EBS Alumni: When law studies give you the idea to start a business
EBS Alumni Thea Becker
EBS: You successfully completed your law studies at EBS Universität in 2020 with the First Law Examination and are currently doing a Master in Business for Legal Professionals. But back in 2017, you founded your own company alongside your studies. Could you tell us more about yourself and your career?
My name is Thea Becker and in 2014, straight after passing my higher school certificate, I moved from a small town near Cologne to Wiesbaden to study law. After doing a work experience project in the 10th grade, I knew I wanted to study law and so I devoted my whole attention to my studies during the first few trimesters. Due to the fast pace of my studies and my own demands on myself, I almost reached breaking point after a while. During my semester abroad in 2016, I had the chance to take a breath and think outside the box. New places, people and impression helped me to reflect on the past two years. What I clearly lacked in everyday life was a certain amount of creativity and informality. Far away from ratings and performance comparisons.
After my return, I began to consciously integrate creativity into my everyday life and took up photography and digital media in my free time. In 2017, for a little extra income, started to offer the results of my artistic pastime for sale as printable posters. I was definitely not planning to start up a company then! My focus was still very much on my law studies. I was just very pleased a few people liked my work and that I was earning a little pocket money.
EBS: How did the idea for Pulse of Art come about?
Besides photography, I also enjoyed graphic design. I was particularly taken with typography - that is the design of words and sayings. One day I had an idea which was to change my life: graphic design and law studies can be perfectly combined - with the help of definitions.
In law school, you learn a lot of explicit definitions by heart. If you do not have the words from the textbook at hand in an exam, you have to come up with a suitable description of a word or process yourself. What if, instead of “administrative act”, you described everyday, positive words like “love” or “best friend”? If you also make it graphically attractive, it could be a great gift for a loved one.
With this idea in mind, the first descriptions for significant everyday people were created in 2018: “Mum”, “Best Friend” and “Teacher”. I also offered these for sale as a download and the demand was encouragingly high!
At the end of 2018, an arts and crafts market took place in Wiesbaden, where I wanted to test my idea in the “real world” for the first time. So I had my files printed as posters by a professional printer and waited eagerly to see what the interested people in the “Kurpark” would say. And lo and behold: the definitions were a complete success!
I put the few remaining copies from the market online for sale at the end of November 2018 - everything was completely sold out before Christmas. It was then that I realised for the first time that my hobby had more potential. At the turn of the year 2018/2019, I decided to start up “Pulse of Art” and see where the journey would take me.
EBS: What were the greatest difficulties you had to overcome on your start-up journey?
On the one hand, there were very “practical” difficulties on the start-up journey. At the time of the launch, I was in the middle of the exam revision course, i.e. the part of law studies in which one prepares intensively for the upcoming state examination. This phase lasts about 1 ½ years at EBS and requires full focus on the state examination from morning to night, Monday to Saturday. Thus, the time of the revision course is a definitely unfavourable time to start a business, because (free) time is a very scarce resource during this phase. Nevertheless, I wanted to seize the opportunity and kick off with “Pulse of Art”. So I spent the daylight hours at my desk with my books, and nights and Sundays with product design and taxes. In 2019 and 2020, lack of time was definitely my greatest obstacle.
On the other hand, my somewhat unusual start-up story had its own emotional pitfalls: after law school, I had originally planned a very classic career in a law firm or at court. Starting a business - and in a completely different field - had never been on my agenda. In this respect, I asked myself at least once a day why I was self-employed alongside my studies. Breaking out of the planned path (studies - first state examination - second state examination - legal career) and thus also out of the safety net and doing something completely different definitely required a certain amount of courage.
EBS: To what extent did your studies at EBS Universität provide you with added value for your work?
From a purely professional point of view, there is probably no better basis for a start-up than a law degree with additional expertise in the field of business administration. Setting up a business involves a lot of bureaucracy and legal issues. Especially when it comes to topics such as selling on the Internet, competition or copyright law, I am actually very happy to be a lawyer. Of course, you don’t know the answer to every question after a law degree - but you do have the skills to work out new fields of law and thus solve problems yourself.
On a higher level, I am grateful that law school taught me a certain frustration tolerance. Especially during the revision time, where you write exams every week and sometimes don’t get the grades you hope for, you have to learn to motivate yourself every day and keep at it even after a setback. This mindset is very valuable for the self-employed. Almost every day, something or other goes wrong or a new problem arises. Either the supplier has withdrawn a certain material from the range, or a distribution channel no longer offers the sales potential it did a few months ago. At times like these, staying on top of things and looking for constructive solutions instead of burying my head in the sand has already helped me cope with a number of ups and downs.
EBS: What are your current projects?
After passing my state exams last year and completing my master’s modules in the summer of 2020, I moved the company from a home office to its first proper office and am now full-time self-employed. Since then, I have been able to concentrate much more intensively on my company and its growth. In the meantime, the first employee has also joined the team and we are currently preparing for the Christmas season 2021. Another topic is the cooperation with partners in the retail sector. We are currently represented with our products in almost 20 shops in Germany but would like to expand the B2B business. The Corona pandemic and the subsequent shop closures have, of course, taken their toll on the retail sector, so that this project has unfortunately had to be put on hold for the past year. We hope to be able to build on the “stationary trade” pillar with further opening steps.
In addition, I still have to write my master’s thesis for the “Master in Business for Legal Professionals”, which I’m planning to do this summer.
EBS: Where is your journey taking you - where do you see yourself in 5 years?
If I had been asked this question at the beginning of my studies, I should now be in the final stages of my second state examination. Instead, I am self-employed and no longer read legal texts and judgements every day. In this respect, I have got out of the habit of planning the future too much. I really enjoy running my company and I’m constantly grateful for the things I can learn and experience. Of course, I have goals for me and my company. However, just this year with Corona has shown that you can’t be prepared for every eventuality. So, I am going to remain flexible and enjoying trying out new things. I am definitely keeping an open mind about whether I will leave the law career for ever behind me or return one day. The first state examination I passed is in the cupboard and is my door opener whenever I want to leave self-employment.