Dear Alexander Djordjevic, you studied Media Management at HSBA and then founded Foodist. How did that come about?
When I met my fellow student and co-founder Ole Schaumberg it all got started. The two of us realised that we shared a fascination for entrepreneurship and subsequently founded the HSBA "Entrepreneurs Club" as a student initiative. In the Entrepreneurs Club, we essentially interviewed successful founders and investors about their personal, entrepreneurial journey - in retrospect, it really was a great privilege to have been able to get close to such successful personalities through the "HSBA" brand. The stories inspired us to embark on our own entrepreneurial journey right after graduation.
Food is the great passion of Ole and me. "Foodist" is defined as "person who is really interested in food." Eight years ago, there were no online stores in Germany that conveyed the emotions and stories we associate with food. Pioneers like "MyMuesli" or "HelloFresh" were also still in their early stages. We thought the shopping experience and the existing assortments were boring and asked ourselves how we could offer a platform to manufacturers of product innovations (manufactures, startups, corporates with product innovations, etc.) and give Foodist customers a unique shopping experience online.
Most people are familiar with Foodist, but can you briefly describe again what exactly you do and how you managed to become so successful?
Foodist is Europe's leading online shopping platform for food trends in Europe. With us, Foodist customers can find over 2,000 different foods and beverages that are not available at the supermarket around the corner. It is also possible to order a Foodbox subscription and be surprised by our product selection of new brands every month. Our slogan is therefore "foodist - extend your taste".
In the past fiscal year, we shipped around 500,000 parcels - and we are profitable. B2B business is an important driver of profitability. The feedback and purchasing behavior of the Foodist community enables us to make statements about the success potential of new food products. Why is that so valuable? Consumers' expectations of food are changing dramatically. New attributes such as organic, vegan, sugar-free, high protein, etc. are becoming the standard. Large food companies are losing credibility and trust among young consumers. At our core, we are food experts who understand the changes in the food market thanks to our direct access to customers and our data expertise. In the meantime, we are acting as a smart friend alongside the largest food companies.
Did your studies help you with this? And if so, how?
The HSBA environment has contributed significantly to our success with determined fellow students who feel called to help shape society and motivated lecturers who come from the practice - the content of a business degree in hindsight rather less.
How can one imagine the courses at the university? What is the learning atmosphere like? Is there personal contact with the professors and how is the exchange with fellow students?
At HSBA, I not only found my co-founder Ole, but also friends for life. It may sound cheesy, but that's how it is and I'm very grateful for that. Foodist is actually the destination of study trips every semester and I get to share my experiences at various events. We must have hired around 20-30 graduates at Foodist. In addition, I really appreciate the two-way contact with my former Professor Dr. Gregor Hopf or even Dr. Uve Samuels, long-time managing director of HSBA, with whom I meet for a coffee or beer at long but regular intervals.
The learning atmosphere is rather "school-like", i.e., predefined timetables, printed scripts and small teaching groups, in which there is a chance to participate intensively. In addition, the student support provided by the service office is excellent. Sorry, it sounds a bit promotional, but for me as a rather unstructured person, the reliability of the service office was as good as gold and there was a lot of laughter, even on a Monday morning.
All in all - What would you say are the most important overarching skills you were taught during your studies that you can still apply now?
The compressed structure of the HSBA program itself has contributed to increasing my resilience. I can still remember exam phases in which we wrote up to six exams in one week. The feeling of having been in math in the last attempt remains unforgotten. The pressure of losing the contract for my dual study place with the cooperating company and being blocked for business studies as a subject in Germany and being out of the "HSBA clique" was honestly enormous. Thanks to structured preparation including tutoring on weekends and sports, I was able to increase my ability to cope with stress and passed the exam very well. Some of the routines I learned there regarding nutrition, sports, coaching, etc. I still keep after almost ten years.
All in all, I have personally learned at HSBA not to acknowledge "normalcy" and internalized that personal growth takes place outside of one's comfort zone. With a GPA of 2.9, I was one of the worst freshmen academically and would still claim to have met the requirements. As a college graduate with no work experience or capital, nothing actually qualified us to start an e-commerce business in our mid-twenties either. But we never thought that rationally.
What advice would you give to students starting a dual study program in media management?
First of all, there are unfortunately no equal educational opportunities in Germany, in my opinion. Students who are allowed to study at HSBA enjoy a privilege or have very good conditions for their career and an inspiring environment. Get the maximum out of it! Be pushy in lectures and ask the lecturers questions. Get involved in student initiatives and party with your fellow students. Go your own way! Choose courses and theses according to your interests and not according to the chances of getting the best grades, and most importantly: stay humble and think big! The (media) world is changing and the economy is desperately looking for young people who want to help shape this change.