30 March 2021 | Münsterland
Within the ARDENT project ("Advancing Rural Development through Entrepreneurship Education for Adults") the S2BMRC conducted interviews with five aspiring young entrepreneurs from Münster and its surroundings. They were willing to share their inspiring success stories behind their start-ups, which are all fulfilling a social purpose within the community. The aim of these interviews was to find out about young entrepreneurs´ motivation to start their own business, the lessons entrepreneurship teaches them, and to talk about the challenges they encountered.
Jennifer Oberpenning founded her first start-up "Westfalenwolle" in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Westfalenwolle is an online shop that offers knitting wool, whereby regionality plays the significant role. During her studies, Jennifer noticed that sheep as working animals were not widespread and therefore came up with the idea to create an online shop that would offer customers wool from German sheep. She saw an opportunity in the current situation: E-commerce is booming, and people need activities they can do at home. Although it was a long process, Jennifer is glad about her decision because she enjoys being her own boss and being able to implement her own ideas. Of course, being an entrepreneur requires a certain set of skills. Jennifer's personal strength lies in her flexibility. Like José from RE:ganic, she mentioned that entrepreneurs are constantly facing problems and changes, which is why they need to be able to react quickly and redirect their ideas. Further, she explained that a constant challenge for her online shop is to achieve greater awareness. Without the necessary level of name recognition, it is hard to reach enough clients, even when you offer great products. However, during the founding process Jennifer received the NRW Gründerstipendium, which turned out to be a great source of support. In addition to financial assistance, she was provided with a personal coach and access to a network of young entrepreneurs.
Barbara and Lea, founders of the lifestyle blog "muenster.fair", believe that with a sustainable lifestyle everyone can contribute to preserving our planet and its resources. In 2019 they decided to create a platform that serves as a guide for the sustainable options Münster has to offer in terms of cafés, restaurants, and shops. Both Barbara and Lea enjoy the flexibility and freedom to implement your own ideas that come with being an entrepreneur. Moreover, getting positive feedback is the most rewarding experience for them. When asked the question what it takes to be a good entrepreneur, Barbara answered that having a "just do it" mindset is extremely important to get started. Lea added that not being afraid to ask for help and that, as they both still have other jobs, a good organisation is crucial as well. Their biggest challenge was to choose the right business form as they did not have an economic background. However, this situation taught them that trusting the initial intuition is equally important. As a personal strength Barbara and Lea see the fact that they strongly believe in their idea, which unites them and creates a positive mindset. Further, Lea explained that solution-oriented thinking is very helpful for entrepreneurs when they are facing new challenges.
With her start-up "Bauernbox" Anni wants to improve the commercialisation of regional products by providing an online shop where locals can order food from local farmers, which Bauernbox then delivers to their homes in a sustainable way. Anni's motivation to start her own business started with the desire to make a difference. When she realized that the existing corporate structure of the company she worked for would not enable that, she decided to put things into action and become a social entrepreneur. Flexibility and variety are the benefits she sees in being an entrepreneur. Another aspect she likes is being confronted with different tasks and areas while getting to know every step of the process. What helped her a lot was a clear doer mentality, which is important if you want to be an entrepreneur, said Anni. Additionally, in her opinion not questioning your decisions for too long and actively looking for solutions is a set of skills entrepreneurs will benefit from. Anni´s biggest strength is thinking outside the box and has helped her a lot with finding new, unconventional solutions. Being an entrepreneur certainly has improved her mental strength. Anni explained that although she found herself in several difficult situations that made her question her ideas, she decided not to give up and stick to her idea, and this way she got mentally stronger and developed more resilience. After two years of being an entrepreneur, looking back at her achievements fills her with optimism and confidence in moments when she finds herself in challenging situations.
Eva, José and Fritz are the masterminds behind the start-up "RE:ganic", which was founded with the mission to reduce plastic pollution around the world. To be able to achieve that, their goal is to create materials that are 100% organic and compostable by combining organic fibres with organic binding agents. Then, the created substance can be used as an alternative for plastic materials.
José explained that for him personally, his mindset was a big motivation. He has always been interested in sustainability and how to improve one's lifestyle to make the world a better place. And that of course is a challenge. But for José, this exact part of being an entrepreneur is the most exciting one. "Challenges make me realize that you are not just stuck in one place, doing the same thing continuously. Rather, you are moving forward, shifting your ideas into a different direction and looking at things from another perspective." Further, José described that a good entrepreneur should be empathetic to be able to address needs and understand his/her team members and their struggles, as it will affect overall performance. Then, to succeed as an entrepreneur you also need resilience and a problem-solving mindset, said José. Moreover, he explained that through networking he has learned a lot. Having this connection with other entrepreneurs and learning from their experience and mistakes has stimulated his growth the most. And what keeps him going? Imagining the future and its possibilities, knowing how many problems a social entrepreneur can solve.
Bayti hier is an integrative fashion label, founded in 2017 by social entrepreneur Michael Kortenbrede, that combines western and oriental elements to promote cultural interaction. For Michael, a commercial start-up was never the way to go. Instead, he seeked to create an opportunity to address social challenges. Two years later in 2019, his second start-up "Trafostation" followed, this time with the purpose to provide the community with an inclusive place to spend time together and feel closer to home. For Michael, the most rewarding part about being an entrepreneur are the flexible working hours. "You don't have the classic 9 to 5 structure, which really boosts my creativity", explained Michael. So far, his biggest learning has been that there exist certain duties entrepreneurs must fulfil and that you have to find your own role, despite criticism from others.