings her female perspective into the company leadership. As an advocate for happiness within, she takes her kids on trips to the Amazon Jungle to recharge or joins groups of entrepreneurs, such as Maverick1000 on Richard Branson’s Necker Island.
Tell us about your childhood and where you grew up?
I was born and raised in Estonia. I received her Bachelor of Science in Public Administration from the Tallinn University of Technology (or Tal Tech), a prestigious university in Estonia that provides a top-tier science and technical education to students around the world. I received a Master’s degree in International Politics at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Although I graduated college and started my career working for the Estonian government, I eventually decided to move to New York. It was there that I and Vishen (my ex-husband) started Mindvalley and grew it into an international multimillion-dollar empire.
How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
I grew up in Estonia, which used to be part of the former Soviet Union. After I graduated college I got a job working for the local government. I also worked in the nonprofit sector for prominent organizations such as the United Nations, Oxfam, and AIESEC. Back then, owning a business was not allowed in my country so I never dreamed that I would one day become an entrepreneur. When I met Vishen and fell in love I decided to cut my thriving Estonian career short so I could marry him and move to New York. My main desire at that time was to get married and have children. Mindvalley was our first child. The company started in 2003 with just $700 to help market Vishen’s online meditation courses to new students. As the company grew and brought in more income, we eventually decided it was best to leave our full-time jobs and focus solely on Mindvalley. We ended up moving to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which is Vishen’s home country, got an office, and started hiring staff from around the world. Things kind of took off from there and now we’re a global school that delivers transformational education for people of all ages. At the very beginning, it was a side thing to support Vishen’s meditation courses as a magnet to attract students to his studies. We did not create it for our prosperity or financial goals. At the early stages, almost everything we earned we reinvested back into Mindvalley. We lived an effortless life. The company started as a side thing. At that time, there were three people in the business, and each of us was obsessed with our careers in NY. After a few years, it started taking more time to run and brought us some money to afford to give up our full-time jobs. That’s when things started getting more severe. Then we moved to Malaysia, hired people, got the office, and things kind of took off from there.
What is one business lesson you would tell a startup founder?
I’m not your typical entrepreneur who is running from meeting to meeting and is busy 24/7. I believe in enjoying a path in life. And then some people do enjoy being busy. I guess the giant myth, and I’m talking very personally right now, is that entrepreneurship is about pure execution. Many business people fall into the trap of continuously performing. In my opinion, intrapreneurship is a creative process. It is like art, a philosophy. Remember, that creation happens in a vacuum. I think you have to be present, plugged into reality, and your team. There is no need to be constantly busy and keep yourself always packed with activities. As an entrepreneur, you continually need to see the bigger picture when a hamster’s wheel. To create something massive, you have to have inspiration, and it doesn’t come in a hustle. And yes, I sometimes hustle too, but that’s not my default mode.