Most parents likely wish for their kids to have a great future and do even better in life than they did themselves. They want them to get an education and a good job. Very few parents would probably support their kids in becoming self-employed.
My parents are no different. Even though my family has a long history of being self-employed, my parents always told my brother and I that we had to do well at school to get a good education and have a bright future. They didn’t push us hard, but they kindly reminded us of what was important in life.
For me, from the age of 6, the most important thing in my life was handball. I was lucky enough to possess a certain talent and made it on to the best youth teams. My parents were always supportive as long as I somehow managed to get acceptable grades at school.
When I was 14, my brother came back from a trip to Australia. He told me about Lasergame and his idea to develop and produce Lasergame equipment. When you’re 14 years old and your brother asks you to produce weapons, you don’t say no! ☺
The biggest challenge for a 14-year-old is that the decision is not yours alone. Your parents still have a say in the matter.
My parents are pretty realistic, practical people. They simply asked me if I was willing to give up handball. If I was prepared for failure. If there was any chance that I would earn money from tomorrow.
Obviously, they knew the answer before they asked the questions. They didn’t say as much, but they knew that they weren’t about to let me go into weapon production with my brother!
One thing you learn when you grow up in a family where everyone you know is self-employed is that you should never take no for an answer.
What I did was live my life as before. Every morning I woke up and went to my morning training. After training, I went to school and after school, I went to afternoon training. At the weekend, I travelled a lot due to handball.
How would I go about working on my brother’s idea without letting my parents in on it? To make matters worse, I had zero work experience. My solution was to find myself a job, but where could I get a job that would help me in my quest to become self-employed? The person who could help me was my brother.
At this point, I should tell you that my brother and I are very different. He’s a born leader, a guy who thinks things through before he does anything. He was always good with numbers and always had money. I, on the other hand, was born to sell. When I was little, my favourite toy was my toyshop.
My brother knew where my strengths lay, and the first thing he got me to do was to sell mobile phones on the street. The funny thing was that people wondered who I was working for because my brother was nowhere to be seen. All they saw was a 15-year-old running around the city of Leipzig selling phones.
The knowledge and experience I gained during that time is something I still draw on to this day.
Over the next few months and years, we made good money from me selling phones. It goes without saying that we spent the money we earned on Lasergame. After just two years, we had nearly enough money to open our first arena.
At the time, I could no longer hide the fact that I was working on Lasergame from my parents.
I had to be straight with them. As it turned out, their reaction was not what I was expecting at all.
My mum and dad told me that they still felt I should concentrate on my education and handball – that there was no future in Lasergame.
What surprised me the most, however, was that my dad actually helped get us a loan.
On the one hand our parents would rather see me in school and my brother at university, but on the other, they could see that we had already accomplished something, and they were proud.
In the end, my father let us work for two years to find out if we were willing to do what had to be done to achieve success.
I’m still grateful for that lesson.
You have to earn the respect and support of others by setting an example.