Herzstärkend (meaning „strengthening for the heart“) is the side-hustle project of the five girls Mira, Fini, Hannah, Lea und Luka. They are writing about God on Instagram, they also teach hand lettering, and they keep coming up with new creative products for their online shop.
Meanwhile, they even do fashion: Their sweatshirts are sustainably produced in a factory in India that supports women who are freed from forced prostitution. Just days ago, “herzstärkend” has celebrated its fourth anniversary.
The journey began with Mira, who started the Instagram Account “herzstärkend”. Her first edition of notebooks went so well, that she took on some help for the project: her sister Luka as well as her friends Hannah, Lea, and Fini. Ever since “herzstärkend” is growing steadily. Even though the team has a long-distance relationship: Lea and Fini are living in Würzburg – around 100 miles apart from Mara, Luka, and Hannah in the area around Stuttgart.
Lovelies, Congratulations to the four-year anniversary of “herzstärkend”! When you started the project, did you envision it as it is today?
Mira: When I went abroad for a couple of months, I wasn`t able to manage the project on my own anymore. So I wondered: Who could help with which task? Why not give it a try as a team, I thought… We then were five girls, everyone threw in ideas, and all of a sudden there was so much manpower! Within half a year, „herzstärkend“ basically exploded! After three months, we couldn`t even imagine the project without the five of us.
Hannah: And we only ever met as a team about half a year into the joint work on the project. Before, we just spoke via Skype. We all had been friends with Mira, but Lea and Fini were her friends from Würzburg and Luka and I only got to know them due to “herzstärkend”.
Luka: We had never planned to found a company. It just happened because we received so many orders.
I would imagine it quite challenging to lead a business as friends. Especially when it comes to maintaining a close friendship with an open heart for each other. In business one has to take criticism after all… How are your experiences regarding conflicts in the group?
Hannah: Actually, everyone has advised us against it! But I don`t regret it one minute!
Lea: Sure it`s challenging! “Herzstärkend” is growing and more people are getting involved. But we are growing with challenges and therefore we can master the following ones with more ease. I have been profiting big time from our friendship. Each one of us is different, yet we have so much appreciation for each other.
Mira: We all are team players, and we can all be quiet and listen. No one is stubborn and everyone is willing to take a step back now and then and put the team first. That`s important, to be able to retreat. For example, if Lea had the idea for a product, then I don`t necessarily need to get my way when it comes to a decision about this product, but I can put her first instead.
Fini: We don`t make decisions by vote. That just doesn`t work well in a friendship. We need to find a compromise that is satisfying for everybody. Everybody needs to be in favour of the decision.
Lea: When there haven`t been in-person team days in a long while, then I often lack energy for our project. Once we have seen each other again in person, it`s like an energy boost. On Monday mornings we regularly meet online to chat and pray. When the first lockdown started, we used to meet online at seven each morning to pray together.
Luka: And on Thursdays is our Jour Fix for talking about all things business.
Alongside „herzstärkend“ you all are also studying. How do you get on in terms of time management and organisation? Do you have strategies, or has that never been an issue?
Fini: So, I don`t have a strategy and am handling things with quite some flexibility.
Mira: Uni is my priority and therefore I start the day doing stuff for uni. If there`s still time after that, then I would work on something for „herzstärkend“.
Hannah: For me, „herzstärkend“ is like recreation. That`s the advantage as a business owner: you can determine when to do what. There is a lot of freedom. When my studies are stressing me out, I work on something for “herzstärkend“ and think: Working can be so nice!
Lea: We do try to set deadlines though. However, with a bit more structure, things might run even better. I would be interested, what would be possible, if it was our full-time job. At the same time, it`s nice to have no pressure. Not being obliged to do anything for profit. “Herzstärkend“ is both our hobby and work.
Hannah: Of course, there are times, for example when we have a lot of exams, when we reduce the amount of work for „herzstärkend“.
Mira: At times I do think, it`s all becoming too much and I don`t manage – as well with our different targets and ideas in some areas. That can be challenging and then it`s good to allow some distance, do something entirely different, like spending time with my boyfriend.
What are your most important learning experiences with “herzstärkend” so far?
Lea: It pays off to dream big! I would never have thought that we would get that far with “herzstärkend”. For example, when we had the option to have sweatshirts produced. We asked ourselves: Shall we do fashion? – Hey, why not? And now it`s a great project!
Luka: We have learned a lot about leading a business – tax, finance plan, … And we learned what fair fashion really means: not just the fabric must be sustainably produced, but as well the zip. For a scrunchie, you need a sustainably produced elastic band. As well the transport routes must be convenient for our production site in Mumbai.
Fini: I loved the experience that you can teach yourself anything. You can always ask. You can always reach out and connect with people who know how it`s done. This way a lot is achievable.
Mira: Compared to being on your own, there is so much more possible with a team. Initially, I didn`t find it easy to let go and share my „baby“, my project „herzstärkend“ with others. But now I would do that with every project I start: Work with a team.
What are your plans for the next four years with „herzstärkend“? Do you have a plan at all, or do you just take things as they come?
Lea: We don`t have detailed plans – we already struggle to plan what`s gonna be in six months’ time.
Hannah: Our products, our content, and who we are, that`s all changing and evolving. Anyway, we don`t aim at making a living with „herzstärkend“.
Fini: Yes, „herzstärkend“ has to run alongside our actual jobs.
Mira: We mainly want to stay good friends no matter what. That`s most important!