“Building a business isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.”

The work of an entrepreneur is never done. Since I started selling awesome paper wallets as BERLIN slim, I’ve realized that what I really signed up for is a never-ending list of tasks. Everything needs to get done yesterday.

After a brief honeymoon period, it dawned on me that if I didn’t start making money soon, I wasn’t going to make it. The pressure Beautiful slim paper wallets from BERLIN slimslowly began to mount. I found myself working longer and longer hours, in a vain effort to finish one more thing.

It sounds a lot worse than it is though. Honestly, I love it!

I want to share some of my observations on starting a business. I went in with a few misconceptions and my own personal blind spots. I hope to spare you from some of the problems I’ve had.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. I’m also going to explain some of the reasons why I think it’s a great adventure and why you might also want to inflict yourself with the same pain. Continue reading ““Building a business isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.””

The Room with a View

The walls are rising, rising very fast. A little more than 11 months have passed since the day I arrived in Berlin, and the view of the Berlin skyline from Auditorium 1 at ESMT was an integral part of my classroom experience. The historic Berliner Dom, the Altes Museum, the E&Y building on a far corner, the moving arms of the cranes carrying steel rods, frames and what not and the Berlin skyline in general, were the unnecessary but often unavoidable distractions to many of the current students of the full-time MBA class (if not many, at least for me). The “Berliner Schloss” coming up right across the street is unknowingly taking away the view that once had offered me an enjoyable momentary distraction.


Change, they say, is the only thing that is constant. At this point in time, I could not agree more. I was a stranger on the 13th of January this year—to the city, to the 61 other colleagues of my class—but not anymore. The MBA journey has been filled with memories, both sweet and bitter, memories nonetheless. There have been moments when the case readings seemed never-ending, assignments stretched late into the evening, and work in general seemed overwhelming. There were deadlines one after another after another. One of my biggest learning experiences this year is that precisely during such moments, I should not ask for the rush to pause, for the flow to slow down; since such a wish is akin to wishing for death. There will be work, there will be change. The best we can do is to stay prepared and face it head on. As long as we breathe, at least minimally, life moves.

Why do I bore you with philosophy on change right now? Did I run out of topics to write, and is it the usual non-coherence of my thoughts? Well, we graduate today. I could not think of a better theme than “change” to write briefly about.

Life ahead is interesting, full of opportunities, I believe. Some of us head back home to take a break before we restart the job search, some stay back to look for opportunities, and some others are all set to start their new career. All the best to everyone.

I will miss the view, I will miss the class, I will miss ESMT.


First snow of my life and more…

“Look deep, deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better” said Albert Einstein. The faculty at ESMT seem to have taken inspiration, as we found out on our way to Schloss Boitzenburg for our two day outdoor leadership workshop. The hour and half journey northwards from Berlin has a calming effect on you as the hustle of the city takes a backseat and the greenery of Boitzenburg land comes in view. Every individual of the diverse MBA Class of 2014 was looking forward to the experience, and this excitement added a sense of inclusion and team spirit within the community even before we got started. Snow has a beautiful character to it; the softer it falls, the deeper it sinks. As we alighted the bus at the entrance of the castle, nature greeted us with soft white chunks of snowy advice, as if to remind us of the purpose of the workshop – to explore oneself and learn to team effectively.

Outdoor day team building
Outdoor day team building
We were split into multiple teams and the endgame was to find our way from the castle through the forest to the destination using only maps, compass and of course common sense. The four hour hiking trip into the wilderness on the first day had its similarities to an entertaining Bollywood movie. The script opened with a twist, when we were asked to exchange the maps we created with another team. It was a test of trust and confidence as we let go of our prime asset (this being the hand-drawn map) in exchange for another one created by our colleagues. It was a harsh reminder of the uncertain nature of today’s business and the need to place mutual trust & respect in our colleagues to manage crises. My team started well, or so we thought until we reached a point in the open field which diverged into three paths. Our guide Andreas Bernhardt’s timely advice (the guide’s role was to only monitor and speak if we drifted way too much from the intended route) and our navigators led us on the right route. Listen to experience, and trust in your colleague who is better equipped to make decisions at a given point in time are two key pieces of advice I drew from this event. It was getting dark, it started raining, and most importantly the wilderness was having its effect on us. We had each other’s back, motivated ourselves through the cold rain & snow and managed to reach the destination without compromising on any of the goals we had set ourselves before we started the trek. We, as a team, had told each other that we will enjoy the trek, ensure each other’s safety and finish as a team. As I said, like in a Bollywood movie, it was indeed a happy ending.

I could go on writing pages about the trek, the dinner at the castle, the events of the second day when we climbed trees, walked on ropes, built tents and much more. I will let you find it out by yourself, all it takes is to get admitted into the ESMT MBA Program.

Through the eyes of an MBA mommy – My way to ESMT

“We would like to thank you for investing your time to get to know ESMT (…) Based on the decision of the Admissions Committee, I am personally delighted to inform you that you have been selected as a candidate for the next ESMT MBA class starting January 2014.”

I was sitting in front of my computer staring at the e-mail with the offer to enroll in ESMT. I was exhilaratingly happy and nervously petrified at the same time. What does this mean for us?

For a long time I had been thinking about doing some kind of business education, preferably an MBA. I was looking at some part-time options in my home country, but finally I decided that it was better to do it full time and somewhere abroad, to really focus on it and to gain international exposure. It was never a good time to do it though. There was always a project going on, or there was this or that. It is pretty amazing how everything came to place once I was on my maternity leave. By being taken away from my everyday business routine, the professional part of my brain was completely clean from all the regular noise and I could finally see what I wanted to do next. I figured that I would try to apply and see what happens. If I got admitted, great, if not, at least I had tried.

I browsed through a number of schools, but I finally decided to apply only to one – ESMT. It was in Berlin, Germany, it had technology and sustainability tracks instead of hard-core finance and investment banking, the class size was relatively small, and the names of the founding companies were just dazzling. For me, this was the place to be. There were just some “little” things which needed to be done – the GMAT, the TOEFL and the application essays. I was really lucky that my daughter was sleeping a lot at that stage, so I had time to study and to write and rewrite my application essays. The admissions process was really fast. The interview was scheduled around five days after I submitted my application and the offer arrived only six days after the interview.

“So, are we really doing this?”, I was sitting with my husband at our dining table. “Well, I think we are.” We were both smiling. “Next year is going to be such an adventure. Our first big family adventure.”

It is time for you to help

Our class (ESMT MBA 2013) has numerous links to the Philippines, and we are all very concerned with the recent news surrounding Taifun Haiyan. The impact of the storm in the region has been catastrophic. In the Philippines alone around 10 thousand people have died and over 4 million have been left homeless. The efforts to return to a life somewhat close to normal are underway, but it will take a considerable amount of time before the people in this region recover. International help is coming from different destinations to the Philippines and we as members of the ESMT community want to contribute to this cause as well.

Recently we were reminded of how powerful nature can be when we were visited by Xaver, one of the strongest storms to fall on Germany in the last decades. Luckily for us, the country’s infrastructure and organizations were well prepared. Despite winds exceeding 150 km/h, the damage, as well as the number of casualties Europe-wide, was relatively limited.

As you may want to see it, we are either blessed or lucky to be living in cities and countries with limited natural disasters and with well prepared infrastructures that offer protection when required. However, given that 7 billion people are living around the world, it could have easily been the case that we wouldn’t be where we are today. If we were at the other side of this story, we would be the ones needing the help of others more fortunate than us now. The fact is that we are the more fortunate ones today, and we therefore want to jointly make an effort to help our brothers and sisters in the Philippines.

How will we do it? The ESMT Social Impact Club is organizing a donation drive.  At our graduation event we will display boxes that attendees can use to make donations. Furthermore, we will use our networks and the networks of our school to broaden the reach of our undertaking.

With whom will we do it? We have selected a reliable partner who is involved in micro-financing for the poor. They are called Opportunity International Deutschland, and they are a Christian-motivated non-profit whose goal is to provide micro-financing services for the poor at large to support their sustainable development. They have a strong presence and network in the Philippines with over 30 years of local history and a total of around 1 million micro finance clients. Approx. 50.000 of their clients were significantly affected by the storm. Branches and employees of OID were impacted as well. OID is now supporting reconstruction efforts, and they will be a major vehicle of financing for the poor as they try to get back on their feet. All the funds we collect will go to OID.

How can you help? If you want more information you can write us at: social_impact_club@esmt.org. If you identify with our cause you can make a donation by following this link: www.oid.org (please enter the payment reference: “Taifun ESMT”). We thank you for your interest and potential support!

Warm regards from Berlin, the ESMT Social Impact Club.