By Fatima Gorezi
Lilli Rohde and Maike Benner are the founders of MaL!sh, an international Business Consultancy and Coaching company based in Frankfurt, Germany. MaL!sh offers a variety of services combining their experiences and strengths in People Management, Financials, Tools and Systems, Communication and Leadership. Maike & Lilli are also the Directors of the first ‘Global Woman Breakfast Club’ in Frankfurt, Germany which opens on October 14th 2018.
Could you please tell us a bit about you and your professional background?
Lilli: Before we founded our consulting and coaching company MaL!sh we both worked in the corporate world. For 10 years I worked in the food and beverage industry in Sales related functions leading and building teams. My family emigrated from Siberia, that is why I am a native speaker in German and Russian. I have been able to perfect my English whilst travelling within Europe, to North and South America, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Today I can incorporate the professional and cultural experiences on top of my language skills in our own business.
Maike: I started my career studying abroad in countries like Brazil, Egypt and Ireland and gained several business degrees. My first job in the corporate world was as a Pricing Manager. With different projects when I was partly managing them, I gained good project management skills. I did a lot of international project roll outs – developing and performing training for sales groups all around the world. Knowledge of five languages and a deep experience of different cultures gave me the credibility to help our customers on an international scale.
What were the main challenges you faced early on your entrepreneurial journey? And do you still encounter them to this day?
Maike: Finding a USP and building up a personal and a Company brand was definitely a challenge. You have to define what you do differently and what impact you can make to your surroundings. Interestingly enough we had no trouble finding our company name MaL!sh which is a combination of the first letters of our names and also an Arabic saying which translates into our company slogan: “Learn from the past. Live now. Form the future”.
Lilli: At the beginning the hardest challenge was to set up the business while still working full time. All our free time after work – often until midnight, weekends and holidays – were used to build our Company. There are so many things you have to do simultaneously that one of the hardest lessons was to accept that not everything can be done perfectly. It’s sometimes better to go out there with 80% than striving for 100% which you never achieve and which ends up as a justification for not doing things. You would not believe how many people gave us their opinion without being asked. They criticised our company name, our focus and our aim to connect women around the globe. We had to learn to understand the difference between honest and false feedback. And even today this is a continuous process.
If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, other than not agreeing to this interview, what would you do differently? And what advice would you have given to yourself if you could only relay one piece of advice to your former self?
Maike: Well, we would not have to go back far in time as we remember quite well how we started. We were lucky in the sense that we did not shy away from getting help, visiting networking events, hiring Coaches, asking for tips from people who have already done it and above all investing our money and time. We often went with our gut feeling and saw it as an investment which will pay off rather than as a cost.
Lilli: So, in actual fact we would not do many things differently. We strongly believe that a useful advice is definitely to just start. Most of the people just talk and not act. As soon as you decide to take action and take responsibility for your life, things start rolling. And by the way, being featured in the NY Elite magazine would always be among the thing we would always agree on doing ☺
Do you think that ‘entrepreneurialism’ is something that is in your blood? Or is it something that can be learned?
Lilli: Well for us it is definitely both. Maike’s ancestors were entrepreneurs and her whole family runs a small business. I noticed my qualities of leading people, and running my own Company, when I was a Customer Service team leader. I think that if you are motivated, convinced about yourself, your talents your strengths and you do not shy away from risk, then founding a business is something that comes quite naturally. And of course to have a great business idea helps.
Maike: In Germany the traditional way still prevails. You start out as employee. If you have a good business idea you then become an entrepreneur and that’s the only possible direction. Just like one of our mottos which says “change is the only constant” we think that you can be both at the same time, or have phases of being employed and then self-employed and most importantly that one is not better than the other. We love our Company and being independent – but we are definitely always open for whatever life has in store for us.
What is the one accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Both: The one thing that we are most proud of when we set up our Company is that we have found a business model that reflects our expertise, strengths, values and that we can help our customers to be successful and efficient.
How do you see the role of women in business and as speakers on the big stage now and in the future?
Maike: This why we think it is important for women to go on stage and get their story out there. We need to overcome that little devil inside our head that tells us we have nothing relevant to say. Women need to believe in their strengths and we need to cheer for each other. In a strong community where you know that you have a reliable crowd behind you, you can rise even higher.
Lilli: It has been proven by several studies that females are great or even better leaders. We should go there and use our voice and chances which are there for all of us if we want to achieve our targets. Women like Barbara Marx Hubbard, Ona Brown, Mirela Sula and Sheryl Sandberg are impressive role models and we can learn a lot from these incredible women.
Q.What is your dream or ultimate goal, either private or professional?
Maike: My dream is to be able to have the freedom and choice to do what I want and go to places where I want to be. I want to see the world and help to make it an even greater place for the coming generations.
Lilli: The freedom to have the choices and opportunities to do what I want and to travel the world is also a big goal of mine. On the professional side I want to be on the advisory board of a publicly listed company by the age of 42.
Any other future plans?
Maike: We are currently working on different projects and partnerships on an international scale.
Lilli: With our company MaL!sh we want to expand into more countries. Also, a few media projects are in the making, and with this we will be able to reach a world-wide audience, which is pretty exciting. Our message of learning from the past, live now and form your future will have an incredible platform. All the details about our progress can be followed on our home page www.malish.global