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The Fairest, Most Sustainable, and Sexiest of All? Wood-Material Lingerie from Coco Malou

Steinbeis coaches help Stuttgart business founder to set up her own company

Introducing a new lingerie label from Stuttgart: Coco Malou – women’s underwear with an interesting difference. Produced according to fair trade principles in Europe, this lingerie is made from innovative wood fibers with an emphasis on feminine design. For every lingerie set sold, the startup will plant a tree in Zambia. Coco Malou was set up in November 2018 following a crowdfunding campaign at Startnext. The aim was to start production in the spring of 2019. The new firm received hands-on support during the startup phase from the Steinbeis coach Mario Buric and Doris Deichselberger.

Too “green,” too plain, not the right contours – Corinna Borucki spent years looking for fair trade lingerie that also looked good. But she searched in vain. So now she’s producing her dream lingerie herself under a label called Coco Malou. “The fashion industry is not just one of the muckiest in the world in terms of pollution, unfortunately it’s also extremely unfair,” says Borucki. Sustainability has been a heartfelt issue for the young entrepreneur for a long time. Borucki is committed to fair working conditions and wherever possible uses environmentally friendly, skin-friendly materials – first and foremost Tencel, which is made from wood. Tencel is a fiber extracted from wood and converted into a silky soft textile in a special circular production process. The textile can be processed using much lower volumes of water compared to other basic materials. It also performs excellently when it comes to wearing comfort. The fibers have antibacterial properties because they are good at absorbing and releasing moisture, which significantly inhibits the formation of bacteria.

Because Tencel is extracted from wood, for every set of lingerie it sells, Coco Malou is giving a tree back to nature. Coco Malou works with an organization called WeForest to reduce its carbon footprint, support reforestation projects, fund jobs in Zambia, and create new habitats for wildlife. The startup is being backed by the Social Impact Lab in Stuttgart, which has been providing advice on the project and access to co-working facilities.

Support is also being provided by Doris Deichselberger, who has a textile business degree herself and is now director of the Steinbeis Consulting Center for Change Management and Business Coaching. Deichselberger is tapping into a wealth of experience in purchasing and online textile retailing for the innovative project. She has also been advising the business founder on her purchasing strategy and product range policies. “To make sure you’re in the best possible position to deliver and keep customers satisfied, and at the same time optimize stocks, the best approach is to make sure you don’t use up all your resources at the beginning. This leaves you in a position to react quickly to individual customer needs,” explains Deichselberger. “Sustainability is an important topic that’s being asked about more and more by end customers.” Business Start-up, the Steinbeis Consulting Center, also helped set up the new business.

In November 2018, Coco Malou launched a crowdfunding campaign through Startnext. Within a week it had already raised two thirds of its finances. If the campaign went well, the plan was to embark on production in early 2019 with a brand launch planned for the spring of 2019. Coco Malou also has its own online shop and sells through selected fair fashion stores. The idea is to offer more women something special “below the surface” – something fair, sustainable, and sexy.

Mario Buric is a business coach at the Steinbeis Consulting Center Business Start-up, a business leader himself, and a crowdfunding pioneer. He has been working in the field of alternative financing since 2011, has set up his own online platform, has attracted a variety of leading events to Stuttgart, and he’s part of the “crowdfunding family” in Germany. He has helped countless business founders in recent years through consulting sessions, workshops, and seminars. Several weeks ago, Buric advised Corinna Borucki as she prepared for her crowdfunding campaign. It didn’t take long to decide to focus first on the German platform Startnext, which is primarily targeted at Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. With a track record spanning 6,600 successful projects, over 1,000,000 supporters, and more than €60 million in funds through the crowd, it was a clear-cut decision. To prepare for the campaign, Buric and Borucki turned the spotlight on the important topics: the target group, the campaign plan, thank-yous, and a communication plan.

To line up the best opportunities for startups to attract funding, a number of factors need to be considered. The process begins with working out how much capital will be required, considering the possible sources of capital, and drafting a workable funding concept. It’s important to find good advice, particularly when it comes to crowdfunding. This is where the Exi startup voucher program sponsored by the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg comes in. Under the program, up to eight hours of free advice are available in the form of short consultation sessions. These are followed by fast-track consultation sessions, for which the business founder makes a contribution of €160 per day of consulting. This allows entrepreneurs to benefit from the problem-solving skills of all Steinbeis consultants. Most crowdfunding campaigns are organized through specialist websites in the internet. For crowdfunding to work properly and the project to succeed, the usual approach is to define a minimum required value of funding before the campaign and the date by which it is required. It would be wrong to think that crowdfunding competes with other financing options. If anything, it’s a sensible complement to other approaches.

2018 turned out to be the year of crowdfunding for many Stuttgart business founders and startups. In the summer, two startups – smoope and ello – successfully grabbed the attention of crowd investors. Buric also stood by them as a Steinbeis consultant. Both companies ran an amazing campaign which won over a large number of investors and achieved something new: For the first time, two Swabian firms were featured on Seedmatch at exactly the same time. smoope offers messaging-based communication infrastructures for companies and its campaign (https://www.seedmatch.de/startups/smoope [1]). It successfully convinced 501 investors to stump up €550,000, only five of which came from the known network of investors – all the others were pulled in by the business model and successes to date. ello is an electric walking frame produced by the startup eMovements. Its campaign (https://www.seedmatch.de/startups/ello [2]) captured the imagination of 474 investors resulting in funding of €500,000.

The crowd is not some sort of anonymous body of users in the internet. It has to be uncovered in the immediate surroundings of campaign initiators. As a result, one of the most important tasks when preparing for a campaign is crowd-building. Another fundamental component of a campaign is communication planning. This captures which channels will be used to communicate through. Communication can be online or offline, through the social media, a company’s website or newsletter, the press, linear or non-linear (on demand) TV, or radio. A key principle is that less is more, since communication channels have to be fed with the right news at the right frequency. And it can be especially time-consuming generating your own content.

The time needed to prepare for a campaign generally depends on the crowd available, how much explanation a product or service requires, and the level of funding a startup is hoping to attract. The smaller the potential crowd, and the more explaining a solution needs, and the higher the envisaged amount of funding – the more energy will be needed and the longer the preparation time. Ideally, preparations should take six months.

Corinna Borucki’s campaign has now gone viral and has already achieved its funding objectives through more than 400 backers. The campaign was online until January 1, 2019 at www.startnext.com/coco-malou [3]. “Launching the crowdfunding campaign was pretty emotional and time-consuming, because you really do have to prepare everything, from shooting a video to writing texts and organizing a shoot,” concludes the 31-year-old. “But as far as I can see, all the hard work was worth it because I’ve already been put on Startnext’s recommendation list. Successful funding would be my most beautiful Christmas present!”