23 years old
What is your business and how does it work?
In March 2001 my friend Catrin Lueth and I opened our t-shirt label NO.GONGO. The concept of NO.GONGO was to offer words or sentences that would then be printed onto t-shirts. Our motto was, "beautiful words make beautiful t-shirts make beautiful people." People could pick their favorite word and we would then make a unique t-shirt for them - every word would only be given away once. We had a website where you could choose from a long list of words. Opening the company was pretty easy, we registered with our city as a GdbR, the easiest form of company partnership there is in Germany.
What did you learn?
I learned how to do a tax return and take care of our finances, something I hadn't done before. Catrin, who was in charge of the website learned a lot about web design. And we both learned a lot about promoting our concept, we participated in two fashion fares and organized a NO.GONGO release party with a poetry slam. We also experimented with the printing techniques before we found the best solution.
Did you find it hard to be taken seriously as a young entrepreneur?
No, actually people reacted very interested and openly to our company. Our customers were mostly our age anyway. And in Berlin there are a lot of young entrepreneurs, especially in the fashion business.
What would you do over if you started?
Good question. I guess I'd try to earn money. We did NO.GONGO mostly for fun and because every t-shirt was unique, we never were able to buy loads of t-shirts on a discount. We only earned a few dollars per shirt. But, it really didn't matter much to us.
How has your business model changed as time has gone on?
We didn't have any changes in our concept. We only changed small details in the production, like ironing and then stapling our logo to the t-shirt instead of sewing it on, like in the beginning. We also refrained from meeting every customer personally to give him his finished t-shirt (and save the customer the postage), that would have been too much of a hassle when we moved from smallish Karlsruhe to very big Berlin.
What are the advantages of being an entrepreneur rather than working for someone else?
You are in charge, you make your own decisions, and you can organize your time. You are also very much engaged in every process of the work, in our case from designing the website, thinking up words worthy of being put on a t-shirt, 'making' the t-shirt and delivering it to the customer. We always had good contact with our customers, which made our business very personal.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
If you have an idea for a business, try it! Unless you need a huge amount of capital at the beginning, you can't lose much!
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