Finally being your own boss – many people dream of founding a company and realising their own business idea. With courage and a strong spirit of innovation, lots of founders battle against red tape and red ink in the hope of creating a successful business model. The foundation of a start-up is accompanied by numerous difficulties and obstacles. MYVAN has asked a number of young founders for relevant tips: Which ideas can be turned into successful business models? How do you keep the company going? And above all: How do you deal with setbacks without becoming discouraged?
There are many different ways in which you can come across a brilliant idea. For Stefan Michaelis, the founder of Jonny Fresh, for example, it was always a time-consuming and annoying affair to take his laundry to the launderette or the drycleaner’s and pick it up afterwards. While he was carrying a bag of dirty laundry, it suddenly dawned on him. And the idea for his laundry pick-up and delivery service was born.
When founder Wes Watts was bombarded with phone calls time and again, it finally dawned on him. Customers who wanted their vans, trucks and motorhomes equipped with solar modules kept calling his employer, an energy consultancy firm. When he was getting more and more enquiries, he decided to meet the demand for a mobile solution himself instead of putting the callers off. He founded the start-up Tiny Watts Solar and specialized in mobile solar technology.
Dirk Fehse, the founder of Paul Camper, a platform for private camper rentals, developed his idea in the wake of an identity crisis. “I was searching for something I could use to build myself up again”, is how he describes what motivated him. He reflected on what could give him happiness and new strength and decided to adjust his business model accordingly. “I asked myself fundamental questions, such as: Who am I? What is it that truly makes me happy?”
What we can learn from the three founders: An idea with start-up potential is often preceded by the discovery of a defect, a need or a vacancy which must be filled. Anyone who offers creative solutions for real-world problems has taken the first step on the way to developing a functioning business model.
The founding idea is followed by a lot of red tape. This is the point at which many founders give up. The photographer Julia Nimke almost became disillusioned by the high stacks of paper she had to work through. She finally received fresh impetus from a support programme run by the software company Adobe. It is designed to give artists financial and moral support in realizing their professional goals.
Arjan de Hoons has even made it his business model to support other company founders. With his platform ToetToetFood, he enables food truck owners to build wider networks and promote their company. In other words, he relieves them of many annoying routine tasks: “For me, these people are artists. Therefore, administrative and business development activities should not take up too much space in their lives”, explains the entrepreneur.
I wanted to offer food truck operators a platform where they could be presented and booked.Arjan de Hoon, the founder of ToetToetFood
Apart from his work as a product designer, Florian Bürkle from Stuttgart designs and constructs furniture from old skateboards. He also benefits from a community of enthusiasts by putting up recycling boxes skate shops and skate halls in Stuttgart which are then filled by local skaters. It is a win-win-situation for everybody: Florian has enough material to build his furniture and in return he equips the skating shops and halls with furniture made from these very skateboards.
What we can learn from the three founders: It often makes sense to accept help and exchange views and experiences with like-minded people. It is also possible that the cooperation itself will give rise to a new idea so that both sides stand to benefit from the interaction. Furthermore, it is worthwhile looking out for funding programmes and competitions. In this way, you receive support and attract the attention of potential business partners or customers.
His belief in being able to offer a sustainable alternative to the environmentally harmful coffee mugs provided the young founder Julian Lechner of Kaffeeform with the necessary energy to deal with setbacks and stay motivated. He continued promoting his idea of making coffee cups of coffee grounds instead of plastic also because he hoped that he could motivate others to act in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly manner as well. Today, people all over Europe can buy the environmentally friendly coffee cups from coffee grounds and enjoy their coffee to go without remorse and without wasting valuable resources.
The founders of kukki Cocktails did not always have an easy time of it. “Yes, at the beginning, everyone thought we were mad”, remembers Sepp, one of the three founders. The traders rejected their idea to sell cocktails with ice from a bottle. And initially, the recipe mix and the logistics did not work either. But the three young men could not be stopped and, according to the method of “trial and error”, they continued to experiment and, in the end, developed their own machines to be able to serve their cocktails cold, but not frozen, and keep the ice cubes icy fresh at the same time. In terms of marketing, the trio put their shoulders to the wheel, too: They presented their idea on trade fairs, contacted potential partners and caused a tremendous furore with their cocktails. In doing so, they simply listened to their instincts and did not care about the much-praised master plan. And their success has proved them right: “Today you’ll find kukki Cocktails even on the sun terrace of a Ritz-Carlton.”
Jared, the Cape Town founder of Up Cycles, had a major problem, too: His customers deemed many streets in Cape Town too dangerous for cycling along them on the recycled rental bikes of his start-up. Therefore, he decided to get involved in providing additional cycle paths. He called for local politicians and the municipality to improve infrastructure for the bicycles. With his initiative, he has meanwhile had some success.
What we can learn from the founders: When the instincts and the motivation are there, you can achieve almost anything. If the general conditions are not right, it does not help to watch and wait. You have to stay involved and find your own solutions. Even if your idea is good, it will not prevail without your participation. You have to fight for it and keep at it. It helps to have a mission which goes beyond economic interests.
Photos: Jaydee Nujsongsinn, Paul Camper, Josephine de Fijter, Jonny Fresh, Felix Schwarz