With over 150 start-ups by HHL alumni over the past fifteen years, Germany’s top address for young managers has also developed into an incubator for company creation. Just at the end of last year, Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft (Founder’s Association for German Science) honored HHL as one of the leading entrepreneurial universities in Germany. The latest example of a successful company established by an HHL graduate is The Big Balmy (
Positive development of the food truck trend
HHL graduate Nikolaj de Lousanoff, 30, and his business partner Claudio Pekrun, 28, were inspired by a friend from Los Angeles and the positive development of the food truck trend in the U.S. According to Frankfurt-born de Lousanoff, the gourmet burgers offered are made of beef from regional free-range cows. For the buns, which are made freshly everyday, customers can choose between a brioche and spelt version. The various burger sauces are made by the team itself, which now encompasses 14 people. The Big Balmy also offers vegetarian burgers.
„Fully financed, we can now focus on the company’s growth“
Nikolaj de Lousanoff recounts, „We have had a great response since we opened our business in May 2013, which is reflected in very positive business development. When we started operations, we only had one location in Hamburg to call at on a permanent basis. Now, this truck is fully booked every day. My business partner and I were responsible for all steps from purchasing, production, sales and cleaning ourselves in the beginning. We did the administrative work such as accounting, human resources and logistics at night. Currently, we have gathered a strong team, are fully financed thanks to our investors and can focus on the growth and expansion of the company.“
Integration of Facebook, Twitter & Co.
The Big Balmy’s business model is in the relatively young niche market of mobile catering. It is one of the fastest growing areas in this industry. In total, there are about 35 food truck operators in Germany according to Nikolaj de Lousanoff. Hardly any of these concepts operate or are known outside of their particular region. The HHL graduate explains that there often is a lack of effective integration and use of new technologies and social media. The customer will find out about the exact location of the Balmy food truck and today’s menu through the company’s social media channels. Regarding the integration of Facebook, Twitter & Co. into customer communications, Nikolaj de Lousanoff says, „That is the special feature of the social food truck. A foodie community meeting at the trucks and spreading the topic of high-end mobile food via social media is formed through the integration of electronic channels.“
The company founder comments on the differentiation and targets of the The Big Balmy, „After establishing Hamburg as a business location, we will integrate up to three other cities in Germany and develop a catering chain. We are planning on having at least 15 trucks in six major cities in Germany by 2016. We are also working on a franchise model to accelerate the nationwide operation of Balmy food trucks.“
Formula for success: integrating direct customer feedback into product development
The company founder worked as a strategy consultant at IBM on various international projects in Asia and Latin America and was responsible for business development and international expansion as a member of the executive board of the Zalando Lounge shopping club of the successful Zalando e-commerce start-up. Asked about the formula for success of founders, the HHL graduate says, „Our vision of a nationwide food truck chain started with a completely self-financed test phase last year. Our positive result laid the foundation for investors, enabling us to grow in an aggressive but sustainable manner. Instead of analyzing and developing the concept in theory for months, we ventured into the market after only four months and were able to integrate direct customer feedback into our project development. This allowed us to quickly optimize our processes and to constantly improve the result for our customers at the trucks.“
HHL Entrepreneurship training and network helpful in the founding process
Nikolaj de Lousanoff benefits from his alma mater still today. „The exchange with other founders from the great alumni network helped me significantly during the concept stage for The Big Balmy. I share experiences with other entrepreneurs on a regular basis. HHL’s Entrepreneurship focus shaped me very much and helped me with the challenges throughout the entire founding process as well as the financial matters.“
HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management as a hotbed for entrepreneurs
With over 150 start-ups by HHL alumni over the past fifteen years, Germany’s top address for young managers has also developed into an incubator for company creation. Well-known examples are Gollmann Kommissionierungssysteme, Mister Spex, SunCoal Industries – the winner of the Founder’s Prize awarded by WirtschaftsWoche magazine – or Leipzig-based companies Spreadshirt and billigflieger.de. The founders‘ entrepreneurial commitment has created more than 2,500 jobs already, over 1,100 of which are located in the Leipzig region alone. HHL was voted among the top 20 start-up business schools in Germany in the second round of the „EXIST Gründungskultur – Die Gründerhochschule“ start-up competition by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology last year. The Financial Times awarded HHL 1st place internationally for its ‚Entrepreneurship‘ focus.Just a few months ago, Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft (Founder’s Association for German Science) honored HHL as one of the leading entrepreneurial universities in Germany.