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Founding story I: Looking for an idea

Ponder. There was enough reason to do so these days. Your studies were over and you were in one of those phases of life in which decisions about your professional future are necessary. I didn't like it for fear of "missteps". Sure, you can always make course corrections afterwards and it should never be too late to start anything again, but I found it difficult. The question was, get straight into the job, be an employee, climb the corporate ladder, at least try and earn more quickly than I had ever done. Or start up, implement an idea, realize yourself and take fate into your own hands. In return, however, the same limited resources of the past few years can be used for an uncertain time. It is well known that the student wallet does not give too much. You can also formulate the question differently: secure job or with a 50-80% probability of failure. The answer was clear: start up! I didn't know what exactly. I had a lot of ideas. Take half a year and at least try. Don't just increase the “quality of life” with a job. It would be very difficult to break away from this comfort. So this was the right time. In addition, I have always felt a great fascination for founding stories, entrepreneurial personalities and the process of putting an idea into action. I could increase my job at university and put on more (music and such) to make ends meet first. 


 I made this decision three months ago. In the course of time, however, it turned out that it was not that easy to put my project into practice. Doubts arose. Shouldn't I have chosen the more conventional route? Uni, then job. You have to know that it can be tiring to spend a long day researching the Internet to gauge the potential of an idea. You surf like this without a specific goal and are constantly exposed to this distraction wherever you look. This is called procrastination. What enormous economic damage does the modern information and entertainment offer on the Internet bring with it? Who does not know it: should I perhaps take a look at the amusing Postillion article “A man drives a small car to compensate for his huge penis”? Or follow the promising headline “25 pictures that will change the way you are thinking”? Days went by in the hunt for a workable idea. Sometimes I got up at 07:00 a.m. to pursue what I thought was an ingenious and unique idea, only to find out a few moments later that it was already there. For someone who feels in the morning as if they were woken up by a blow in the face after general anesthesia, doubly annoying. I had a lot of ideas in the past few months, some good, others more laughable.


To live in the idea means to treat the impossible as if it were possible.

First of all, there was the veggie subscription box. It was pretty good. A monthly supply of vegetarian food, including cooking ideas, delivered directly to the apartment. All you have to do is buy the ingredients for the proposed dishes that you always get in the supermarket anyway, and bang - you have a sophisticated vegetarian meal. But somewhere between trying to find a fulfillment provider with refrigerated storage and shipping and finding that the margin for tofu and co. Was in the lower cent range, I had an idea that should be counted among the ridiculous. 

I wanted to develop a designer lamp. Exactly, designer lamp. As an MA “Sustainability Economics and Management” (with a focus on Eco-Entrepreneurship ... important) I had the crazy idea to seriously deal with the implementation of such a project without even a faint glimpse of design, let alone lamp design to have. But why? I had recently seen one of those lamps with those huge bulbs with the tungsten wire in them. For 75 euros each! That sounded like a lot of margin, not tofu. So I researched where they came from. Ah, China! And they were there cheaply. If I were to order 500 pieces, less than 5 euros. Cool, but China ?! But even that couldn't stop my euphoria at first. I thought I could sell these things for 75 euros and use them to finance a small solar-powered light bulb in a developing country. Rural energy supply at it's best! Ridiculously, there were moments when I was kind of proud of the idea. Imagine: I, with my own designer lamp that I would sell in order to give light to dark places on the other side of the world, so to speak. Great right? The only problem was, I had no idea how to design this. A few drafts on paper and the feedback from my girlfriend quickly made it clear: I had no talent! But I had read something about a Greek designer who made cool lamps. I wrote to him, firmly convinced that I would now save the world and make us both a little richer. He actually wrote back. From today's perspective, I am very grateful to him that he understood how to get me back to the bottom of the facts with his answer in a friendly but unmistakable way. It is difficult to get rid of such designer lamps, he said. He couldn't even manage 100 pieces in a year. Nor would he have time to do something with me. In heavy spirits and two more weeks of research later, I gave up the idea. 

I think then came the Vinho Verde idea: it's cheap in Portugal and quite expensive here. So direct marketing. From farmer to customer. Me with an online sales portal in between. It could work, after all, there are these guys who do the same thing with oranges. I can too, I thought! Let's see if something like this already exists. Oh yeah. Quite a lot. Well ... no direct sales with Vinho Verde. To be honest, it has nothing sustainable. This was followed by ideas from sustainable coffee mugs to public drinking water dispensers and a QR code-based app to unsubscribe from superfluous advertising with one click. And the classic was also there: our own hostel. Naturally sustainable, i.e. furniture made only from up- and recycled materials, vegetarian food, solar panels, etc. Many ideas, but none implemented until then. In between I asked myself why I always came to this point, where the process started to stutter, like a car engine running out of gas. It stutters, gasps, tries again unsuccessfully and then comes to a standstill. Like with all these ideas. At some point you just stop because the effort seems too great, just like the risk and the necessary capital. But one evening, as I was standing at the bus stop and waiting, a thought occurred to me.

Screw It, Let's Do It!

I had brought these beautiful colorful African fabrics with me from Tanzania. During my stay in Dar es Salaam, I was always fascinated by the diverse, colorful patterns. And my girlfriend loved her too. I've even been asked several times where they can be obtained. Maybe you could import them? It's probably just another crazy idea that I have so often. In the meantime I knew that at such a moment I would be, I would say, a bit over-motivated. I prefer to leave everything where I am to see immediately whether the idea can be implemented. Experience has shown that this can take a few weeks. 

While I was still standing at the bus stop, I took my cell phone out of my pocket to see if there was anyone on the Internet who imported the fabrics from Africa. They were beautiful. Colorful. Actually totally in line with current fashion trends. Somehow everything became more and more colorful. In addition, many people in my area started to organize sewing sessions, in keeping with the DIY culture, which I myself followed with great tension. They were always looking for beautiful fabrics. A first look at the search results quickly revealed that there were a few smaller providers. Online shops that seemed to be from the 90s. Zero appealing and not a bit trustworthy. Who would want to spend money on such a site? In any case, it seemed worthwhile to pursue the idea further.

It was clear to me that this was not an innovative business idea. It was not a large scalable model with which one could immediately realize a transformation to a sustainable society or a lot of money. But what went through my head was an idea that had the potential to be implemented without great risk, without great capital outlay, and without complicated technologies and skills that I did not have. Another “screening” of the idea was well worth it and it should show that there was a serious problem that had to be solved: the great death of the African textile industry!

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