Every euro we invest has to be earned first – an interview with Sarah Haide from MyCouchbox

10/19/2017  |  Digital Transformation, Entrepreneurship, Interview

Last week we heard from Sarah Haide, the founder of the snack startup MyCouchbox in our article on Female Pioneers Part 2. Today we’re back with a fascinating interview in which Sarah divulges why she launched MyCouchbox in the first place as she describes the journey she has been on as the co-founder and CEO of the e-commerce company. The business founder from Stuttgart also explains why the model based on subscription boxes was actually plan B at the beginning and how involuntarily bootstrapping her own firm also has its advantages! The result was a candid interview on differences between the owners, the constancy of core values in a setting that is subject to continual change, and the importance of understanding human nature when selecting staff.

Lisa: Hi Sarah, it’s great to have this chance to talk to you again! Could you give our readers a quick reminder about your startup? What do you do at MyCouchbox and what has your business model actually got to do with digital solutions?

Sarah: Hi Lisa: It’s nice to be here, too! MyCouchbox delivers surprise boxes on a subscription basis. The contents change each time, so each month we delight the buyer with candies and savory snacks. But customers can also order a one-off box on a trial basis and try us out. We have an online shop where we also offer seasonal or themed boxes (summer, kids, etc.).

MyCouchbox is an e-commerce firm and 100% of the business is based on an online multichannel platform. According to a 2016 Nestlé report on eating habits in Germany, So is(s)t Deutschland, one in three people buys food for their own requirements online. So that means we’re clearly part of the trend toward digitalization in the food and beverage market. We save people the effort of going to the supermarket, simply by offering our things online, at least as far as their candy and snack shopping goes.

Lisa: What do you offer your customers that no other company offers?

Sarah: At the moment, we offer the best value for money in the market. For prices starting at €9.99 you get a box with goods worth at least €15 – often it’s even €25 or €30 – and there’s always real variety and some great snacks. Not only that, we also offer end customers a marvelous product as well as interesting services for producers. We enable producers to draw on marketing evaluations and innovative market research as a means of better knowing their end customers.

A box brimming with delish stuff: MyCouchbox offers a wide variety of snacks and new products delivered directly to the couch

Lisa: Where did the idea behind MyCouchbox come from? And when did you decide to make the leap in to the world of startups and go for it, 100%?

Sarah: The idea behind MyCouchbox had been going around in our heads for a long time. That said, at the beginning my co-founder and I were pursuing a completely different idea. We were working on an app concept, but without the right programmers that turned out to be quite difficult and the concept was nowhere near ready for the market. The urge to do something was getting stronger and stronger but the finances were getting tighter. So we decided to go for the MyCouchbox idea. It wasn’t ideal as a beginning but we were both convinced it was the right thing to do. And so the point came where we were willing to take the risk and we sat on our own couch at home turning the first MyCouchboxes into a reality.

Lisa: What were the biggest difficulties you faced on your journey as a business founder? What lessons have you learned from them?

Sarah: One of the challenges was how to fund our company. Every euro we decided to invest had to be earned first. For a long time that meant there was not a lot left. But looking back, that wasn’t just a negative thing. Speaking for myself, I really enjoyed being independent of investors. Another aspect had to do with the differences between us as the owners of the business, because we had completely different expectations. With hindsight, that was a situation we learned a lot from for MyCouchbox, because it meant we had to be totally conscious of the decisions we were making.

Lisa: In your blog, you describe the Core Values of your company. Why are these values so important to you?

Sarah: These are the values that define the direction we’re headed in. They’re a foundation for how we work together. I’ve noticed it’s a lot easier for everyone to get on with their work if they have a reference point. Also, our core values say something about where we come from. For example, there’s one about people being wanted and welcome. As a company, we’ve often had doors shut in our face without being given a proper chance. We want to give other people the opportunity to be heard and perceived.

Laying emphasis on the core values of her startup: co-founder and CEO Sarah Haide

Lisa: How important do you think it is to have a strong company culture after setting up a company? Maybe you could give us a couple of tips on making it work.

Sarah: I think a strong company culture is extremely important when setting up a company. For me, it’s the idea that underpins the new company. If the company culture’s weak or vague, nothing compelling will come of it.

So that would probably be my tip – you’ve got to really believe in your own ideas and be willing to defend them, too. We often have new people working for us, but our principles remain a constant throughout all the changes. But if something does happen and there’s an instance where our notion of how to work together isn’t being adhered to, you also have to be honest, accept the consequences, and make changes in the team.

Lisa: Which is also a good point – hiring and managing people is a fascinating area for startups. How do you bring the right people on board to help with your mission, and how do you keep them fired up in the long term?

Sarah: I talk to them and need a sense that they can also identify with the underlying idea behind MyCouchbox. I have to feel that future co-workers and interns want to go in the same direction as me. That’s where I bank on my horse sense.

Lisa: What are your top three tips for young business founders or people who want to set up a business?

Sarah: Well, my immediate response would be that I’d advise them to accept any help or support they’re offered. Something I’ve learned on my own journey is that it makes work unbelievably difficult if you try to do everything yourself.

You also need strength and determination. Don’t give up, keep going, even if it feels like everything’s working against you. And something I realized during the setup phase was that nobody’s going to take the actual work off of you – I’m responsible for outcomes myself.

And my last tip would be to enjoy yourself! Keep up the enthusiasm and you’ll succeed in inspiring others with your ideas and pull them on board too.

Lisa: And where’s the journey taking you now – what are the next steps?

Sarah: We want to reach out to more households with MyCouchbox and establish ourselves as a fixed marketing partner to producers in the German snack and candy market. As well as the box model, we need to push ahead with areas like the online shop, services, and product marketing. My goal is for MyCouchbox to become the place to go online for snacks and candies.

Lisa: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers J?

Sarah: Our ad will be on TV from August onwards – on Pro7, SAT1, Sixx and Kabel eins. So stay tuned J.

Thanks for the interview, Sarah, and here’s wishing you every success in achieving more of your goals!

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