Spirit of entrepreneur – Three success stories from Germany

The decision to start an own business is normally made after a thorough consideration of all opportunities and risks and not simply on instinct. It seems clear that a good business idea is not enough to be successful. Even professional skills – no matter if within the technical, artistic or economic field – are important but absolutely not sufficient. So what is still missing to identify the candidate who will make it on the ladder of success? Frequently you may hear of the „spirit of an entrepreneur“ that makes a difference – personality counts! To analyse the personal prerequisites for starting a business, we will have a look at three short success stories of entrepreneurs from the region East-Westphalia-Lippe in Germany. All three intensively prepared for their start-up and participated in a regional business plan competition.

First story – Mecondo GmbH from Rietberg

Mecondo is the melodious name of a young enterprise that regards itself as the “first contact for metal design for gardens and landscapes. The founders Annette Berenbrink and Bernd Voltmann participated already in two business plan competitions and were awarded with the third price in both of them. The thoroughly established business plan was worth because even in year three sales still were in line with the planned numbers. The diverse and elaborate products like sight protection walls, water objects and sculptures etc. found their lovers within the gardening and landscape architecture industry. To reach the market in Northern and Southern Germany as well as foreign countries, especially France, Belgium, Norway, Austria and Switzerland, Mecondo cooperates with five trade agencies. The rest of Germany is served directly from the location in Rietberg and Gütersloh.

One of the gardening design products by Mecondo. Source: mecondo.de

Starting the business from a position of being unemployed was a courageous step for the two managing directors. The know-how of their former professional background as a graphic designer (Annette Berenbrink) and a technician (Bernd Voltmann) was the basis for developing innovative products. At this point the two of them were the first on the market developing artistic metal products for gardening and landscape architecture. Compared to their former status of being salaried employed, they appreciate a lot the higher level of flexibility and freedom – even if the work load of being self-employed is regarded to be extreme. The experience of mentoring was regarded as very valuable as they learned to focus all their efforts on the core message of their enterprise. Further support was granted by the municipal office for business support in the district of Gütersloh that helped with all the official and bureaucratic issues. Up till now two employees – one full-time for production/distribution, one part-time for office work – support the young company. And now it’s about not giving up and keep on growing! Link – www.mecondo.de

Second story – ECOSUS® from Augustdorf

Matthias Hölscher is a forester. His product development leads us into the area of soil amendments and growing media. Peat-free mixtures of substrates based on organic charcoal (“biochar”) increase soil fertility in the garden. The products include organic potting soil and organic soil improver. Production takes place in cooperation with farming operations and is based on environment-friendly, closed substance cycles according to the so-called “terra preta principle”. The products are primarily sold directly and delivered to agricultural shops, retail shops and hopefully soon to wholesalers for organic products and mail-order shops for high-quality products.

Products by Ecosus before the delivery. Source: ecosus.de

Hölscher started the business on the side of his regular job and is satisfied that his main job covers him financially so that he is not dependent on loan capital. Besides being a civil servant, he enjoys the development of his own products in line with market requirements and by this having an impact. From the business plan competition he could learn a lot. The general management of the company ECOSUS is now taken over by Hendrik Andrae coming from the field of agribusiness management. There is a gap in the funding system for young entrepreneurs, as Hölscher recognised. A lot of funding programmes are only addressed to larger and well-established companies. If you have no capital reserves, starting a business is still difficult, even in Germany. According to him the personality of an entrepreneur is characterised by perseverance, a realistic view, authenticity and flexibility. To him it is very important that a founder of a business sets him-/herself a personal maximum limit for which one is ready to work. If the objective is not achieved, one should also be ready to take the necessary steps. But ECOSUS laid a good foundation. Right now scientific research is carried out to further prove the quality of the products. The results can serve additional proofs and facts to convince end consumers. Link – www.ecosus.de

Third story – VELOfactur GmbH from Hüllhorst

i:SYs is an extraordinary 20 inch compact bicycle that is perfect for rent and the use in companies. End customers are of course also addressed. After being part-time self-employed, in 2011 Rüdiger Wiele together with Martin Kuhlmeier founded the company VELOfactur GmbH. Looking back, Wiele appreciates the personal development and all the new experiences that he has made since then.

i:SYs, the 20 inch compact bicycle made by VELOfactur GmbH. Source: isy.de

Rüdiger Wiele describes the successful sort of entrepreneur as being someone who believes in him- or herself, who has perseverance and can also cope with backward steps or failures. There is a need of high level identification with the business. Earning money should not be the first priority. The financial insecurity as well as the work load of a business founder should be considered beforehand. As positive factors he evaluates all the possibilities for self-fulfilment and the chance to start the business together with a partner. While Wiele himself is strong in the area of sales and organisation, his partner Martin Kuhlmeier contributes with the technical know-how. There are disadvantages resulting from the friction of two different leader personalities, but this can also be regarded as a maturing process to reach a consensus within a partnership. VELOfactur also initiates a lot of new projects and follows a number of new ways to bring the company forward. Wiele sees the necessity for improvement in the situation of entrepreneurs in Germany as it is difficult to get liquidity and subsidies. As an important support structure he mentions business angels and the mentoring service from the Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Bielefeld. Furthermore, the own position seen by the credit institute or the trust of the bank to the company should not be neglected. Links – www.isy.de | www.velofactur.de

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