Martin Grellner is the founder of djoon, a startup for date chocolates. Together with his wife Carolin and two co-founders, he produces the sustainable chocolates in a factory in the Munich area. The result not only tastes good to him, but also to his two children and hopefully soon to be offspring number 3. In this interview, Martin shares with us the learnings of his startup journey so far, which is really picking up speed right now.
Hi Martin, what do you do and what drives you?
Together with my wife Carolin and two other co-founders, I founded djoon. Our mission is to offer a better alternative to conventional sweets. That’s why we developed date chocolates, which we make by hand from vegan organic ingredients. In doing so, we completely eliminate the addition of sugar or flavorings. My personal drive is to build a sustainable business according to my own ideas and values.
What are your top 5 learnings when you look back on the past year?
- Networking is King – especially when starting your business on your own, it is extremely important to invest a lot of time in building good contacts.
- There is an incredible willingness from many people to support you in your startup. You just have to not be too shy and simply ask for help and exchange.
- Online networking can work, but nothing replaces real face-to-face contact.
- Permanent home office also has its good sides (less time in traffic jams, more time with your partner), but balance is also important.
- Nobody is a better ambassador for your idea than yourself! If you are passionate about your idea/product, you can convince others of it.
What cost you a lot of energy (maybe more than expected) and how do you deal with this experience?
In the beginning, I worked alone on my business idea. After a short time, I missed the exchange with other team members and the sense of community. That’s why I started looking for co-founders. That took a lot of time and energy, but in the end it was absolutely worth it. We’re now a team of 4 at djoon, so we’re making much faster progress and at the same time it’s just a lot more fun!
And who or what inspired you the most?
Two things immediately come to mind: First, the exchange with a lot of interesting people and all the support I received, including through the ParentPreneurs network. And the launch of our crowdfunding campaign. After the many months of preparation and numerous short nights, it was an insanely great feeling to see how well our djoon chocolates were received.
What family model do you live with your family?
We both work full time at our jobs. That’s why we have to coordinate very well so that we get enough time with our children and at the same time keep up with our tasks. That is often exhausting and everyone has to put back. But so far we have always found a good balance for all family members.
How do you organize yourselves as founding parents?
Since both Carolin and I are involved in djoon, this topic currently occupies a very large place in our private lives. Our two daughters are also big fans of our chocolates. Nevertheless, as a family we try to spend as much time as possible doing other activities together. For example, we are all big cross-country skiing fans and in winter you can find us together in the snow every weekend.
What support would you not want to miss right now?
The most important thing for us is clearly good childcare. For us, it’s a combination of kindergarten, a babysitter, and family support. We are so lucky to have a great babysitter, because our kids love her and she gives us time together as a couple. And even if it’s only one evening a week, we really enjoy this time out from everyday life together.
What 5 tips would you like to share with other ParentPreneurs?
- Just do it! Far too often we let fears, convenience or other constraints hold us back.
- Find a project/business that you are really passionate about.
- Network, network, network: Use every opportunity to expand your network.
- Get help and advice where needed, but in the end you have to be happy with your decisions yourself.
- There are many funding opportunities and startup programs. Take advantage of it, it helps a lot (not only financially).
Do you have a role model or guiding principle?
If the corporate world is a highway, then a startup is the trail in the mountains: You don’t get there as fast and it’s much more strenuous, but at the same time much more beautiful, fulfilling and you meet the most interesting fellow hikers along the way.
What question do you have for the next interviewee?
What is the funniest story from your entrepreneurial journey?
Thank you, dear Martin!