Norbert is an happy man. When you see his happy round face, with his thick moustache, and his ruffled grey hair, you cannot avoid smiling. Norbert is a smart man. You can talk about everything with him, from cell biology to politics, from carpentry to fanta-science. Norbert is an active man. The only time I saw him sitting in a place for long was when he had his nose stuck in a book. He is biking, building things, working, dancing, travelling, hiking, raising chickens, drinking beer (a lot of beer!). Among the other things, he is running also an online shop, Kapselwelt (← click the name to see the shop!). If I re-call correctly, during one of his “famous barbecues” he was drinking and laughing with his brother, Wolfgang, when they had a crazy business idea. They both had a job, they had hobbies, families. Apparently, this was not enough. Why not explore, try, learn and, why not, bring some extra money home. Actually if you go around the web, you realize that you can find basically everything you need. And yet, Norbert and Wolfgang, managed to find exactly the right missing piece, which was like looking for a needle in a haystack.
Selling empty capsules, why not? Easy, right? I didn’t even know that there was a market for such a thing. I didn’t even know that you could buy or sell them. Crazy enough, they started, and step after step they manage to build a small family business that has a solid clientèle and offers a really personal and efficient service to the customers. In this small story you find everything: craziness, creativity, self-discipline, courage, self-confidence, optimism, humour, along with all the other from-me-ignored skills you need to build an online business from zero and keep it running. Let’s talk to Norbert and get inspired by the man with the moustache that sells empty-capsules on the web.
Q: I am really curious to know how did you come up with the idea? What was your muse?
A muse normally is a beautiful women, an etherealness, who floated down from the Olympus, inspiring you not only in arts and ideas, right? Unfortunately, I cannot provide you with a sparkling story like that!
My muse is much more earthy. It is a slim, juicy, wonderful smelling fig tree with big ornamental green leaves and sweet fruits. I was really stunned viewing this exotic child of the south in the Danish island Bornholm, which lays in the Baltic Sea. The incorporation of the rich, sweet and exotic Mediterranean life far more up in the North! This vision dug itself into my heart and soul and made me start growing multiple subtropical species in my garden. Obviously, I started with a branch of this very fig tree, but I also grew many different chilli types, passion flowers, mulberry trees (seeds from Bornholm too) and much more. I felt ecstatic to bring the south into the north and I decided to try selling it. This led me to found my first online platform: www.subtropischepflanzen.de (Thanks to Anne for this nice piece of work!)
There has not been only one idea, and with time one idea after the other led me to the capsule shop. One day I told my brother:
“Hey Wolfgang (my brother), let´s make a bet – who is going to earn more money on Ebay within 5 months”. I started to sell the grown up fig trees and the other mentioned plants (and also empty printer cartridges) my brother sold teas, herbs, incenses and accessories. After I won the offered prize in that competition (a crate of well-temperatured beer) we started selling all that stuff together. While doing this we saw that a tea-stuff supplier’s catalogue mentioned at the last page a capsule filling “machine”, available somewhere in the United States.
Wow! Capsules!Fill herbs and vitamins into capsules yourself!! Independence from Big Pharma companies, do-it-yourself for the customers!!! However, after a while Ebay turned into a greedy giant which made us think, why not establishing our own shop? Knowing nothing about IT, bookkeeping, taxes and the whole fu**ing bureaucracy?
Q: How much did you really believe in you “crazy” idea?
I believed in fig trees and chillies, whereas the customers bought these capsules like hell. So I started to believe in our customers and enjoyed the tasty fig tree fruits and spicy chillies by myself.
Q: Did you ever thought of giving up?
Q: What does your business mean to you?
Many of my (my brother and mine) passions are condensed in that. I love doing things completely independent, creating new ideas together with my brother and realize them – or sometimes not.
It is an excellent balance to my 25 hours job as an employee in a day-care centre for mentally ill people, because it challenges me in totally different ways. I can bear a lot of problems in this (really characterful) job knowing to have the alternative in the Kapselwelt.
But the other way round: Social security as an employee makes me sleep well during the bad times in business. So it means to me about 50 – 51% for my working life, but the percentage is higher if I just consider my passions.
Q: Do you have a work uniform?
Yes, in wintertime I wear this old, greasy, green down jacket to save some energy in my office while sitting at the PC. The summer is more casual. But I think I´m the only one with uniform within the Kapselwelt!
Q: Any advice for someone who wants to start a business but is still insecure?
Believe in your passions and be prepared to transcend them.
Q: And last, a crucial question for me: Do you have a moustache trimmer? Do you use any moustache oil?
Yes I have a very old trimmer which has more and more difficulties to do its job. The storage battery is weak and it takes some time to get it run. So I use it rarely. My frequent spaghetti-with-sauce abuse provides my moustache with all nutritions, no oil required!
Thanks for all these inspiring questions!