How does Empowr

Empower Austria: goodbag tells about the experience with the initiative

The Empower Austria initiative of the international organization AIESEC (originally an abbreviation for “Association Internationale des Étudiants en Sciences Économiques et Commerciales”) places students from all over the world as interns at Austrian startups. They each spend three months at the start-up company. While the students can gain international work experience, the startups benefit from the expertise from other countries, from the intercultural exchange and, last but not least, from the very cost-effective employment relationship for them. The Viennese social startup goodbag came to their intern Axel through the initiative. We asked how it went and what goodbag had from the Empower Austria program.

+++ Christoph Hantschk from goodbag: "The Ikea bag is already‘ good ’." +++

First of all, a short pitch: What is “goodbag”?

A smart reusable carrier bag that motivates people to take their own bag with them. We want to make environmental protection easy and motivate people to take good actions in their daily life. As a first small step there is a bag with an NFC chip and every time it is used in a shop, the customer receives a special discount or special goodies. At the same time, a small donation goes to reforestation projects with every purchase. There is a list where the companies are listed and there you can check the discounts. And how many trees the project has already planted in total. The company was founded at the end of 2015.

How did the cooperation with the Empower Austria project come about?

There was a direct approach and request from AIESEC.

What is particularly important to you when it comes to choosing / accepting interns?

Since we are a relatively small team, it is important that the person acts independently. Can take on your own area of ​​responsibility or your own projects after a short training period. We don't need an intern who has to be looked over the shoulder all the time. The intern should be able to take on responsibility quickly. The intern should feel comfortable in a small company. He has to be able to work in a team where not everything is specified exactly as in a large company. In return, he has some leeway to be able to get involved. To react quite spontaneously.

What qualities should an intern have?

Initiative, self-confidence, ability to work in a team, languages ​​(English requirement, German ideally, but not necessary).

What was your reason for choosing to work with international interns?

A look from the outside is always of great benefit. You can benefit from a wealth of experience if the person comes from a different environment. Also maybe other things that the person takes away from their own environment and from their own training. Looking to the future, it is also a matter of finding other contact persons for future expansion into neighboring European countries.

How was Axel able to contribute to your startup?

Axel took on a project independently right from the start. Namely to find an additional supplier for our bags. To create an adopted model. He screened around a hundred suppliers and received a lot of inquiries. The suppliers were ranked according to price, quality and sovereignty. Samples and requirements documents were created. He has also used Google Analytics and Adwords to research the marketing options that can be optimized. He has set up a marketing plan that can be part of the business plan, but can also go into even greater depth. Axel showed models that he learned in his studies to create marketing plans and analyze the whole marketing topic.

Would you recommend Empower Austria? And if so, why?

Yes, experience has shown that the process went very well and it was a good selection. The right person has been found, the price-performance ratio is great. Three months is a period that makes sense, you can get used to it in three months. The program is very well chosen in terms of the framework conditions.

When did you see that it is necessary to increase the number of employees?

When you can no longer do everything yourself. For example structuring and packing work packages. If you want to grow, you need additional strength.

What is the biggest obstacle a startup faces when it comes to hiring new employees?

The financing. Wages and ancillary costs are very high for a startup. It's hard to keep up with big companies to be able to pay the same salary. But you can offer other experiences. It's a shame how little of the money you pay as a company actually reaches the employee.

How do you keep your employees committed to achieving a common goal?

The employees should know about the goals in the company. They should support the idea so that they get an inner motivation and can identify with the idea. The success of the startup should also be important to them. This is the difference to large corporations: You don't see the personal effort there directly, but when you work in a startup you feel the responsibility and see the output of your own work. It's about self-efficacy as an inner motivator.

Which HR structure do you use?

Democratic, flat hierarchies. Goodbag is organized in teams, such as sales and technology. There are weekly meetings. Employees don't necessarily have to meet each other all the time. Some also work in the home office.

How do you ensure that your employees continue to develop personally and professionally?

Most of the employees we have study on the side, work part-time. It is valuable to them that they can apply topics that they theoretically acquire during their studies in a start-up. You can also bring practical examples to the university at the same time and be able to name case solutions using specific examples. It's also about learning from each other, you look at the work together and the tips and inputs that we give are also very helpful in later professional life. You learn how to make good presentations, etc.

Finally: What have been your greatest successes and failures so far?

Success: Admission to the Ikea Startup Bootcamp. From 1300 international applicants, 10 companies were selected that spent three months with Ikea in Sweden and went through a great program.

Failure / Challenge: Import difficulties, mainly due to the customs authorities. There have already been delivery delays in this regard. This is one of the procurement risks.

⇒ To the initiative's page