J. K. Rowling: The incredible woman whose imagination shaped our childhood

“There is always room for a story that can transport people to another place” (J K Rowling). We were eleven years old when the first Harry Potter book was published. And since then the characters turned into an inherent part of our childhood. The stories of the three friends Harry Potter, Hermine Granger, and Ron Weasley turn around adventure, courage, love, and friendship. The books are beloved by children and adults alike and have been translated into 69 languages and sold over 400 million copies worldwide.

But how did Joanne K. Rowling manage to turn her books into such a gigantic success worldwide? And how did it all start?

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In an interview in 2011 Joanne K. Rowling was asked about her favourite virtue. She answered without any hesitation: “Courage”. Being asked about her passion she said “writing” and she considered her strongest characteristic “to be a trier”. A person that would fight and never give up. She shares this characteristic with her principal character Harry Potter and it allowed her to overcome later on the most difficult period of her life.

Just like her principal book character she was born on the 31st of July and didn’t feel welcome in her family. The difficult relationship with her father was accentuated when her mom was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when Joanne turned 15. After the death of her mom and a “catastrophic” marriage with a Portuguese journalist she was alone with a small child.

Realising the mess she had created in her life and living entirely on state benefits Joanne K. Rowling experienced a severe depression believing she could never be happy again. This experience would take the form of the ‘Dementor’ characters in her Harry Potter stories that suck all the happy feelings of people leaving them cold and numb.

But she also said that she wished more than anything in the world to be a writer and to be published. “Everything was stripped away, I had made such a mess of things, but that was freeing. So I thought I want to write, so I write this book. What’s the worst that can happen to me? If it gets turned down by every publisher it is not a big deal.”

And this book turned her life around. Joanne K. Rowling progressed from living on state benefits to being a multi millionaire within 5 years. But she has never forgotten what it feels to be poor. “I become most irritated and angry by people who have really no idea how it feels to exist in poverty”. She built a trust to help medical research for multiple sclerosis and funds several programs benefiting women and children facing social exclusion and social deprivation.

Seeing Joanne K. Rowling’s success made us feel extremely happy for her but we also could feel part of the pressure she must have felt before her final book launch trying to meet the expectations of her fans all over the world. We would like to end with a final quote of hers that motivates Ilaria and me to stand up again after each failure and continue believing in us and our vision: “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

Sources: Video J. K. Rowling – A Year In The Life, Wikipedia, Harry Potter books

A rollercoaster ride

The last two months have been rather hectic on our side and an emotional rollercoaster! After being incubated by the Strascheg Centre for Entrepreneurship in Munich and nominated for great teamwork by the leading German magazine for working women ‘Emotion’ life seemed bright on our side! But then things took a sharp turn


The Strascheg Centre for Entrepreneurship had pushed us to show fast results. Feeling the time pressure we decided to hand over our business bag drawings to a professional leather craftsman to produce a first prototype. Unfortunately he produced something completely different from what we asked for!! The pictures below show the drawings versus the real prototype. The dimensions were wrong, the functionalities were wrong, nothing was quite like we had ordered it!

 

Ilaria had worked with professional manufacturers before and we had been warned by the startup Mime et Moi that a collaboration with a leather manufacturer would be difficult. While we were prepared to face challenges we did not expect that a handed-in design could be so drastically disfigured to a point that we could not recognise this bag as ours anymore. When we first saw it we did not know if we should start crying or laughing. We decided for the latter.

This was a big learning for us and we promised ourselves that we would not make this mistake again. From now on we produce all the prototypes ourselves, we look for the supplier with whom we’d klick, and only hand over a tested product for mass production to a craftsperson. This means we are back to the very beginning: drawing, measuring, cutting, sewing (yes we bought a sewing machine! :-)). Or in the words of Samuel Beckett: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail better.”

So here are some lessons learned we would like to share with you:

  1. Try to generate your prototype yourself: This will help you realise what is doable and what isn’t. We wanted some design features that turned out impossible to produce (and this slipped through 3 engineers)
  2. If you work with a supplier make sure you are on the spot with him during this process: Every time the supplier had an issue we tried to answer the questions by Skype or phone. What made things even worst, the supplier was inpatient and incorporative making the communication almost impossible
  3. Draft a contract that states precise deliverables: Before you go for the design, as the supplier how he will be producing the bag. Follow each step and note it precisely down into a contract. Make sure that you get what you want and pay the supplier only if he really delivers what she/he has signed up for.

On the evening Ilaria arrived to Munich with the bag, we looked through each detail in it and decided to move on, stay positive and work on our next prototype. That night we popped a bottle of champagne and drank to our first real challenge in our journey. It was a beautiful evening and we were glad to have learned to enjoy our fails. After all, it’s not only the good moments, but also the tough ones that make a great team.

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We promise to keep you updated the moment we have a new business bag prototype! In the meantime: we are looking for a creative/ fashion designer to give us feedback and work with us on the bag design. If you know someone please let us know!!

Kisses, Nina & Ila

Brave Bessie – a shooting star

„The colour of my skin, at first a drawback, now drew large crowds wherever I went. At first, I was a curiosity, but soon the public discovered I could really fly.“ We love this inspirational story of Bessie Coleman, the first black aviatrix in the United States.

Born in 1892 in a segregated America, Bessie Coleman had one big dream: flying airplanes! Because no flight school in the US would accept a black young woman she decided at the age of 23 to learn French and move to France, In 1920 she travelled to France and earned her pilot’s licence within a year. After returning to the US Coleman participated in flight shows all over the country earning her nickname Brave Bessie.

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In 1926 Bessie Coleman died during an airplane crash. 10.000 people attended her funeral in Chicago. Jazz saxophonist Johnny Hodges recorded the song Good Queen Bess in 1940 and her portrait appeared on a United States Postal Service postage stamp in 1955. Shortly before her death she had opened the first flight school in the US that would also accept black Americans.

We find the story of Bessie Coleman so impressive because she did not accept a defeat. When she was not allowed to attend flights schools in the US she decided to look further and took the courage to move to an unknown continent to pursue her dream. Bessie Coleman questioned the status quo in the US and set a sample for female and black pilots everywhere in the world.

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Source on which this article is based: http://www.airbusgroup.com/int/en/group-vision/Airbus-Heritage/female-pioneers/Bessie-Coleman.html

Miss Stinnes drives around the world

I recently read a book about an inspiring woman called ClÀrenore Stinnes who decided 1927 to travel around the world by car. I loved the story of this young, brave woman and wanted to share it with you. ClÀrenore Stinnes broke all the rules imposed by society at that time and showed you can achieve anything you want with passion and dedication.

Born into a rich family ClÀrenore Stinnes was not allowed to manage the family business and decided to become a professional car racer living in the notorious Berlin of the 1920s. Trying to promote the car business of her father she decided to set up on a challenge that seemed totally impossible: drive around the entire world in an average family car. 1927 she embarked on an exhibition of 48.000 km with two technicians and one camera man on board.

I could just not imagine driving wit a car through countries that neither have roads nor petrol. And I am full of admiration for this woman, who was so brave and did not give up when facing severe hardships including wars, illnesses, engine blow-ups, and assaults.

The technicians quitted the team half-way through and left ClÀrenore Stinnes and the camera man Söderström alone. Together they took two years to successfully finish this adventurous tour.

And it seems that her story inspired others: Only last week an 82-year-old old woman called Heidi Hetzer returned back from her two and a half year-long road trip in an Oldtimer. This proves: age doesn’t matter!

Heidi Hetzer

Book inspiration: FrÀulein Stinnes fÀhrt um die Welt (apparently it is also a movie)