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Interview with Heike Haas - founder of @waschatelier

· Illustration,Communication design,Education

Sometimes your desire for change and passion are so big, that universe starts working by your side, all things suddenly fall into place, and you find yourself sailing at full speed towards your dream.

Our today’s #heroine_of_the_week Heike from @waschatelier was previously a start-up coach helping others to develop their business ideas, and soon enough she started her own business in the field of her two passions - painting & illustration and communication design.

Now she gives painting workshops to the arts enthusiasts and consults big companies on improvement of their internal processes with the means of project visualisation. Moreover Heike is a book’s author, a docent in VHS, a speaker at various events, and a happy wife.

How does she manage to combine all these facets in her life? Read about Heike’s exciting journey in an interview below!

@ichselbstaendig: Heike, your entrepreneurial journey is truly exciting: before you took the steps towards own start-up you actually worked as a start-up coach at the Entrepreneurship Center of the University of the Bundeswehr Munich. How did it feel to see people you've helped to start following their passion and daring a new venture?

Heike: It was an exciting time, when I watched the ideas of my students grow and bear fruits. I was quickly infected with excitement to develop my own idea. When you dive into the start-up scene, sooner or later you will also come up with your own project :)

@ichselbstaendig: In 2014 you finally have combined your two passions into an inspiring project waschatelier. Can you tell us how long did it take from an initial idea to the actual implementation?

Heike: To be honest, there was not much time at all between those two events. It was during the last minutes of my coaching hour with my career advisor, when I blurted out: “Maybe I will also start my own painting school”.
I have never thought about founding a painting school before, but as soon as I spoke it out, everything fell into place. I found a studio that was affordable and easy to reach, I started a blog to let others know about my project and advertise my workshops. And soon I had students sign up for my first painting course, who actually wanted to learn something from me.
I cannot even describe the happiness I felt, when first sign-ups came through the online form.

@ichselbstaendig: One of your first steps prior to waschatelier birth was working with a career coach. Now, why was it important for you to get feedback from a professional coach and whom would you advise to try it too?

Heike: I think my coach has helped me first of all to find out what I really want. The second step is no less hard, as I needed to actually speak it out. In the beginning we all have inhibitions, when it comes to expressing our big dreams. I would advise everyone to book a coach in order to find out what you really want. Viola Kraus from talent EQ has helped me immensely.

@ichselbstaendig:  What was your main motivation in becoming an entrepreneur?

Heike: I wanted to make all decisions myself, to be able to live in my own pace, to have a healthy work-life balance, and of course to finally follow my passion. And it is not at all easy, when you are interested in illustration and painting, but don’t have an academic degree in the subject. Therefor I also added communication design in the form of Graphic Recordings to my portfolio. A very good plan, as it soon turned out.
@ichselbstaendig: Do you feel more happy & fulfilled after you dared to pursue your true passion?
Yes and yes and yes!
@ichselbstaendig: Can you tell us a bit more about project visualisation that you offer as a graphic recorder? 

Heike: The project visualisation is my passion in the visualisation field. I visit companies and draw a picture of a certain project. I ask the project manager questions to be sure, that I understood everything. When my sketch is ready, the project manager and other colleagues gather around and discuss it. It soon becomes clear, where between the departments or within the project there are communication problems. After this discussion I draw a new picture. Through this practice the company can improve the communication of its internal processes.

@ichselbstaendig: Lots of your customers are renowned companies, how do your corporate clients find you? Is it social media, professional networks (e.g. LinkedIn) or rather by word of mouth?

Heike: It is a mixture. Some clients find me due to the word-of-mouth, some find me through Google search. But there are also clients, who I have acquired for myself due to the proactive actions. Although I don’t really enjoy cold-calling.

@ichselbstaendig: Many women believe they are not special enough or think they do not have enough knowledge or experience to dare a leap of an entrepreneurial journey. What would you advice to a woman, who wants to start her own business project but is hesitating to start?

Heike: First of all I would ask, why are you hesitating? Is it because of financial reasons? This is understandable. It’s hard to dare yourself to leave a well-paid job to start your own business. But to spend your life stuck in a wrong job can be fatal. My tip: start small and see how it goes. Be flexible and don’t give up. If you really want something, you will be good at it and therefore it will work out. You can find more tips on the blog of “Deutscher Gründerverband”, there is an article about me and how it all began „Ich häng alles an den Nagel“.

@ichselbstaendig: Heike, we think it is very fascinating how many different projects you have running at the same time: e.g. you also are an author of children's books, teach at VHS, have workshops. How do you manage to not get lost juggling so many things at the same time?
Heike: First of all, my books that were published by Bosco publishing house are puzzle books, not really children books. I am very proud of my work as an author, as it is also a dream come true. Writing a children's book would be of course a high point.

My wide portfolio was part of my starting phase. I wanted to see what works good. The VHS-courses don’t bring much money, but one can earn 2000€ per year tax free as a docent and one can learn immensely about oneself and one’s didactics.
Moreover I had so much motivation and have learned so much during everything that I tried out. My motto was: First say yes and try.
In the beginning one has to do a lot of mini-jobs in order to earn money as the regular earnings are not there yet. It is not easy, but in the long-run it will expand my portfolio and sharpen my business profile.
Lastly, as a creative freelance artist I have just too many ideas that I have to give life to. Sometimes I feel myself as a steam boiler under pressure, that only unloaded in the form of new pictures or concepts.

@ichselbstaendig: In one of your interviews you mentioned the importance of networking. Why do you think it is crucial to network being an entrepreneur?

Heike: If I learned anything during my time as a start-up consultant, is that one has to talk about one’s business idea. It doesn’t help if you draw beautiful pictures or offer courses, but nobody knows about it.
The best example: On one nice summer day I mentioned to my friend that I will be offering flipchart-trainings. A ¾ year later - it was a day before my first exhibition and I was up to my neck in work - a company of my friend called (it was a large renowned company) and asked whether I can draw a couple of posters for them. Since then they’ve been hiring me every year.
Networking is important. Show yourself, talk about your business, forge alliances and support each other.

@ichselbstaendig: Heike, is there somebody you would like to thank for accompanying you on your entrepreneurial journey?

Heike: There are so many people whom I have to thank and I have done it already so often. Thus, at this point I’d like to thank my husband, who always said in hard times: "Go on, I believe in you!" This support and this faith in me have helped me immensely. Thank you!

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