“In the beginning my PR job was quite interesting and I learned a lot but once you’ve written 25 press releases, then you know how to do it and it’s not getting any more exciting, I needed a change.”
Like many young people, after finishing her studies, she felt under pressure to begin a career. She took a job with a media agency in Frankfurt. At first it was fun, but after five years she was struggling with the monotony and decided it was time to make a change.
Initially Paula got some career coaching, as a result she moved to part-time and changed her role within the agency to become a creative planner. Then she became a mother and took time away from work. When it was time to return, Paula took the big leap. Instead of going back to a job she was not that passionate about she set up on her own. She recalls: “I took inspiration from the Digital Media Women e.V. group I was a member of, I had met so many driven women that I wanted to give it a go.”
Paula started Mocial Sedia/ Parking/ MR, a company offering 360 degree communications and marketing solutions to a wide array of clients. At first the prospect of starting her own business was daunting:
“I was scared that it wouldn’t work, that I wouldn’t make enough money, especially for the first six months. Some nights I struggled to fall asleep because I thought, how and where could I find more clients, how do I keep my existing clients? Am I doing this right?”
Then, through social media, Paula discovered Youth Business Germany’s (YBG) scholarship programme and decided to apply. YBG is Youth Business International's member in Germany, in partnership with the Citi Foundation. They were holding a kick-off event designed to showcase the range of support the program has to offer. However due to the challenges of work and looking after her infant daughter, Paula was unable to attend. She recalls: “I wrote to YBG to ask whether my application would still be considered without attending the event. Dunja, YBG’s Mentor Manager, wrote the nicest email and said – of course, no problem, we do anything we can to help women with young children”.
At the time, Paula was quite far along her entrepreneurial journey, she had just rented some office space. From the outside everything looked professional but inside she felt that there was room for improvement: “I didn’t know my target group and I was just dealing with things as they arrived. I wasn’t doing things strategically”.
The support she got from YBG really helped her in that sense. They offer a variety of services to young entrepreneurs, including training seminars and workshops, one to one coaching and regular meetings with a business mentor. Paula said: “I really, really enjoyed meeting with other entrepreneurs, exchanging ideas and talking about our challenges and obstacles. I had some one on one coaching and that was really good for getting answers to my legal queries and questions about how best to work with clients. Before the coaching, I didn’t know who to ask. My parents are teachers and they have no idea about things like that. Everyone I know is working for the government or for a big company”.
While getting a lot out of the training, Paula found mentoring gave her confidence and security. Knowing that there was someone she could call when she was having a problem was really valuable. Paula’s business has now been up and running for almost two years and she really appreciates the flexibility. Self-employment allows Paula to the freedom to have an excellent work/life balance: “I can decide what I do. I can say – I will work with this client or I won’t. I can say, this morning I will go to the office or I will go to a yoga class. If my daughter gets sick I have the option of not working and just taking care of her.”
As for the future, Paula is confident and is looking forward to a time when she can hire an employee. In terms of advice, Paula says finding support is key:
“If you want to start a business, you need a good idea but you also need people to bounce ideas off. You shouldn’t start alone.”
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.