Interview with Klaus Forsthofer
Founder of ACE GmbH, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of MarktPlatz1
What motivated you to get involved with „Female Entrepreneurs of the Future”?
I am in my third year. Amazon approached me three years ago because I have lots of experience with the marketplace. I immediately found the idea exciting. That was a completely new concept. In the first year, the program was still designed for men and women across the gender boundaries. Then they decided to tailor the program for women.
What is the difference between male and female young entrepreneurs?
Without generalizing that – there are always counterexamples – I have had experiences with highly motivated women who are willing to go deeper, to run that extra mile. And: they are quieter, takes a step back. But that is deceptive, because in reality they are already working on the next step. Men, on the other hand, tend to have a big mouth.
What are the biggest needs of these young women entrepreneurs?
They need an objective, undisguised expert view from the outside. Friends, acquaintances and family are often unsuitable as sparring partners. Women tend to carry question marks around with them all the time. If you convince them that these things are going well, they can focus their energy on the essentials. This has a lot to do with psychology. I was surprised that women entrepreneurs do not know or underestimate their own strengths. If you encourage and encourage them accordingly, they are a good step ahead.
Where are the typical strengths and where are the weaknesses?
Women often have a much differentiated assortment. Sometimes, however, this tends to be an overtly sentimental issue. That doesn’t necessarily help to establish your products pragmatically in the market and to think with respect to the logic of marketplaces.
What are the key learnings?
It’s about understanding the customer’s journey and putting yourself in the customer’s shoes. I always encourage my mentees to take a close look at the competing product and ask them: Which one would you buy? It requires a neutral view. The ability to recognize self-criticism and mistakes. You have to go beyond that point. And that’s where the professionals help.
What are the tools that young female entrepreneurs need most of all?
The more technical it becomes, the more help is needed. The young entrepreneurs, for example, usually have very good photographic material. What is missing is knowledge about SEO and keywording. What are people looking for? It’s relatively easy to find out in a data-driven machine like Amazon. And then you need knowledge about the rules of the game. What am I allowed to do, what not? We don’t want them to work with unclean means like Black Hat SEO. This might lead to more success in the short term, but these tricks will be recognized and punished by the marketplace operator at some point.
Your tips for new entrepreneurs?
If there are problems, you should leave the field and sit in the stands. What I mean by that is: It’s about creating distance and seeing more clearly. And you should avoid falling into blind actionism. This often only makes things worse and you lose your courage and motivation. And it carries you. Motivation is the most important thing! You can learn everything else.
Interview with Nadine Bessenbach
Executive Director Bonstato GmbH
What is your motivation behind getting involved with the „Female Entrepreneurs of the Future” program?
I think it’s great to help young female entrepreneurs build their business. No matter whether it’s about strengthening the brand, expanding their business abroad or establishing themselves in the marketplace. My expertise lies in selling via Amazon. With my two colleagues, the founders of Bonstato, we have gained a lot of experience over the past four years. I know what it’s like to start from scratch. We also made a lot of mistakes at the beginning, which is quite normal. I know the uncertainties and the frustration. I, too, would have liked someone to take me by the hand, whom I could ask for advice. That is why it is so nice to pass on my know-how now. And, by the way, I also benefit from it myself. A large, first-class network has emerged. There are many exciting coaches and entrepreneurs among them. I can also learn a lot from them.
In what way?
The coaches bring a lot of specialist knowledge with them. They cover everything from finances to marketing, sales and purchasing. That’s also incredibly inspiring for me. And no matter whether in the exchange with the other coaches or the participants – one is always able to pick up new topics. And then you automatically consider: How do we actually do that, can it be transferred to our company?
What are the biggest challenges for young women entrepreneurs?
First and foremost, it’s about overcoming uncertainty. These are all founders or people who want to transfer their existing business model into the digital world. And that, of course, always involves courageous decisions. So get out of the comfort zone, try something new, throw doubts overboard. And once you’ve started with the program, you’ll realize that all this isn’t Rocket Science. No skills like programming or special IT skills are needed. In the first month, for example, you get the A to Z on the subject of e-commerce presented – and by very experienced coaches who stands by you throughout the whole time and answer all your questions. This gives the participants a lot of security.
Your tips for new entrepreneurs?
Let nobody tell you that you can’t do anything. And above all: use this enormous network, put your foot down right from the beginning and start immediately with your project plan. The knowledge you can take with you from this program is simply great! Therefore, my tip would be not to waste any time and apply the knowledge immediately.
Interview with Stephanie Oppitz
Founder and GF of “Von Ocker und Rot” and “Windelmanufaktur”, for sustainable diapers and feminine hygiene.
How did you get to the program?
I went through it myself two years ago and was one of the three winners. In the first year it was still a mixed team: Of the 21 participants, three teams were female. And among the four winners were two women: I myself and my friend Christiane Jordan from Madame Jordan. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I think women are extremely motivated. We found our company mostly out of true conviction, because we fully support the topic and not out of calculation, because we believe that the product or service could be successful. I won the prize for best brand development in 2017 and got invited to Amazon’s Headquarter in Seattle. And then last year I participated as a mentor. Committing myself to the program is a matter of honour, so to speak. And it’s a lot of fun. The other coaching colleagues are also highly motivated; they are totally in the mood for what they are doing. It’s great to be part of this group. When we meet, it’s a bit like a class trip.
What are the biggest needs of these new entrepreneurs? Where can you best start?
Everyone assesses this differently on the basis of their background and expertise. My focus is on the topic of structure. I am someone who always tries to clean up the company first. Of course, companies are dynamic. I know that from my own experience. But it’s all about integrating these dynamics into the best structure again and again. That’s what I’m looking at, the calculation and social marketing. This is immensely important, especially for young companies where there isn’t yet a large budget because you can position your product authentically with pure work performance and little financial commitment.
What impressed you most about the mentees last year?
Especially the two winners, Ines Spanier and Claudia Wendt, who founded companies in classic men’s domains with garden tools and heating installations respectively. In the beginning they were rather quiet and reserved. How they blossomed in the course of the programme and found their strength was sensational!
Your tips for new entrepreneurs?
Always follow your gut feeling! That is my most important tip because even if you’re wrong about a decision, it’s easier to forgive yourself. Nothing is as bad as failing if you had a bad feeling about it right from the start – and still did it. And wrong decisions will inevitably be there. Especially at the beginning many give up quickly. Staying on the ball and giving more than 100 percent – you can’t keep up this pace if you’re frustrated.
For the second time, “Female Entrepreneurs of the Future”, the joint initiative of The Association of German Women Entrepreneurs, Global Digital Women, BRIGITTE Academy and Amazon, is supporting the owners and managers of those companies that would like to expand their stationary businesses by launching online trading, or by expanding their existing online presence. The core of the program would be individual attention for all participants by expert coaches – all of them who are experienced company founders, e-commerce experts, Amazon retailers or bloggers.
Find more information about „Female Entrepreneurs of the Future”
An overview of all the other coaches are available here