At Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO), we support business leaders at every level--from startup to unicorn--with the education and tools they need to grow and succeed, both personally and professionally. Katharina Mayer is founder of Kuchentratsch ("Cake Gossip"), an innovative bakery where retired seniors connect and bake delicious cakes that are shipped throughout Germany. Facing unique challenges as a startup entrepreneur, Katharina joined the EO Accelerator program, which empowers entrepreneurs with the tools, community and accountability necessary to aggressively grow and master their businesses. Katharina shared her thoughts on how accelerator programs can help startup entrepreneurs achieve their goals:
Like many first-stage entrepreneurs, when I started my business, I wished for an instruction manual or a recipe for success as I struggled to make critical decisions, manage cash flow, fill orders and develop new markets.
In a way, starting a new business has similarities to baking a cake. To make a high-quality product, you need a detailed recipe, the best ingredients--including an accelerator agent (such as yeast) and a passionate baker with the knowledge to blend these elements properly so it will rise to its fullest potential.
I definitely have a passion and drive for success. My love for baking started when I was a little girl and would visit my grandma, who baked delicious apple cake. And she even let me have it for breakfast! My parents still don't know that I got cake instead of bread, but such secrets exist between grandparent and grandchild.
My Aha! moment
When I left Munich for university, I missed my granny and her cake. I searched everywhere, wondering why it was so hard to buy good cake. My studies at school focused on social challenges in society. About four years ago those factors converged in an "Aha!" moment when I decided to combine my childhood love of cake and visiting my granny with the need for delicious, freshly baked cakes.
It is important to me to have a positive impact on society. Because I know that retirees struggle to meet new people and find a meaningful, regular task, I positioned my company to address that social problem. In addition, many seniors live on a fixed pension and might like to supplement their income with our wage. Our company taps the retiree workforce to bake cakes, because who makes a better cake than your grandmother? The retirees are our heart and soul. Without them, our business concept wouldn't work.
Challenges of a multi-generation workforce
Today we employ more than 35 grannies and two grandpas at our unique bakery in Munich. They gather in our large kitchen to bake cakes in 14 ovens, interact with new people, and accomplish a worthwhile task that supplements their income. Customers love that our cakes remind them of childhood.
One unique challenge in my company is the diversity in every corner. It's enlightening to have young and senior people working together, learning and sharing. It brings fantastic synergies but can require extra communication, since different generations bring different life experiences to their work. I've learned that our senior generation wasn't taught to express what they want, but I am impressed that they are doers with the drive to tackle tasks hands-on, with enthusiasm.
A community of support
In the early stage of business, entrepreneurs often feel overwhelmed. It's hard to find anyone who understands what you're going through. Though my idea was a good one, I didn't have a business background and needed practical, hands-on knowledge and strategy that I could apply immediately to improve my company.
I needed to expand my toolkit but didn't have time to go back to university. A business accelerator program was the perfect solution: It's a catalyst, similar to yeast in a cake, that can cause chemical reactions that catapult a business to its next level.
I joined the EO Accelerator program, which provides formal education on key topics including cash flow, hiring the right team, branding and developing strategic advantages over competitors. And it has an accountability group. When I am surrounded by a roomful of passionate entrepreneurs who also want accountability in growing their businesses, we discuss how to manage employees, improve outreach and develop our organizations. It's like an on-the-go business training academy where you have the support of like-minded people.
My three main takeaways from EO Accelerator are:
It's all about your team. I make the time to help, understand and enable my team during 30-minute one-on-ones with core team members each week.
Be focused, precise and know your aim. This is especially important while presenting, communicating and giving feedback. I used this strategy during a recent appearance on Germany's Die Höhle der Löwen (Den of Lions)--similar to Shark Tank in the US. We attracted two "lions" who invested 100,000 euro into our company which we used to revamp our website, improve cake packaging and launch a marketing campaign. We are ecstatic to have two strong, well-known investors whose expertise and network give us the opportunity to grow further.
We live in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world. As a business owner, it's important to keep this always in mind and finish tasks immediately, because we never know what the next day may bring.
The business accelerator program significantly impacted my entrepreneurial journey: I've grown both personally and professionally, developed better leadership skills, and expanded my toolkit, so now I'm ready to help my startup reach the next level.