From concept to reality
In September 2014 we founded the mini-company RAUTECK, an acronym for ‘Recycled Autoparts Eckernförde’ – Eckernförde being our hometown in Germany. We were able to do this because we participated in the Junior Achievement (JA) Company Programme, an initiative which teaches students how to start and run their own company during one school year.
We were offered the opportunity to join the JA Company Programme thanks to our teacher at Jungmannschool, who wanted us to learn the principles of entrepreneurship. Today, we can say that this programme has taught us much more than just principles, we have learned how to create our own business from the bottom up, gained key insights into the world of work, and become young entrepreneurs.
Our business idea was to convert recycled car parts into new and handcrafted products, which were both practical and sustainable. From the very beginning, the centre of our product line was the FördeÖffner (English: Fjord Opener), a bottle opener made from buckle tongues (which we have now patented). However, throughout the school-year we worked hard to continuously grow our line of products by developing different variants of bottle openers and an assortment of fashionable seatbelt bags (FördeTaschen).
RAUTECK is made up of 24 students between the ages of 16 and 19.
Our corporate philosophy is dominated by four elements: sustainability, handcrafted products, authenticity and social commitment. Since our start we have cooperated closely with a workshop for people with disabilities, thereby outsourcing our production and financially supporting a non-profit organization. For product distribution we chose to promote through various marketing techniques, including advertising spots and a corporate video which has ensured a steady flow of media exposure.
As the highlight of our year of hard-work, we are proud to say that we won the pan-European JA Europe Company of the Year Competition (CoYC) in Berlin this past July. Winning the competition was an amazing event for us, especially since we never expected it. We felt like we were in a dream and that the intense and long days of preparation were finally paying off. What a great honour to have been selected, not only as the best JA Europe student-company out of 20,000, but also to win in Berlin – the capital of our home country.
Thanks to the encouraging experiences during our JA Company Programme, two months after the end of our programme, we went ahead and re-established RAUTECK as a real enterprise.
Through this programme we’ve learned how our behaviour can affect economic, social and ecological issues. Moreover we’ve discovered how to get involved, take responsibility and grow, both as a team and individually. By becoming independent economic actors, we now know how to build, grow and establish a start-up, bringing a business idea from concept to reality. Furthermore, by participating in the JA Company Programme we’ve advanced our soft skills, most notably our self-confidence through presenting in front of an international audience, negotiating cooperation between partners and pitching to jurors.
We now overcome problems by accepting them as positive challenges, not as barriers to our goals.
After our JA Company Programme experience we received our The Entrepreneurial Skills Pass, which certifies the business, economic and financial knowledge and skills we’ve gained throughout the year-long programme. The ESP verifies our level of entrepreneurial competences on a pan-European scale, making it a great certificate to convince potential employers or engage in further seminars, events, trainings or internships.
In November 2015, JA Europe invited us to attend the Enterprise 2020 Summit in Brussels, organised by CSR Europe. As young entrepreneurs, this experience was incredibly inspiring and a great opportunity to present our company RAUTECK to another international audience. We really have to thank JA Europe for enabling us to participate in the Summit, inviting us to not only present our mini-company experience, but to also meet the King of Belgium during the launch of the European Pact for Youth. We really appreciated engaging with so many experienced European business leaders as they discussed many interesting topics, such as sustainable business development and entrepreneurship.
The JA Company Programme really strengthened our self-confidence and encouraged us to become entrepreneurs, creating jobs for ourselves and others.
Today, now that we’ve re-established our mini-company as a real enterprise, we hope to continue running our own company after school. Participating in the JA Company Programme really strengthened our self-confidence and encouraged us to become entrepreneurs, creating jobs for ourselves and others.
Entrepreneurship education is especially important because of the current lack thereof in many European schools. We strongly recommend students get involved in entrepreneurial initiatives like the JA Company Programme, which move beyond theory and provide experiential learning. It has been an absolutely unforgettable experience which has offered us many further opportunities and will surely help us in our business careers.
In closing, we would like to share two pieces of advice for other young entrepreneurs: See your problems as challenges, and you’ll be able to overcome anything. And, when you fall down, get back up. Stand up, the show must go on!
Written by Ragna Jebsen (19), Bjarne Klockemann (18), Bjarne Astor (18), Philip Letixerant (17) & Bendix Sibbel (18), all JA Germany alumni.