THE ROUND THING MUST GO INTO THE SQUARE THING
Who hasn't heard of Die Höhle der Löwen? - one of the best-known TV shows on German television (on VOX) in which start-up founders pitch for investments in front of investors. Millions of German viewers watch every week to see which innovations will soon make our lives better. When the request to participate came in, we danced and went straight to work preparing the application documents. But read for yourself ...
Alongside Nuremberg sausages, Elisenlebkuchen are Franconia's top export at Christmas time. The problem: every year, the same dusty packaging design with Nuremberg city silhouette and an estimated annual production of 300 millions disposable plastic bags. We can do better!
Many moons ago, the four of us - Tilman, Jannik, Johannes and Elisabeth, who all live in Nuremberg - joined forces to make the Lebkuchen market more sustainable. The genuine Elisen Lebkuchen from the baker's trade is a delicious, Franconian cultural asset that needs to be preserved - only the packaging still had room for improvement.
In our opinion, the best Lebkuchen bakers bake fresh classic Lebkuchen for us during the Christmas season, and together we also developed a vegan version of Elisenlebkuchen that tastes just like the original. We also package the classic from the monastery baking book in a sustainable way: international illustrators design our reusable, timeless Lebkuchen decoration box made of sustainable paper every year. This way, the Lebkuchen is directly ready to give away. We also do without plastic and pack our Elisen in a compostable foil made from renewable resources.
And because we don't just produce great handmade Christmas gifts, our Lebkuchen gift packages are now complemented by great products from friendly, sustainable start-ups. In the meantime, the team has grown to six people and we no longer just send sustainable gift packages at Christmas time, but all year round, for Easter, Mother's Day or birthdays.
Good things take time, we already know that from Lebkuchen production. ;) And so it was with our first TV appearance. Last winter, we received an e-mail from the production company asking if we would like to apply to appear on the show. We were, of course, totally blown away. Everyone knows that Die Höhle der Löwen is a very well-known show that can provide a great platform for young start-ups with innovative business ideas.
As with every Christmas market or other event, there was a lot to do! First of all, our bakers had to fire up the ovens in the middle of spring and bake the traditional and vegan Lebkuchen for the Höhle der Löwen presentation. Afterwards, of course, each of the lions and lionesses had to be allowed to taste both recipes. Pitch rule No. 1 for a food product: Only those who bring a fresh product to taste can find an investor.
While the bakers were busy buying ingredients and baking Lebkuchen, we shot several short videos about us, our start-up story and our vision with our cell phones. The production company wanted to get a first impression of us. Now we can proudly say: not only Pfeffer & Frost Elisenlebkuchen, but also the founders make quite something ;)
Then came the most important part - the pitch had to be written. For this, all the founders sat down together and compiled the most important arguments for craftsmanship, conscious consumption and sustainable packaging. We put all this into a funny form with the help of the TV pros and even added a little challenge for the lionesses and lions. Of course, we had to take a close look at all the investors in advance and discuss which lion or lioness could support us the most. Our favorite was clearly Dagmar Wöhrl. As a Nuremberg native and ambassador of regional specialties, her heart certainly beats for Lebkuchen, and with our family bakeries and her family business behind us, we share the same values. Whether we were able to convince Mrs. Wöhrl or another investor, you will see in the broadcast.
Then it was time for set design in March - you can be really excited about that. Together with the production company, we thought about how best to stage our Lebkuchen and ingredients for the show. In any case, we can already reveal: We were overjoyed to get such a great set for the Christmas special. A Christmas dream come true!
In April, the time had finally come and we were allowed to travel to Cologne for the recording. Lebkuchen packed, hotel booked and off we went to the "Höhle der Löwen".
The whole day of shooting remained very exciting, we really only got to know the lionesses and lions when they entered through the set door.
We were a bit nervous at the beginning, because we didn't know exactly what questions would come and how critical it could get. But all five lionesses and lions welcomed us very benevolently and friendly. They all listened to us attentively and immediately grasped that we were making the Lebkuchen and gift market more sustainable.
We know from previous episodes that all lions and lionesses are ready for any mischief and so we were not surprised that they even sang a Christmas carol with us, looking forward to fresh nibbles. While tasting the Elisen Lebkuchen, we heard a lot of "hmmm" and "delicious". Especially exciting for us was the comparison of traditional and vegan Lebkuchen (without egg, without honey), which we passed with waving flags. No one could tell a difference in taste or shape. We were particularly pleased about this, as we developed the vegan Elisen only last year with our partner bakery and would like to grow strongly in this segment. When then one after the other, of course for solid reasons, declined to invest, it was starting to make us a little queasy. But when Dagmar confessed her love for Lebkuchen and offered us a deal, the joy was naturally all the greater, even if we had to give up more shares than originally planned.
The deal and the integration into Dagmar Wöhrl's family business means that we have a sparring partner whom we can call at any time and ask for an opinion or a contact. That's also how we got our first joint office in the summer. Before, Hannes and I had our own office, as did Tilman and Jannik. Now we have finally moved together and can coordinate much faster. One highlight was the invitation to the family company's summer party. It was a unique opportunity to exchange ideas with the other start-ups in the investment group. Many told us quite freely about their broadcasting experiences and we were able to derive helpful measures for preparing the broadcast. Offer individual products or packages? How long do customers stay on the site? And what order volume (minimum and maximum) is actually possible?
Jannik and Chrissi leaned into customer acquisition on LinkedIn and were able to find many people interested in our gift and greeting card service there. This year, for example, we have already been able to individualize the first Lebkuchen tins with company logos and have received particularly happy feedback on the branded tins. Since August we also have another employee for SEO and product sourcing to be able to add more sustainable gift ideas to the store already in spring. Birthdays, Mother's Day and Easter can come.