EBS student Samuel Pemsel has already founded a company. (Photo: Oliver Nauditt)
How did the idea for SharpenMarketing come about?
Started as a run-of-the-mill agency, we soon realised that this positioning would not lead to the growth I had projected. So we thought about what we could do better than other agencies: we understand the young generation, their wishes and their user behaviour.
We developed our focus over time, unique selling points, and our primary business model based on this insight. Today, we connect SMEs with young talents - and we do so in a data-driven, target group-oriented and cost-efficient way. To do this, we draw on our talent pool (currently approx. 4,000 young talents) and performance recruiting ads on individually selected social networks.
At present, seven people are working at SharpenMarketing. We are approaching a small six-digit turnover. We work for well-known companies such as a corporation we cannot name for data protection reasons, the Dr Peters Group, the Bavarian Farmers’ Association and many other SMEs.
How did you come to start a business before beginning your studies?
It all began when I entered the seventh grade more than five years ago. My best friends, whom I spent hours playing PC games, had to leave the grammar school, and we lost contact, and I lost the fun of playing those games (… looking back, thank God!). Now, with more free time on my hands, I wanted to spend this doing something worthwhile, so I became involved with the stock market, and three months later, using my father’s name, I bought my first ETF. However, at the age of 14, if you only use the money you’ve earned yourself, you can’t invest. So, I wanted to make money by delivering newspapers, later by creating websites & Co. However, after a short time, interest began to pall. After all, I was sitting in front of the computer for several hours a day, earning good money as a teenager, but at some point, I missed the kick, and this is how I slipped more and more into the start-up scene.
What are the biggest challenges on the way to starting a business?
Phew, there are quite a few which are not that easy to the number or define. I must add here that I had a “challenging start-up process”. After all, I was one of only a few people in Germany to successfully obtain my free legal capacity prematurely (at the age of 15), following an almost eleven-month process at the Düsseldorf District Court. After receiving this status, I could only set up my own business, just like an adult.
Looking back, I consider the legal and bureaucratic hurdles to be extremely obstructive, but this was not the most significant challenge. I think it was much more difficult for a new founder - regardless of age - to prioritise the right tasks. In other words, tackling functions that work and not focusing on the studies that look “fancy” to the outside world (such as creating a nice-looking website). Most important is to “get the show on the road” - and this only works if a selected target group gets to know the product or service, uses it and gives feedback so that this can be optimised accordingly.
Future outlook: If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few months, it’s to only talk about prospects for your start-up in a closed circle. But I can say for sure that, of course, we want to / will expand our existing business, grow, and make an even more significant impact in recruiting, especially in German SMEs, in 2021.
What are you most looking forward to about studying at EBS?
I am looking forward to the people, the course content and the mix between theory and practice. The people, including above all - by which I in no way mean to reduce the other, numerous players in the EBS cosmos (!) - the professors, who (hopefully… paired with a certain amount of initiative, of course) will provide me with basic academic knowledge, so that in my life as a start-up founder I no longer have to act solely according to the principle of “learning by doing”. Furthermore, I look forward to meeting my fellow students, exciting projects such as the EBS Onboarding Project or valuable discussions with the alumni - not to mention the famous events (EBSpreneurship Forum & Co.).