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Mengting is the Founder and CEO of Kitchen Stories. She was born in China and moved to Germany when she was four years old. Right after University in 2013, Mengting founded her company together with a friend. Kitchen Stories is based in Berlin with a team of about 70 full-time employees and reaches about 30 million people who are interested in cooking. Mengting’s mission is to encourage people to cook more and more every day.
Mengting, what motivated you to start a business?
During my time at university, I was in contact with a lot of successful founders very early. When I decided to go to a business school, I never really knew what I would be doing afterward. And so, we were lucky that at our university we got very much in touch with not only different corporate businesses but also with founders and alumni, who have told their personal stories and who have shown how they have been doing things or how things evolved. And for me, it was very inspiring to hear from a completely different world to a certain extent that I didn't know about. That was really decisive. After I did some of the classical internships with corporate companies, it was clear that this is not an environment in which I would like to extend my working life. Thereafter, I joined a startup as an intern in Berlin and was so impressed by the scene and by the motivation of everyone wanting to change the world and build something on their own.
What kind of entrepreneurial challenges have you encountered that you wish you had more help with?
When we founded the company right after university, we started with little and almost no experience. I did a couple of internships, but I wasn’t obviously a boss of anyone before. I also didn't really have any true working experience myself as an employee, so everything was very new. And without experience, it made it less approachable. So for me, I think what was very decisive in the first two startups that I joined as an entrepreneur for a couple of months, because especially in the very beginning, or in the very early days, there's just so much happening and the learning curve is like so steep that by that time, I sort of had all a lot of knowledge already, even though I only spent like very few weeks. When I started eight years ago it wasn't common to have coaches or mentors. And I would have wished that we met our first couple of coaches and mentors much earlier. We were lucky to meet people along the way who were willing to help us out or to share their knowledge, but it was sort of chaotic and by chance. I feel like today, this could be targeted much better. It just helps to talk to people who have done similar things, even if that would not be the thing that you get to do yourself then. This exchange can be very helpful.
How can female founders who were not born in Germany be supported to ease their way into entrepreneurship?
When I think back, it's really about getting in touch with this much sooner, like I wished I would have this topic already in school. It's that stage in life where the question of ”what am I going to do later?”, an entrepreneur has never even been an option. It was never even something that I thought existed. Having a classic Asian background, I had more in my mind that I can become a lawyer or a doctor, something very traditional. Therefore, I wish the idea of founding my own company would have been much more available early on.
How did your cultural background influence your career?
It brings a much larger advantage than most people realize. Nowadays, as this topic is so popular, it's more that you naturally bring it up to the table, because often new companies are thought to be very global from day one. And to already be able to understand a multitude of languages and cultures is a huge advantage these days. Like everyone automatically believes that you are more of an expert. People automatically believe that we can make our business bigger in China, just by looking at me. Not because of my experience, but because I naturally have credibility because of the language, some cultural background and basic understanding is simply there. So, having your own background is a huge advantage that can make you gifted. And so, it's not a downer, it's rather the other way around!
What is your personal hint for women with a migration background who want to start their own business?
Dare to try things, dare to trust yourself, like better than the perfect: just give it a go. Think through what the worst case is. I often find that they expect to be really terrible if they can't make it happen. But try to really think through what would happen. Outline these very intangible risks and fears in your mind and when you line everything out, you will suddenly figure out that it's actually not that bad. Maybe the leap of faith is not as big as your mind thinks it is.
Thank you very much Mengting!
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