Why Berlin? Interview with Emily Casey, Femna

Berlin has been having a moment in recent years. Said to be the fastest-growing startup ecosystem in the world that receives the most venture capital investment of any city in Europe, it’s become a popular hub of creativity – stemming from its fascinating past, its music roots, and its affordable lifestyle. Throw Brexit into the mix and Berlin doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon, as a great city to start a business in.

We recently had the chance to talk to an Aussie who made the move to Berlin, Emily Casey of Femna, on taking the leap from Melbourne to Berlin two years ago.

Emily is the co-founder of Femna, a Berlin-based start up that creates natural products for women to help them through each stage of their hormonal life – PMS, menstruation, fertility, pregnancy and menopause. She’s also a qualified yoga teacher and combined her love for
beer and yoga to start BierYoga in 2015, leads the team
of TEDxKreuzberg, and founded The Lonely CEO Club – a dinner club for CEOs and founders.

Here’s what she had to say:

What made you decide to move your business to Berlin? 

I was already based in Berlin when I founded Femna, just over 12 months ago. I met my business partner Maxie here in Berlin at Impact Hub. It’s difficult for me to judge what Europe can offer that Australia can’t to be honest – I’ve never started a business in Australia 🙂 But judging from the market stats for our business – Europe is definitely a bigger market for natural health, and there’s an association with “Made in Germany” that gives us a kind of stamp of quality that consumers appreciate.

How important has your Australian network been to get started over here?

Well, when I arrived in Berlin I knew no one – the only person I knew here was my Berliner friend Julia. It’s only really been through the Aussie.EU network that I recently got to know any Australians in Berlin!

Have you raised money in Europe and how did you find it compared to Australia? 

Yes, we raised a small pre-seed round for Femna in June this year and we’re currently raising a round of funding now. I’ve never tried to raise money anywhere else, so I can’t compare!

I’ve found that the Berlin startup community is very supportive, everyone seems to always be open to sharing contacts and making introductions. I think we did quite well, compared to some stories I’ve heard from other businesses. Of course we spent a lot of time getting our business plan and pitch ready, and took many meetings with investors, but it didn’t take long to find the right investors for us. Let’s see how we go with this next round!

What is it like to do business in Berlin?

I think there’s two sides to doing business in Berlin – there’s the day-to- day interactions with our customers, community, suppliers and partners, and then there’s the bureaucratic ‘back end’ stuff which is extremely time and paper intensive. The red tape is long and confusing, even for Germans, so I’m very lucky my business partner is German and she takes the lead on handling that stuff.

In general, Berliners are very open and a little crazy which is great for us – we can try new things any time and there will always be people around to support us, give us feedback, tell us how to improve. We have a very incredible community of people around us, including all our suppliers and retail partners. Sometimes, particularly in more conservative cities, Germans can be more reserved and formal, which is also fine – they are very organised and precise which is great!

Do you, or have you, hired local talent? 

We are all based here in Berlin – we don’t want to have any team working remotely for now, while we’re still in the early stages of really building our base and core business.

What do you love about living in Berlin? 

I really love the sense of freedom I feel there is in Berlin – you can be and do whatever you want, and no one will judge you or tell you to be something else. People will celebrate your successes with you, and be there for you in your ‘failures’ or down times.

Top 3 tips:

  1. Don’t make too many hard and fast plans – go with the flow, things will change quicker than you expect, embrace it
  2. Join a co-working space- I joined Impact Hub as a volunteer when I couldn’t afford a membership so even if you don’t have money, do whatever you can to get involved with local spaces and communities
  3. Be yourself – Australians have a very positive reputation in Europe, for being easy going, friendly, fun but also good workers!

Thank you to Emily Casey for this interview. You can contact her at Femna.

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