Jennifer Adam – «I soon get fed up of doing routine tasks»
25-year-old Jennifer Adam is working on a website where women can find ‘modest clothing’ that reveals as little skin as possible. She is counting on tolerance in society and hopes to make her mark as a successful entrepreneur.
Ms Adam, was there a job you dreamed of doing when you were young?
Yes, I actually wanted to become an archaeologist. I was absolutely fascinated by the archaeological digs that took place in the Austrian town of Villach where I grew up – simply because it was such big news in our community. Also, my father is Egyptian, which certainly contributed to my interest in this field.
Why didn’t you pursue that dream?
It is something I am still really interested in, but other appealing career paths opened up which offered better prospects (smiles). I decided to do an apprenticeship as a hotel and catering assistant. But I did my baccalaureate part-time in the evenings because I wanted to broaden my horizons, and had plans to do a degree in the back of my mind. That was really tough at times, but it has certainly paid off.
You are now living with your father in Biel and studying Industrial Engineering and Management Science at Bern University of Applied Sciences. Why?
I find technology absolutely fascinating, but am interested in lots of other areas too. So I didn’t want to do a purely technical degree but instead opted for one which combines technology and business administration. The Industrial Engineering and Management Science programme is divided into the areas of technology, IT and business. My Business Engineering specialisation focuses on digitalisation. I have come to realise that I need variety and good prospects in a career – I am a very creative person and soon get fed up of routine tasks. I’ve already got my sights set on founding my own business at some point.
Such as the ‘Modest Fashion’ online platform, for example.
Yes, exactly – I plan to focus on setting that up as part of my bachelor’s thesis. It will provide a range of clothing for women who prefer less revealing attire. As a practising and proud Muslim, this is obviously something I am very much aware of. But this platform is by no means only about religious clothing.
Why does this kind of platform have business potential?
I carried out a market analysis and spoke to potential customers and retailers as part of a module on my BFH programme. This revealed that there is growing demand for modest clothing. The supply and demand are there – it is just a matter of bridging the gap between them. It takes quite a bit of effort to find this type of clothing at the moment. I would like to bring various retailers together on my site to make finding these items much easier. Acting as an intermediary between customers and retailers can be a successful business model and there are quite a few examples which prove it.
What are the biggest challenges in creating this platform?
First of all, a good marketing strategy is required to make as many customers as possible aware of the platform. Then I need to find strong technical partners to provide the website with an attractive and user-friendly design. I will need to attract as many retailers to the platform as I can and conclude contracts with them. Finding them will be much easier if I can provide evidence of strong customer interest. However, not having control over shipping terms presents a major risk.
What do you mean exactly?
As the site only acts as a broker, the shipping is up to the retailers. If a customer orders several items from various retailers, different shipping terms and costs are involved. That can put people off.
How could this problem be resolved?
For example, by taking on all the shipping costs as the platform operator, which in turn obviously raises financing issues. An order of goods from five different vendors should be delivered in one parcel, not five different ones. But I am confident that these shipping problems can be overcome too. I also think that demand for this type of clothing will keep growing, including in the western fashion industry. In my view, diversity is set to play an ever more important role in our society and there is growing acceptance of other religions, ethnicities, attitudes and sexual orientations.
Why will you be a good entrepreneur?
Because I’ve got the staying power that is needed. I am willing to invest a great deal and am fully aware that it is not a 9-to-5 job. I always carry a pen and notepad with me to jot down ideas which I can flesh out in detail later on. The best ideas come to me in everyday situations – when I am out and about or at the fitness studio. You also need to be able to accept criticism in business, not least because constructive proposals for improvement benefit the company. Putting together a good team is absolutely crucial, with people who can do things you may not be so good at.
What do you still need to work on?
Precisely that – delegating. Not because I don’t trust other people, but because I see it as a bit of a personal failure if I am unable to do something myself. But if a start-up does fail, not seeing this as a defeat, but instead learning from it and gaining insights and fresh impetus to try again, is another key to success as an entrepreneur.
Where would you like to be in ten years’ time?
More than anything, I would like to have my own family (laughs.) And I hope to be running a successful company of my own, whether it’s ‘Modest Fashion’ or a different project. This is mainly because financial success gives you independence in terms of how and where you spend your time. I also attach a great deal of importance to ensuring my company makes a beneficial contribution to society and to supporting charitable projects. I would really like to leave my mark on the world.