Crowdfire Spotlight: From living in an obscure town in Lithuania to becoming a travelling lifestyle entrepreneur, this is Tomas Laurinavicius’ story
Tomas Laurinavicius, like most people, can’t remember the first few years of his life. His family kept moving around Lithuania before finally settling down in a tiny, rural town.
Now 25, Tomas has made his life a lot more memorable — he’s started up half a dozen ventures or so and contributed to big league publications like Forbes and Huffington Post.
An accomplished self-taught designer, athlete, author, founder, traveller, personal development fanatic and obsessively honest human being, Tomas’ journey has been fast-paced, humbling, and incredible from the start.
Vaulting Poles to Acting Roles
At a school with only 250 students, Tomas struggled. “I didn’t feel like I belonged. I didn’t fit in anywhere,” he recalls.
With a natural aptitude for academics, he easily scored good grades. But he wanted more, even as a pre-teen. He started training for athletics and joined the Pole Vaulting club in school, with only four other members. They ended up in the top ten pole vaulters in Lithuania at the time and even went on to compete at international events.
Back home, Tomas went exploring further with his extracurriculars. After sports, in an attempt to unearth more hidden talents, he took up art lessons and attended theatre classes. “I wanted to see where I could fit myself in so I kept engaging in different activities.”
After performing theatre for three years, he found he was more attracted to planning and logic than overt improvisation, which the arts demanded. He threw in the towel and started looking, once again, for something he could sink his mind into.
Now, living in a rural town nearly a decade ago meant having to go without modern connectivity. But when Tomas’ family moved closer to a bigger city while he was still in school, the Laurinavicius’ bought a computer and secured an internet connection.
He’d played around with his mother’s very basic Nokia phone, which had internet, and learned WML, a simplified HTML for mobile phones. Armed with this knowledge, he set out to build his own website. “I was late to the internet game,” he acknowledged of his 16-year old self.
When he wrote those first few lines of code though, something strange started to happen. “I felt empowered,” he explains.
“I was creating something online and that made me feel powerful.”
Since he was forced to compete with his brothers to use the computer, Tomas decided he no longer wanted to waste his time and set his sights higher.
Show me the money
He stopped playing games and started teaching himself how to wield tools like Photoshop. He was obsessed with finding different things and putting them together, which quickly bolstered his new-found love for design.
He then signed up on a project that required him to make a simple animated banner, for a hefty sum of $5. For 16-year old Tomas, that was good money, even though he had no idea how to make an animated banner. He taught himself animation, delivered the product within 2 days, and got his client to wire the payment to his mother’s bank account.
This was confirmation enough for Mrs. Laurinavicius that her son was serious about starting a business. And for Tomas himself, it was a realization. “I don’t have to be in a fancy place to make money online.”
That first project kickstarted his drive for design. He started investing more of his time in learning graphic and web design, which were still evolving at the time. He continued roping in clients and created a blog to document his learnings and wrote about how he made money online.
After about a month, Tomas made the decision to switch to English from the Lithuanian market. Even though his language skills were poor, he instantly saw results from this strategic switch. Traffic to his website tripled and he gained a far more interested, international audience online.
“I found I could reach people no matter their location!”
He continued improving his design and blogging skills and even dove into affiliate and social media marketing. But somewhere along the way, the 16 year old made a mistake.
Going once, going twice…
Summer came calling and the teenager didn’t feel like sitting at home in front of his computer while the day shone bright outside. He wanted to be by the river spending time with his friends, like any kid his age. So he sold his blog, not wanting to keep maintaining it, and told himself he’d probably create a lot more projects and businesses in the future.
Tomas rues the consequences of this hasty decision. He had to forfeit his entire brand including his blog and all his social handles and had to start over from scratch. Determined to make it right, he created a new brand, this time under his own name.
“Personal branding is important. Your brand will remain the same whether you’re known for fishing or designing.”
With winter’s approach forcing him to remain indoors, Tomas focused on honing his web design skills further with the help of the website “webdesignfan.com”.
Thereafter he started recording and posting his own Photoshop tutorials online, which proved to be quite profitable. With incoming freelance business clients from the US and UK flooding him with a steady source of income, Tomas was on the cusp of making a very important decision — what to do next.
This is where I want to be
Tomas left his village and moved to Denmark to pursue higher studies in Multimedia design and communications. He quickly found that formal education was not his cup of tea — he wanted to go out there and immerse himself in experiences.
Soon after, he moved to London for an internship, continuing his freelancing activities in parallel. Learning about User Experience and User Interface design added to his growing skillset. But the shackles of a nine to five corporate job proved to be too constraining for Tomas.
“I didn’t feel that I had full ownership of the projects, I wouldn’t agree with my CEO’s values or direction…” he trails off and shrugs. “I value freedom, experimenting, taking risks and making my own decisions.”
He got obsessed with the surrounding start-up mania when he started attending hackathons and entrepreneurial events. He met people who saw business in everything — always thinking of ways, solutions, possible workarounds to every problem. This exposure afforded him a new mindset and he walked away from each event full of ideas, thinking to himself with full conviction, “Holy s***! This is where I want to be.”
So Tomas left the internship and started a blog for teaching design entrepreneurs how to land premium clients and make money while they sleep — he called it “Despreneur”.
A misleading name, Tomas gracefully concedes, it does not actually stand for “Desperate Entrepreneur” (as this author first thought), but for “Design Entrepreneur”.
Tomas’ driving idea was to help create the ultimate entrepreneur — someone capable of business, design, and tech — much like what he was moulding himself into. His blog answered all the pertinent questions — How can I create products and sell them online? How do I automate things so I can make more money?
Not one to stick with singular lines of business, he even collaborated with an American publisher and started writing ebooks on mobile design. A mistake, Tomas later learned, as mobile design knowledge outdated quickly.
Again, Tomas moved on. Again, he asked himself, “What next?”
What came next was establishing recurring revenue. And so he set up Despreneur Academy, teaching courses that he recorded himself. He launched via email list and it grew pretty fast.
A huge milestone for Tomas, he decided to leave London but not before convincing his friend to quit working for a bank and join him on his travels. He told his friend, “I’m going to show you how to make money online.” And he did. His friend was making a sustainable income within 2 months and together they set off on a trip around the world.
Tomas found himself exposed to different cultures and a lot of uncertainty through his travels, shaping his mindset further. He began studying personal productivity and found ways to hack optimal performance from his mind and body. This involved waking up early, meditating, journalling, and exercising regularly. “Following a certain routine allowed me to be productive no matter the timezone — I’d get the job done, ensure a steady cash flow, and explore new places.”
As time wore on and his interests developed, Tomas faced difficult questions about his future with Despreneur. He was losing interest in design as his main focus and was gravitating towards personal development in its stead. “I woke up one morning and it didn’t feel like Christmas. It reminded me of London, the agency, the stakeholders… Despreneur started feeling like work.”
Tomas found it hard to manage the remote team and wasn’t ready to take it to the next level. He took a piece of paper and wrote down a clear question — Is Despreneur worth the effort financially, professionally, and personally? And just like that it became clear that he needed to step down and move on.
“If the answer’s not ‘Hell yes’? It’s automatically ‘no’.”
Going through these difficult decisions, Tomas started thinking about writing a book on his experiments with work and lifestyle habits. He’s now working on this new project in earnest, with a mission to empower one million people around the world and a release date set for next year.
It’s my life
For Tomas, his health and purpose are more important than earning a lot of money. “I prioritize my lifestyle, and freedom — to create, to choose — instead of going the traditional career path. Ventures need to adapt to my lifestyle instead of the other way around.” Being an entrepreneur is starkly different from being a businessman to him. It’s about the human aspect of business — achieving goals with a clear purpose. “The money always comes if you put your passions and efforts in that direction.”
Tomas has worked hard over the years on his health, and tried to make it one of his main priorities. One thing he’s learnt to focus on is getting really good sleep. “Before, when I was travelling to Japan, Bali, Cambodia, California, I would sleep in the bus station, on the floor… I wouldn’t care.” Now, Tomas prioritizes his rest when he travels. He books a private AirBnB or a hotel where he won’t get disturbed, next to a gym where he can exercise regularly.
Tomas is no stranger to experimentation, and loves exploring different avenues — whether it’s juice fasts, the Keto diet, or being suspended in a sensory deprivation tank for 90 minutes. And what he loves even more than experimenting is sharing his experiences with others and empowering them to do the same.
Leading the life he does, Tomas doesn’t move around with a lot of baggage and he doesn’t believe in being attached to material objects. “I travel with just a backpack. I don’t really need a lot of things. I’m actually the poorest I’ve ever been, but I’ve never felt richer,” he says with a smile.
As someone who’s constantly looking to reinvent himself, push his boundaries and inspire others, Tomas has always held himself accountable so he doesn’t slip up. To ensure this accountability, he’s made an effort to share every aspect of his lifestyle with his audience through his monthly lifestyle reports — shockingly honest breakdowns of his income, personal expenses, sleep, fitness, productivity, and social media stats.
Inspired by the transparency displayed by Buffer and Zapier, Tomas took to writing his own reports. “You feel more responsible. You expose yourself as you are, you show your vulnerabilities, you become so much more confident once you put everything out there. You’re not perfect and once you admit it, it empowers you to not waste your time, to care for your life and for others.”
Compiling these lifestyle reports is no easy task though. A lot of data gathering, analysis, and presentation goes into each of his reports, something that prompts the occasional bout of procrastination from him.
Tomas readily admits that he cannot be productive every hour of the day. Not when there are episodes of Game of Thrones to binge-watch.
In the last nine years, Tomas has travelled all over the world. When he first started out, he’d look at two factors to determine his travel destination — whether the place had good internet and whether he could afford it. Now, he looks for more — if there’s anything interesting to do and if there’s a community he can connect with.
Tomas is constantly thinking of ways to amplify his own work so he can provide more value. He aims to inspire one capable person who can then go on to teach their own audience. “It’s simple math. If I empower 100 people who are going to impact 10,000 lives each, I empower one million.”
It’s crucial for Tomas to surround himself with people further ahead in the journey than he is, so he can continually raise the bar for his development. So Tomas accelerates his growth by investing in his personal experiences, the best training, and travel.
The world is changing at such a rapid pace, Tomas believes people need alternative ways to learn and make money for themselves and for their families. “A lot of people suffer from a lack of purpose in life. You gotta find that purpose.”
Tomas has outlined three goals for this year. He wants to grow his blog to 100,000 monthly readers, increase his email list to 18,000, and finish writing his book.
He has a longer bucket list filled with a hundred things he wants to do before he dies. To name but a few — he wants to build a unicorn startup, start a business school, and dye his hair.
Any advice for the would-be entrepreneurs out there? Don’t ask anyone for permission to start anything.
“Start secretly. Have a secret master plan for yourself and take small steps. Start blogging, painting, travelling… just go on your own path. It’s the only way to live your life. Happiness as a state of being is unsustainable. It’s just like sadness — feelings, emotions — they come and go. Create your own mission and have a purpose bigger than yourself. Know that everything is impermanent. Anticipate it won’t be the same up and down. If you never felt down, how would you know how it feels to be up?”
Tomas has indeed come a long way, carving out his own path across the world with a decisiveness and maturity that belies his age. Having come from a simple village, with no big fortune or famous surname, he truly recognizes the need to give back and empower other people with what he does. In this age, anyone can do what they want.”
“An idea or two can change peoples’ lives.”
Veni, vidi, vici — A Tale of the Modern Day Conqueror was originally published in Going Big — The Official Crowdfire Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.