“In my family, no one was an entrepreneur, it was always seen as good to be working for a big company, to have a safe and secure job and that’s what I had always done.”
After gaining a Bachelor of Economics degree Maria then completed various marketing internships, building practical and strategic skills and learning to develop business plans. Maria earned her master’s in sales and marketing and began her business career, but the safety and stability of the corporate world was not for her, she felt restricted: “For me the freedom of doing what I want is very important, so making decisions on my own and trying new things. In a big company that is not what you’re supposed to do, so I thought I have to do something on my own.”
Maria’s first business idea was to open a coffee shop, which she attempted for half a year but it did not work out. Despite this initial setback she remained determined and this time really thought about what she wanted to do. “I asked myself “What do I know? What am I good at?” After much contemplation, I decided to focus on my strength in marketing, I had studied it at university, I had confidence in my talent and I had connections in the field.”
So Maria set up Webseitenheldin, a web design and online marketing company that helps entrepreneurs and companies establish and improve their online presence. She applied for and received funds from the German government to start. After her first attempt at setting up a business had not worked, Maria did all she could to avoid this happening again: “I listened to personal development podcasts, they said that you need a mentor, so I googled it and found out about the Youth Business Germany (YBG) mentoring programme.” She contacted YBG, Youth Business International's member in Germany, in partnership with the Citi Foundation, and was paired with Jörg Schoolmann, an experienced businessman who was able to support Maria in her journey. She said:
“It’s really cool, he helps me with everything. I ask lots of questions like how to get customers, ideas, how to do the project work, how to make financial plans and how to organise myself and my business, because he has done it on his own.”
Maria’s awareness of the mentoring opportunity helped transform her company. She stresses the importance asking for help, in order to have a successful business, and values the confidence he has given her and the sounding board he provides.
It’s helped Maria really take her business forward, after just two weeks she had her first customer and since then has worked on a myriad of clients, including one that makes her very proud: “I designed a website just before Christmas for a company in Frankfurt who had a homeless shelter. After the Christmas season, I got a call from the client thanking me for my work and saying they had received a record number of donations thanks to their significantly enhanced online presence. I felt proud, my work had done something really good and I could really help other people."
As an entrepreneur, Maria is passionate about working with amazing people, and in the long run, she dreams of connecting entrepreneurs all over the world. With small individual enterprises, everyone can do just a little, but Maria envisions the power of a connected network with a large impact. “The plan is to connect people all over the world, to connect entrepreneurs to each other and to access to market models.”
She also loves the idea of creating something on her own, the chance to leave behind a legacy. “I think maybe when I have grandchildren, my grandchildren can have the company and say my granny did this. I like that idea.” As for advice to other young entrepreneurs, Maria is has some very simple suggestions:
“Do something you love, have an aim and always think about how to get there and finally get a mentor as its vital to have someone you can trust to reach out to a need them.”
Youth Business Germany is part of the Youth Business Europe programme, a regional initiative supported by the Citi Foundation to help young entrepreneurs to start or grow a business.