Capital magazine ranked Prof. Dr. Heike Marita Hölzner as one of the “Young Elite – Top 40 under 40” who shaped research and society in 2019. As a professor specialising in entrepreneurship and SME management, she has been teaching in Faculty 3 – HTW Berlin Business School since 2017.
How does it feel to be considered one of "Germany’s Young Elite"?
Of course, it’s fantastic to receive recognition for your work. I was really delighted about the award and the many messages of congratulations I received. But I’d say that the best part is actually what’s happening now, after the media event. I’ve met so many inspiring people among my fellow award winners and alumni. I’ve also expanded my network. I’m looking forward to seeing what all this will bring in the future.
How would you explain the field of "entrepreneurship" in simple terms?
The term "entrepreneurship" can be traced back to the French word "entreprendre", which means "to do something". More precisely, entrepreneurship is defined as the process of discovering, assessing and leveraging business opportunities. It therefore involves identifying opportunities arising from new technologies or changing consumer wishes and then actively developing and establishing new products, services or a new business model.
Can you learn "entrepreneurship" or is it more a matter of personality?
This is a question that has been explored by this field of research since its inception. A basic knowledge of business administration is certainly an advantage for company founders, and that’s something which can be learned. But there’s much more to it than that. Successful entrepreneurs have the ability to put themselves in the shoes of their customers and their employees. They are good at assessing risks, are able to cope with uncertainty and can survive challenging life situations unscathed.
The goal of entrepreneurship training is not only to provide methodological knowledge but also to foster the development of an "Entrepreneurial Mindset". Concepts such as resilience and mindfulness are just as important as methods for business model development. Whenever possible, I give the students the chance to gain practical experience, as the bottom line of entrepreneurship is basically: Just do it!
You also research digital transformation, especially in small and medium-sized enterprises. Are SMEs well positioned here?
In the past, innovation and responsibility in owner-managed small and medium-sized enterprises were the recipe for success for our economy and society. As the financial mathematician and epistemologist Nassim Nicholas Taleb would say, those who have "skin in the game", and thus something to lose, make better decisions that are more sustainable. It’s true that SMEs in Germany need to become even better at adapting to changing working environments and market dynamics. This can and should be supported by politics and applied science. But I firmly believe that we will succeed because we are talking about entrepreneurs here.
Where on campus do you get your best ideas?
It’s not so much a question of where, it’s more about with whom. The best ideas are created in teams through processes of exchange and changes in perspective. This sometimes takes place in the office my esteemed colleague Julia, other times it might be in the seminar room together with my students.
Who would you like to have coffee or tea with?
Coffee, definitely. And I'd like to drink it with Sara Blakely, the founder of the brand "Spanx”. Blakely founded the company with almost no seed capital and was rejected multiple times by potential investors. Most male VCs couldn’t visualise the market and laughed at the idea. Only Warren Buffett recognised the potential. Today, Spanx is valued at more than 1 billion US dollars. I would like to talk to her about the rocky path to setting up the company and what she learned from it personally and professionally.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome at HTW Berlin?
Before I came to HTW Berlin, I worked for start-ups and also with them. My working day was always very full on and largely involved teamwork. As a professor, you’re often on your own. This was a big challenge for me to begin with, but now I have many great projects that I work on together with colleagues.
Photos: Alexander Rentsch
© HTW Berlin, Transfer- und Projektkommunikation
14 January 2020