I never planned to start a business. After studying chemical engineering, I actually wanted to work in applied research. I was looking for a job, but, dishearteningly, companies often failed to even acknowledge receipt of my application. Then my colleague Mario, whom I knew from university, asked me if I wanted to found a start-up with him. I insisted on a three-month trial period. We worked really well together and decided to set up our company. We produce sustainable membranes for functional clothing.
My role is highly varied, but recently it’s been all about strategic development and customer care. I’ve learned so much over the past two years. The textile industry was completely new to me and I find it absolutely fascinating. It’s amazing how little people know about the material they wear on their bodies day in day out.
I often visit Swiss manufacturers and raw material suppliers. The technicians who work there are often from a different generation. They’re not used to seeing a woman in a senior role. At first, they preferred to talk to Mario. They didn’t know how to deal with me. I always had to actively engage in the conversation and prove myself first. In contrast, with younger people I have to show what I can do immediately – they have studied with women and expect a lot.
In the beginning I was quickly impressed by certain people. I’ve learned to put what I’ve heard into perspective and not to take everything at face value. I tend to come across as affable and polite, and this could be perceived as a sign of weakness. My aunt also runs a business. I often seek her advice.
I don’t like the notion of a power woman who is strong and aggressive and must not show any vulnerability. As a woman, you can also be successful if you adopt a diplomatic approach and find good solutions more quickly.