An entrepreneur from a young age, WHU graduate Felix Harms found that the traditional school system did not capture his imagination or interest him in the way that learning hands-on could. His active and opportunistic mindset led to the launch of his business segelbekleidung-mieten.de, an online rental service offering an accessible alternative to costly sailing clothing and safety gear. We caught up with Felix who graduated this year, to discover how the program assisted his current business and benefited future ventures.
“I set up my very first business when I was around 16 years old selling sailing gear, as I was a sailor myself and had some connections to the industry. It was a classic e-commerce shop and built on a shoestring, as I had no money to put into it. I personally contacted university sailing teams or people I knew who sailed in the regatta teams who I could sell to and that was my first step into that entrepreneurial world.”
As a young student, I did not like the school system so I did everything I could do to teach myself skills outside of the classroom.
“In 2015, my sailing friend Thomas and I joined forces to start my current company segelbekleidung-mieten.de. I have the connections and experience with the sailing industry, and he has a technical background and can program a website. So we decided to rent sailing gear – equipment is so expensive, usually with the cheapest item at €500 if you buy it in a store. As so many people try sailing casually or perhaps do not want to invest in the gear, it was a viable idea and so the website was born.”
I don’t think there are any other business schools where you can get the tools or capabilities you need while meeting real-life founders.
“I always had WHU in mind as I had many friends from the school and attended larger events such as IdeaLab! and Euromasters. I was aware of the positive reputation of the school and the strength of the WHU network, which would be one of the biggest benefits of studying at WHU for me.
At the time, I was hoping to learn more about what could be relevant for my business, but I was not initially aware of the Master in Entrepreneurship Program as it was very new. When I discovered that I could combine my entrepreneurial interests with a comprehensive management education, I knew that it was the right program for me.”
As an entrepreneur, you learn a lot by trying and failing – or hopefully, succeeding.
"A big part of being a good entrepreneur is taking calculated risks, but I was keen to learn and improve. I thought that a program defined for entrepreneurs and innovative thinkers based at an entrepreneurial school, would provide me with expert knowledge and help me with future endeavors. I was looking for insights into situations I had not encountered yet that could help me avoid failure – especially where money and time are at stake.
Some of my favorite moments from the program were during the modules in Berlin, such as Sprint2Berlin (a practical course emulating the Google-Sprint format), and Advanced Entrepreneurial Marketing and Finance with Professor Dr. Malte Brettel. This focused around a VC investment case, using the same data the VC had access to when making the investment decision. We then had to pitch our final verdict to the VC. I really don’t think you can do anything much more hands-on than that. I love this form of teaching – I want to try things for myself, not learn from a presentation.
Every day at Campus Vallendar can be inspirational though. If you have a business idea, it is so easy to go to your fellow students and talk to them about it. They will go the extra mile to help you, whether it is offering a connection they have or alternative ideas – no one will judge you or say it is a stupid idea.”
The mindset you develop and what you learn about yourself throughout the program is incredibly valuable, whether you are an entrepreneur or not.
This year, Felix and his co-founder decided to take the next step in their venture, expanding to segelbekleidung-reinigen.de. This additional website offers a cleaning service for sailing gear to ensure the longevity of such equipment, which contains sensitive membrane material. When clogged with saltwater and sweat, the equipment fails to function at its best and requires professional attention.
“It was a natural next step for us: if you are an entrepreneur, the list of ideas you have is endless. Following the Master in Entrepreneurship, some of my fellow students founded their own companies, some went into consulting, and some joined existing start-ups. I really believe that the program provides great opportunities for any industry and enables you to move in any direction – it comes down to what you make of it. If you are open to the change that WHU offers you, it’s thrilling to see how far you can push yourself.”