Le Gammeltoft on being “busy, freaking fucking busy”

If you're not happy with what you do, make like Le Gammeltoft and create your own job.

 

Le Gammeltoft has played a huge role in Copenhagen’s cultural scene since forever. Besides being a regular DJ, she was co-host of Unga Bunga, a radio show she ran with the late Kjeld Tolstrup. In 2014 she opened an independent radio station called Heartbeats.

This ambitious entrepreneurial project has developed into a modern media platform embracing articles, video, live talks and collaborations with commercial brands. And the radio part? Still going strong. We found ourselves very curious about her future-media and her entrepreneurship, but mostly about the main character in her story: herself.

GIRLS ARE AWESOME: Tell us about your journey up until this moment.

LE GAMMELTOFT: When I quit my job as a radio host at DR (the national radio), I knew that I wanted to do something different than what they did. They always said, “You shouldn’t show the listeners that you know so much about music because it’s boring”. I didn’t agree.

I started Heartbeats radio in 2014 because I wanted to do something different with radio media. I wanted to try to bring back passion for music and the personal story. What’s your relationship to music, why do you love this track and what is so fabulous about it?  I saw that I somehow could make a difference for the musicians and for everybody out there who really loves music and have nothing to listen to except what they put on their stereo themselves.

After a year with Heartbeats I was like, “OK, I’m not just passionate about music, I’m also passionate about culture, lifestyle and values in politics.” I love cars and politics, leadership and sneakers, everything. People who are really passionate about music are also really passionate about other things.

The newspapers are struggling, as well as magazines, radio and television stations. They’re doing things the old fashioned way, and that’s not the way to do it. Then I had this idea of making a modern media where you can communicate through video, sound and text and try to combine the formats and make something different.

You say you want to be different. How do you do that?

We work with different formats and with all sorts of content. Our DNA is that we want to have an opinion. We want value in our content. We’re making some content with Mercedes about female leaders, for example. While other medias tend to show young girls that they can’t do it all, I would rather point at the women who actually make it work and say, “See? They can make it work, so of course you can do it, too.” We try to find some ways to talk about role models instead of talk about problems all the time. We want to be inspirational.

What’s the reaction been like from Heartbeats’ users?

Over the last four months, it’s been pretty crazy. We have a lot of readers, followers and users and it’s just the beginning! It’s going to be big. Everybody’s saying they can feel there’s a buzz going on around Heartbeats. We’re doing something that they felt was missing. We are taking cultural life very seriously.  

Did you consider the risks connected to entrepreneurship before you opened Heartbeats?

Oh god, yes! There are so many risks with this project but I had to do it. It’s not a choice. For a lot of people who want to be entrepreneurs, it’s in their hearts and they need to do it. Not just being a freelancer but creating a company, which takes many hours. It takes a lot of sleepless nights.

It’s really tiresome to work four jobs to earn money for Heartbeats, but it’s not like that anymore. We have a collaboration with an investor, so I have somebody with me who believes in this media and there’s funding for the platform and the site. I actually just got my first paycheck in four years, so I can pay my rent.

 What concerns did you have besides money?

Can I be a good leader? Can I lead anybody other than myself? That was a big concern. Did I have enough time to be present for the people I hired, guide them enough? What about firing somebody—can I do that in a good manner? I’m very passionate about being passionate about culture, so I want to make everybody else feel the same.

There are a lot of concerns, but money is the biggest one. What if this idea isn’t good enough? Is it time to pull the plug or is it time to fight? That’s something that nobody can tell you. And it can be really difficult to actually figure out if you have gone too far.

I almost had a closing with an investor a year ago and the deal fell through a day before we had to sign. So I had no money, I was pregnant, and it was like two months before my term so I couldn’t go out and get a job, and it takes a long time to make deals with investors. Is this the time you give up? No!  I needed to keep fighting and that was the right choice, but it was pretty tough.

From concerns about failing to actually failing. What’s been your experience so far?

I think there are failures every day. I never feel like a failure, actually. That’s a waste of time. It makes no sense because it’s only a job. If I couldn’t be there for my kids I would be a failure. Sometimes I’m not a good mom and, well, that’s life. Sometimes I’m not a good partner and a good wife, that’s life. Sometimes I’m not good at my job, well, that’s life. I’m pretty relaxed about that. When a product or what we do isn’t good enough, that’s a small failure, so everyday is like, “Ok, we have to do better.”

I’m very impatient. It’s good that I’m impatient but it’s also a problem because I’m like, “you have to do this and can it be ready now?” It takes months to make and design a new website and I’m like, “is it ready?” Everybody I have on my team is getting used to me being very impatient, but I’m also learning that it’s a waste of time because it’s not realistic. I’m learning everyday.

Radio is a pretty old media. Perhaps you’d even think that Spotify and the like could surpass it. Why do you think radio will stay popular?

I actually think radio is being reborn at the moment. The big national radio stations and commercial stations are going to live forever the way they are today, but a lot of new and independent radio stations are seeing the light of day now. If I want to listen to Rihanna, I can find that myself on Spotify: I don’t need national radio to show me that, so people are breaking away from the big stations and want music that is curated for them. They will become more curious listeners again. Then they want better quality and passionate people to show them how to listen to music. Denmark is such a small country, but there are still so many people who love to get out to concerts and be curious about music. But when you have kids and have a lot of stuff going on at work you don’t have time to crawl through the Internet and find all the new releases. So where can you go and actually get some help to stay curious? That is what we can do as independent radio stations. Keep curiosity right there in the front all the time. Passion and curiosity should be the focus.

The site is about making room for content with more quality. We want to do things differently than everybody else, because if we did it like everybody else, we shouldn’t be here. Again, passion is very important for us. Every host has passion for her content. It makes them more interesting to listen to.

You write on your site that you wish to be the leading cultural site in Denmark. How do you plan on getting there?

I think we will be there in a year or two. We need to be bigger. We need to take culture more seriously and we need, as a media, to take our responsibility seriously. We should try to produce quality work and with values. We need to be aware that we could actually be a part of the solution instead of being a part of the problem all the time. We can help female entrepreneurs find a way to have kids while working. We can put some focus on how to think sustainably in your everyday life and give some solutions in that area. I mean, try to help people a little bit by being inspiring but also just show them how to do new things, how to think new thoughts. So I hope that in about a year, we’ll be big enough to be the biggest cultural site in Denmark.

What does a typical Le-day look like at the moment?

Busy, freaking fucking busy. I’m bringing my baby to the office at the moment. She’s only seven months old. Maternity leave is not for me so I walk down to the office with her in the pram, and she falls asleep and I get like two minutes at my desk with my emails and to-do-lists. At the moment we’re trying to hire more people. Meetings, meetings, meetings. Then, trying to listen to some music, trying to get some new ideas I can pitch for our commercial collaborators. It’s just busy. I’m done at four. I go to the kindergarten to pick up my oldest. It’s a very short day but then I work at night. Trying to think of new concepts all the time because that’s my role in the business as the creative director. Thinking outside the box; how can we be different, how can we make a difference in the media landscape?

What’s your most important fight?

Everything I do is something personal I fight for, actually. We can still succeed even if we don’t have public funds in our bag. We can still do something really interesting and we can still become a competitor. If we stop being curious as people, it will interfere in the way we as a community work and look at ourselves. If we’re not curious, we will close in around ourselves. That is what’s happening in Denmark at the moment. That’s what’s been happening the last couple of years. We’re not very easily open to new people, cultures and values. We find it more difficult to open our minds to new ideas and that’s really dangerous for us as a community and our country, so I think culture and lifestyle content is very important. We keep pushing ourselves and stay open as people. That’s our main focus at Heartbeats.

Who has been your biggest inspiration that you’ve looked to during your entrepreneurial journey?

I think that I get inspired everyday and every time I meet somebody who is passionate about their job and what they do and if they’ve been reading a book they love or listening to a piece of music, or they love their kids. Passion is just something that really has a great influence on what you do.

My mom was actually a big inspiration as well. She was working a lot, she’s an entrepreneur and a doctor but had her own clinic and had two sick days in 30 years. She was a workhorse. She showed me that everything could be done.

What’s awesome to you?

Awesome is when people just don’t give a shit! They do it and they don’t feel restricted. Of course you should be a nice person to everybody else. I just don’t like that Jantelov-way of thinking [tall poppy syndrome] that you shouldn’t do it, or cannot do it, or can I do it? Fuck it! You need to trust yourself! And if there’s something that really lights a fire inside of you, you should do it. It’s awesome if you just work for it and make it happen. People who make something happen – whether that’s creating a fantastic garden for your family or making a big company – are freaking awesome.