WHU student Amos Hornstein talks about his start-up KHAMAMA
Inspired by British Victorian jewelers who for the first time incorporated real butterfly wings into jewelry, Amos Hornstein, a student at WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management, together with his brothers Nathan and Simon (both WHU alumni), founded the start-up KHAMAMA in 2016. As part of their company, they manufacture luxury products such as watches, custom-made jewelry boxes, and cigar humidors. They decorate them with real butterfly wings using a procedure developed by the brothers themselves.
What do you have to look out for when starting a business and what was the biggest challenge for you?
In the beginning, it is very important to be careful not to spend too much time on organizational matters. In the UK, for example, you can set up a legal form of enterprise, a Limited, online within 15 minutes. That is very pleasant. You should also familiarize yourself with the market for the product and with the industry in which it will be set up.
Especially in the luxury world, it is important to establish personal contacts. The merger with experts is essential to get the right knowledge. At the same time, every opportunity should be seized to build relationships with potential business partners, even if this involves costs and time.
Our biggest hurdle in setting up KHAMAMA was the production of a product that fits the market perfectly and that meets the highest demands of luxury customers, for instance, the realization of the so-called product-market-match. To achieve this, it was crucial to know the customers and their needs.
How can you combine the master's program at WHU with your start-up?
Since I founded KHAMAMA with my older brother in 2016 and worked full-time for the company from 2016 to 2018, I was able to focus entirely on my company at the beginning of the founding phase.
In general, I have a lot of fun getting involved in the German start-up scene. My Master in Entrepreneurship (MiE), which I started in autumn 2018, and above all the courses I took with Professor Dr. Hienerth and Professor Dr. Brettel in Berlin, have given me many more insights into the start-up landscape in Germany. When I am at WHU, it also brings me to speed, because everyone here works very quickly and a lot. And because my middle brother stayed in England and continues to work there full-time, I fly to Manchester once or twice a month, where our company is. That is exhausting, and so I am glad that I can write my master's thesis in England now.
In your opinion, how important are ethical standards and the definition of further corporate values for the success of a company?
Especially in the luxury market, perfection, authenticity, and ethics are the most important aspects. With our boxes in the four- to five-digit price range, every little detail must be 100 percent perfect. However, we attach just as much importance to sustainability and species-appropriate keeping of butterflies. We only get the butterflies from the butterfly farms when they have died naturally. Although most luxury customers appreciate the exoticism and exclusivity of our products the most, the aspect of sustainability will become more and more important for this target group, especially in the future.
What are your strategies for financing your start-up?
At first, we wanted to look for investors. However, none of the investors could imagine the colors of the wings on the products and how dazzling these colors could be. We also launched a crowdfunding campaign for our watches in 2017, but this type of financing proved unsuitable for a luxury product.
But since we were so convinced of our idea of making products with butterfly wings and of the fact that this idea could also be implemented in a very beautiful way, we drew up a plan to finance ourselves and started very small. With self-financing, we fund ourselves to this day, which is why we are probably much more aware of our budget than other entrepreneurs are.
You founded KHAMAMA 2015 together with your brothers. What do you think is essential if you want to start with friends or even siblings?
At the moment my middle brother and I work in the company, and my oldest brother is our investor. The big advantage is that you can trust each other 100 percent, that you know the co-founders as siblings absolutely and that you can be sure that you will get back together after every disagreement.
The challenge is to remain a private person. I live and work together with my brother. We see us every day at work and on holidays. It is difficult not to mention the topic of work on a day off. On the other hand, it also has advantages: I like to spend time with my brothers and love to advance our company - it often does not feel like "work" because it is so much fun!