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Start-up Diaries: My Company, My Investor And Me

Sandra Westermann, the founder of Superheldin, which connects working moms with family-friendly companies, and Silke Christmann, the investor in the company, share their insights on how they work together. They talk about what drives the duo, what are their most important values and how female investors could be an asset for a more equal society

This article is also available in German

How it all began

Sandra

Almost exactly two years ago I wrote the first pitch. The idea was born out of necessity. I worked in television for 15 years. After the birth of my first child I simply couldn’t find work anymore – which was due to my new family situation. I searched for job opportunities that specifically appealed to mothers or parents in general. I had no luck. So I started my private competitor analysis and talked to other mothers. It turned out that they all have the same problem. And no one does anything about it although it’s a huge market. For 75 percent of Germans, compatibility of family and career is crucial when choosing an employer. But nobody brings these two groups together. The idea of the Superheldin (Superheroine) was born. That was in October 2018.

The most important milestones

Sandra

First one was the website. Half a year after the pitch it went live. And starting in spring 2019 we began gathering mothers – that is, building a community via social media – and at the same time tried to get the first postings on the site. We had the classic chicken-and-egg problem: Without jobs on the site, there are no applicants, without applicants there are no jobs. Therefore, the first job booking was the second important milestone. That was our proof of concept. In my opinion, number three was the first cooperation with a company, Coca Cola. Finally, I would call milestone number four our financing round in which Silke, who joined us as an investor in March this year, also participated.

Which was the decisive factor for me to invest

Silke

I am a speech therapist and I have a diploma in speech science. I have been working as a coach for 25 years and am specialized in media training. That’s also how I met Sandra, because I prepared her for a TV appearance. The percentage of women in my individual trainings is between 60 and 70 percent. I have calculated that I have done about 4500 coaching sessions in my professional life. I always jokingly say that I am now my own study. And even though I coach more and more men, one thing has remained the same: The self-underestimation of women. It always comes to: ‘I can’t do that’. ‘I have never been able to do that’. ‘I do not dare’. I have two daughters and I don’t want to wait another 100 years until something changes. That’s one of the reasons why I got involved. Superheldin gives me the opportunity to expand my mission and vision of a more equal society. In coaching, I usually work with only one woman at a time. However, there are 10.5 million mothers who often cannot find adequate jobs after maternity leave and are overqualified, and work mostly part-time. In addition, there is the issue, in terms of equal pay.  Many women are at risk of facing poverty in old age. These are problems that we urgently need to change.

The big day

Silke

The notary appointment was on Friday, March 13th. This is already a special date. But there was something else: The schools and kindergartens were closed due to COVID. And the two of us sat at the notary office and signed the contract. On this day my ‘second life’ began, that’s what I call it. I am a dedicated worker. When something grabs me and convinces me, I throw myself into it. But passion alone is not enough. As an investor, I naturally also looked at the fundamental data. To do otherwise would be naive. I know the business plan. And I also know Sandra. All of this put together has completely convinced me. Time has proven us right. More than half a year has passed and the concept works, the company is growing.

How I see my role

Silke

I continue to work full-time in my job as a coach. I’m involved with Superheldin as an investor – also because I want to set an example. There are very few female investors. According to a study by BCG, the figure in Germany is just four percent. And it’s referring to VCs, not private investors. In this respect I am in a truly special role here. That is also the reason why I agreed to this interview. So far I have been rather reserved. But I think we need to talk about these issues. Otherwise, my role is that of a sparring partner. Sandra is a single founder, which is quite unusual. This means we discuss a lot about strategies, important decisions and I help with networking.

Why I do not have a Co-Founder

Sandra

I have spent a lot of energy searching for a Co-Founder. It was important to me that the other person identifies with the topic as much as I do and has the appropriate commitment needed to grow such a company. I have not found anyone who would have been a good match for me. At some point, there was a moment when I decided that I would stop putting all my energy into this topic. Although, it has to be said that I have a great support network around me. There is Silke, I have a great partner who supports me a lot and my brother, who also successfully founded a start-up.

What defines us

Silke

You need the same value compass. And the same mindset in the sense of a certain willingness to take risks, nerves of steel and courage. Ability of critical thinking is also very important. We don’t always agree with each other. You have to be able to deal with that and accept that the other person has reasons why she or he does something this way and not another or simply prioritizes some things differently. The interesting aspect is the different perspectives that we bring with us: I have the outer view of things, Sandra the internal one. And both belong together, only then things work out well.  

Sandra

Our base foundation is 100 percent about trust. We have a very close connection. We talk about problems or strategies much more emotionally than, for example, with my partner or brother. It doesn’t work better with anyone than with Silke. 

What makes us different

Silke

I find that difficult to answer. Perhaps, most likely the age and the different phases of life. Sandra’s child is still small, mine are almost grown up. And maybe also the different know-how. But that does not separate us. I profit from Sandra’s knowledge and she profits from mine.

The next goals

Sandra

Superheldin is essentially a job platform. But, of course, we have plans to expand it further. Superheldin should become a brand that stands for the topic of the balance between family and career. One idea, for example, is to offer workshops for companies and support them in the area of being family friendly. The topic of headhunting is also exciting. We receive a lot of resumes from mothers. So it makes sense to proactively bring them together with companies. We are currently evaluating other concepts and strategies. One thing is certain, there is still a lot of potential in there.

Your tip to other founders or investors

Sandra

You should be passionate about your topic and idea. And you should be brave – and remain brave. The question you should definitely answer is: Where is the pain point in society? How do I manage with my product to offer successful solutions for it.

Silke

I agree with you on the subject of courage. Starting a start-up is not witchcraft when the idea is right, innovative and has growth potential. And one should not be afraid to deal with the topic of money. The financial psychologist Monika Müller has said: ‘The relationship with money is not a question of gender, but a question of education’. I agree with that entirely. Women are successful when they dare to be. According to the Peterson Institute for International Economics’ evaluation of nearly 22,000 companies, the increase in the number of women in management positions leads to a measurable increase in net earnings. And: Women are solely responsible for their money in at least one phase of life, because they marry later, divorce more often or outlive their partner. But they do not invest these assets. ING-DiBa, for example, conducted a private investor analysis in 2019 and found that women are better investors than men. This gives them courage and shows that they should pay more attention to the issue and invest in small companies, for example.

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