Developing an idea into real startup? The entrepreneurial journey from corporate employment to independence

by Mischa Feig and Lisa Raschke

Becoming an entrepreneur can be both - adventurous and challenging. But when you go through ups and downs with the right team, you get the chance to make incredibly valuable experiences. Mischa and Lisa established BOXLAB Services as independent GmbH starting with merely an idea. Read about their journey and learnings along the way.

Cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset in a corporate environment

Mischa: During my time as a process manager in the Agricultural division of BASF SE, I observed processes that needed to be improved. After working 17 years for BASF in different positions and divisions, I wanted to develop a really sustainable solution, scale it and deploy it across Europe with my own team. My former teammate and I were looking for an environment that offered us ideal conditions. At that time, the Chemovator was just being set up and we were happy to be able to start as a venture team within the new incubator of BASF. This was not only the ideal space to try out and develop the idea, but it is also where I met Lisa.

Lisa: I originally came to Chemovator as the responsible person for human resources and looked after BOXLAB for a long time. When Mischa and the BOXLAB team were looking for reinforcements for the team at some point, I was given the opportunity to be part of this successful team with a great vision. The position of co-founder is a personal challenge for me and allows me to grow enormously.

How the idea turned into a successful new business

At BOXLAB we have developed clever solutions for label and packaging processes in highly regulated industries such as the chemical sector. Our app-based service allows to replace damaged packaging and corresponding labels within 24 hours – a process which previously took 4 weeks. Thus, we have been able to replace already more than 50,000 liters of end product in a timely manner, that helps our customers within BASF achieve significant cost savings in a sustainable way. In order to create a comprehensive service, we offer complete system solutions as well as individual consulting for all matters concerning labeled packaging, labels and packaging materials. With BASF as a strong customer and more than 70 warehouses, we have built a sophisticated foundation to our establishment as independent GmbH.

3 key learnings along the way

There is so much that can be achieved when you keep your eyes open and be ready to break new ground. Within just 1.5 years after our first pitch at the Chemovator, we not only managed to provide the service we envisioned but we even have become an important supplier of labels for the BASF site in Ludwigshafen.

Along the way, we learned that the form of appreciation for one´s own work changes abruptly. In contrast to our previous time as employees, we started measuring ourselves as founders, by our own requirements but also on direct feedback from our customers.

We also learned that, despite the efforts of many colleagues and ourselves, a spin-off from a company as large as BASF requires an enormous amount of perseverance to ultimately get the best out of everyone involved.

Bumpy roads? Challenges around finding a cultural balance and forming the right team

Perseverance was demanded, too, in the balancing act between our own venture with a startup mentality on the one hand and BASF as a large corporation on the other. To solve this major challenge, we had to adapt well and be able to move in both worlds. Alongside all of our efforts, we have strong supporters and partners within BASF and we are tremendously thankful for this key success factor.

Along with this came the challenge of building the right team for BOXLAB. We had to deal with major changes but learned that personality and best cooperation are more important to us than a perfect skill fit. This knowledge now allows us to make appropriate personnel decisions.

The value of people we have on board is priceless – even former team members, who left BOXLAB along the way for personal reasons stay in touch and we can reach out to them as sparring partners, experts or friends.

Independent entrepreneurs! Thoughts and feelings?

Sure, it is a big step for us to leave the employment relationship and take responsibility for our own company and our employees in the future. We are proud of what we have already achieved, and we would like to take this momentum with us to lead BOXLAB together with the entire team to become the leading service provider for individual process optimization of label and packaging processes. Our clear focus on sustainability particularly spurs this ambition.

Leaving the corporate context and continuing the journey in new terrain

We want to continue with what is already going very well: We want to take care of our customers individually and offer them fast, sustainable and easy solutions and products.

Thanks to our independence, we now have better conditions to convince more external customers of our services. We are sure that we can use this opportunity for the growth of BOXLAB.

A take-home message for (aspiring) entrepreneurs and like-minded people

There will always be stumbling blocks on the journey to founding your own company – these may be external like formal structures and dependence or internal like team constellation. Don´t let them scare you. See them as an opportunity to grow personally and as a (venture) team. Find the right environment to try out your idea, develop it further and turn it into something special.

Never lose sight of your personal and (team) goals and let experienced people help you. In the Chemovator for example, there are the Entrepreneurs in Residence or the members of the Chemovator Core Team who can provide some experiences or opinions - seize these opportunities and never stop learning.

Do you want to find out more about BOXLAB Services? Check out their website and this press release for more details.

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Mischa's and Lisa's Background

After working as a process manager in the Agricultural division of BASF SE, Mischa wanted to develop a really sustainable solution, scale it and deploy it across Europe with his own team. Hence, he joined Chemovator to develop this idea into a scalable venture. Lisa started out as HR responsible within Chemovator and joined Boxlab Services last year as a co-founder.