This weekly interview blog by Barry O’Brien, aims to highlight the stories of those who have come to Sweden and shaped their business life, delivering new services, fresh ideas and professional standards to the Swedish market and beyond. We hope it helps to motivate you to achieve great things here!
#2. Anthony Charles Heads – Mind Reader, Entertainer and Show Creator
Anthony performs live stage shows in Swedish or English, that include demonstrations of influence, mind reading, psychology, story-telling and manipulation, offering shows as part of a corporate event or conference. 2018 will see his first tour of Sweden, offering shows to the public in various cities around Sweden. Here is his story:
Which country are you originally from?
I am originally from Newcastle, England.
How long have you lived in Sweden?
For over 16 years. I moved here in July 2001.
In one sentence, tell us about your current business.
I am a full-time performing ‘Mentalist’.
What is that – You might well ask? Well, I work mostly with corporate clients at their parties, conferences, team building events and ‘Kick-Offs’, but also I do shows for the general public at Castles, Mansions and Estates all over Sweden. I also write for a Mentalism magazine and consult for other Mentalists and performers.
How would you rate your Swedish language skills for the workplace? (1 being lost tourist level – 10 is sauna conversational!)
10 – I do shows in Swedish!
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in growing your business, and how have you overcome it?
I have faced two major hurdles.
Firstly, many Swedes don’t really know what Mentalism is, or only understand the simplified translation of the word “Mindreader”.
Mindreading is only one of the many tools and techniques which I use in order to entertain my audiences, so I have to educate my clients before they book me.
In a Mentalism performance I use a combination of skills such as applied psychology, physical manipulation, story telling and feats of mental gymnastics.
The aim is to create an experience which is incomparable to any other.
The second obstacle has been the reluctance of some companies to pay for live entertainment.
They try to convince artists that performing at their event will be good “marketing” and that we should therefore perform for free!
My reply is always – “No. Good marketing is what got me the gig offer in the first place. You have to pay for a performance!”
Who has been your biggest guide or inspiration in Sweden, and helped you to reach your current situation?
I can’t think of a single Swedish person who has inspired me yet, but the accessibility of the Swedish marketplace is very motivating. I did it all alone, despite the naysayers.
The thing that did guide, or help, me most was to do with the practical side of starting a business here. There is a lot of information out there about starting a business in Sweden. The most complicated and worrying thing for me was the Tax Office (Skatteverket). How much do I pay, when and to who? It can be hard to find what you want but you get there in the end.
Long before the information on the Newbie Guide site existed, I used “Verksamt.se” as I discovered it was a one-stop shop website jointly managed by Bolagsverket (Companies Registration Office), Skatteverket (Tax Office), Arbetsförmedlingen (Job Centre) and Tillväxtsverket (Agency for Economic Growth). You could find everything you need – step-by-step – in English.
I founded my first Swedish company (The Stockholm Ghost Walk Company) totally online, from an apartment in Boston, Massachusetts, back in 2004. I was living there while my Swedish girlfriend was studying one term at Suffolk University as part of her business Masters degree. I knew what the company would do – Themed guided walks, and where – Stockholm’s Old Town. So I researched the entire process on-line and registered everything – even financial projections to the Tax Office. Everything was set-up in advance so when we returned to Stockholm I just started running the company.
Paranormal entertainment was scoffed at by everyone I spoke to but I knew that it would work in the Old Town of Stockholm. I was out on the streets during the days handing out leaflets, networking, pitching and talking to restaurants, shop owners and tourists. By night I was guiding groups.
Once it became successful, others were quick to launch rival products and services, and 13 years later it’s still one of Stockholm’s most popular attractions.
Working in a creative and performing world, inspiration for me can come from a book, an idea, a word, a view or a feeling. Perhaps I don’t find people that inspiring because I ‘really’ know what makes them tick.
Name TWO tools that you use in your business, to help you succeed.
I use a very simple book-keeping program called Speedledger that syncs all my bank transactions to my book-keeping. It saves me a lot of time and a lot of headaches. It’s great for small businesses.
This is a weird one. There is an English magazine called Fortean Times which documents the strange, the weird and the downright odd. They have an online forum that I have used for nearly 15 years. It is a wonderful repository of odd stories, information, facts and links to anything and everything strange, unusual and paranormal. I have used the information on this site to help me build themed walks, stage shows, Mentalism routines, corporate events and much more.
It is a great place to lose yourself and to begin a creative process if you’re looking for something odd. The other members are mostly of the same ilk – we do not believe everything we read, we are naturally sceptical but we keep an open mind to new information. As an artist performing in an unusual genre, I love having that online forum as a place of inspiration and refuge.
If you could export one Swedish thing, back to your previous country, what would it be?
That’s a tough question. If I had to move back to the UK, then I would want to take the sweets “Polly” back with me. They’re my favourites.
But if I was going to export something so that others could enjoy it, then I would export Sweden’s sense of optimism. Swedes tend to look on the bright side of things so it would be nice to add a dash of that to the UK right now.
What do you know about Sweden, that no-one else does?
Quite a lot actually. My research over the years has unearthed some rather surprising stuff.
For example, King Gustav III carried out secret Tea-based experiments on prisoners in the Palace cellars. He had two prisoners kept alive with the best food and medical attention they could provide. One prisoner was only given Tea to drink and the other prisoner only coffee. The idea was to see who lived the longest. The King was convinced that the tea drinker would last longer. In reality, they died so close to one another that the experiment was rendered useless.
As a Mentalist I have a great deal of secret information about the Swedish population that I actively use but I can’t share any of it I’m afraid :).
Where can people find more info about you and your work?
The easiest way is via my own website: www.anthonycharlesheads.se. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @AnthonyCharlesHeads
Many thanks to Anthony for his story and tips! Look out for our next interview, coming soon!
If you missed it – you can also read our first interview in this series, with Erika Szentmartoni – Freelance Event and Conference Director, right here!
Written by: Barry O’Brien
Barry has been in Sweden over ten years, working with marketing and sales in both large and small companies, as well as founding his own consultancy company. Currently he is the Head of Growth Marketing at Zenia.ai, a content marketing technology company based in Stockholm. Barry is a coach and mentor at events such as Startup Weekend and the Founder Institute, has delivered talks at Hyper Island and Berghs School of Communication, and enjoys sharing his business experience with like-minded entrepreneurs. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org