For my first job I did a paper round in the small village I grew up in. The paper had only 30 subscribers, but I got paid per copy - very profitable! I learned quickly that I could make even more money when ringing the door bells and delivering the newspaper personally. People tipped me very generously for this service. That was my first business lesson: A successful business model consists of basics and add-ons, extra services.
After my Romance and Tourism studies I started working in an Internet company. Ever since, I have wanted to be part of this economy that bears such an incredible potential. Still, it took quite a few years until I went into business for myself. When my business partner Michael and I developed the idea for an online marketplace for handmade and unique items, many people thought we'd gone nuts -a business based on self-made items sounded crazy at that time. But we believed in DaWanda, proceeded anyway, and time has proven us right. But even if we hadn't succeeded - it would have been the bigger mistake not to start my own business, not to take the opportunity (and the risk). Doing something and failing is an experience, which allows you to learn and to grow, and it is not the end of the world. However, regretting not having done something will haunt you all your life.
Along the way of founding your own business, you will make many mistakes - some will have a bigger impact, some won't - but they all teach you a lesson. So, what I learned during that time is:
/ Believe in your idea.
Of course, it is important that your idea successfully passes a reality check, and that you get feedback from others and critically analyze your business model. But there will always be people who don't get it or are not brave enough to think offbeat. Don't let them get in your way, think positive and believe in your idea!
/ Don't wait for something to happen.
If you want to do something, just do it yourself. Don't wait for somebody else to smooth the way for you. You may think that politics should facilitate entrepreneurship and create helpful programs for founders. But with DaWanda I learnt that an online marketplace makes it easier for women to go into business than any political initiative we have seen so far. So, just do it!
Feedback and input is very important - from your friends and family, other entrepreneurs, mentors or potential users. So start building up a network and help each other -almost all founders are facing similar problems and you can gain a lot of insights when talking to fellow entrepreneurs and exchanging thoughts. There are many startup industry events where you can get in touch with the right people. Or when you're based in Berlin, just hang out in Mitte ;)
/ Stay hungry, stay foolish.
Michael and I were gift shopping in Moscow when we developed the idea for DaWanda. We were not able to find nice Christmas presents and not satisfied with the Matryoshkas we tried to paint ourselves. Inspiration comes from the strangest places and situations. So, be open-minded. Keep on learning and broadening your mind. There are always ways to optimize your business, offer additional services and make your company the best in its field - or just become a serial entrepreneur!
/ Dare to do it!
Don't let the fear of failing petrify you. As American author H. Jackson Brown Jr. put it:" Be bold and courageous. When you look back on your life, you'll regret the things you didn't do more than the ones you did." With a lot of effort and input from experts you will be able to develop a great business model and decrease the risk of failing. Still, there is no guarantee. But I think the biggest mistake is not daring to follow your dreams.
Claudia was recently named as one of the fifty most inspiring women in the European technology sector by Inspiring Fifty. Inspiring Fifty is a pan-European programme that identifies, encourages, develops and showcases women in leadership positions within the technology community. The aim is to inspire a new generation of female leaders and entrepreneurs across Europe and indeed worldwide, leading the charge to affect meaningful and durable change.