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For many women the prospect of founding their own company is more exciting than an ordinary career in business. In this blog series we want to find out about the entrepreneurial spirit that drives these women and the ideas they pursue. Learn how they got started, their experience as female founders, and what they wish they’d known before entering the start-up world.

women entrepreneurs in focus

Founders Annika Busse and Andrea Noelle fulfilled their life-long dream of creating a eco-designer bag and accessories label with a charitable purpose: Beliya. Every purchase enables a child in Africa to attend school for one year. All items are made of distinguished upcycling materials: leather returns like new and surplus fabric from designer collections. And each bag comes with a customised tag with the name of the child you help sponsor, telling you exactly what part of that child’s school year you help paying for.

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In today’s interview, Andrea and Annika share their experience of starting and growing a business and explain how they came up with their fantastic concept of designer handbags, sustainability, charity, and upcycling, that brought them plenty of media attention from all sides.

Andrea and Annika, what motivated you to found “Beliya“?

First of all, we always dreamed of founding our own company and during our years of studies, especially when we were writing our doctoral thesis, we learned a lot about microloans. By investigating all those projects for our work, we realized how important education is. Education is the key to everything. And we kept this fact in our minds throughout all these years. And when we started to create our own handbags and decided to make a business out of it, we tried to implement this fact to enable others, who do not have the same possibilities that we have, to get education.

How difficult was it to start your business and to bring your idea to life?

Of course starting your own business is never easy and there are always setbacks that make things even more difficult as they already are. However, we would say that all these ups and downs mean enrichments for us. As an entrepreneur you are always in action and you can only handle all these challenges by being passionate about what you do! By doing something sustainable, the satisfaction for ourselves is even bigger.

beliya Gründerfoto mit Taschen

And how do you make sure the money reaches the right children?

All of our donation partners are nonprofit foundations or associations which were chosen by beliya on the basis of well defined criteria. One of these criteria is that our partners are mainly led and supported by volunteers so that 100% of the funds will reach the schools and children.

Looking back, can you tell us about your greatest highlights so far?

Last year we won the MarketingAward of Hamburg. Thereupon a lot of huge advertisements of our bags were spread all around the city. This was one of the most unbelievable moments of our lives.

What are the things that are totally different than you imagined?

That building a company and brand takes time and so much work. But when you love what you do and have a great team and customers, it is the best job in the world.

What are your plans for the future?

Until now we’ve already been able to help more than 500 children go to school. For the nonce, this is not bad, facing the fact that we are selling our bags mainly through our online shop www.beliya.de. But of course we want more, so that even more children can be supported by our bags and accessories.

beliya Gründerfoto mit Kindern

Have there been challenging times of doubts about your business?

Especially the initial stage of a startup is very exciting. There are a lot of things and situations that will confront you with uncertainty, doubts and other fears. However, the feeling you will have after dealing with this situation is great because then you know that you can do it.

What does it require to start a business from zero as a women entrepreneur?

We think that there are not so many female founders, because a lot of women are
overestimating the project of an own business. But since running our own company, we
realized that there are not as many barriers to break down as you might expect and that
starting a business can be relatively simple.

Do you have any advice for aspiring founders?

We would recomend to build up a good network. (Business) contacts and a supporting
community are important and helpful for the development of your company.
Make sure to get the opinion of people around you regularly. Feedback is an important way to gain information which will help you to develop yourself and your company further.

Thanks Andrea and Annika for the interview and keep on the great work!

If you want to know more about Beliya also see their Facebook Page or check out the Hamburg Startup Monitor Profile.

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You want to build your own startup? Build a startup in one weekend and put yourself in the shoes of an entrepreneur! Join us at Startup Weekend Women, April 10-12 in Hamburg. If you have a business idea, great! If you don’t have a business idea, join anyway! You can help bring other ideas to life. Guys are welcome, too! Stay tuned for more updates and interviews via our Facbook Page.


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Theresa Grotendorst