Sina Trinkwalder is often described by the media as the Mother Theresa of German business. The comparison comes from the company’s many corporate practices that reflect Christian values. But Ms. Trinkwalder said she was never influenced by religious morals in her approach to business.
Ms. Trinkwalder clearly thinks outside the box. She had no intention of making heaps of profits with Manomama when she founded the company. Actually, she had no business plan and was not eligible for state aid or bank loans.
Making her all the more an outsider, Trinkwalder went out and hired people with limited job prospects, such as single parents, foreigners without German language skills and long-term-unemployed people. She found many of her employees by visiting state employment centers.
Manomama launched in 2011 with three employees and has since grown into a company with 152 people – everyone holding a permanent contract. She pays her staff €10 ($13.40) per hour, which is above Germany’s new minimum wage of €8.50. She takes the same wage.
Last year, the company’s revenue surged to €9 million, resulting in a net income of €240,000. “Two years ago, I was something of a small sea horse in the industry – today I’m a shark,” Ms. Trinkwalder said.
The entrepreneur started her company with €2 million she had saved together with her husband from their advertising agency. Today, both her advertising agency and fashion company are located in the same building. And the two operations, she said, feed off of each other’s ideas and work processes.
How to put the long-term-unemployed back to work has always interested Ms. Trinkwalder. She just needed to find an industry, she said, that would let her put this idea into practice. The textile industry seemed perfect. It is an industry that still requires much manual labor. It is also one that has nearly vanished in Germany, with its relatively high labor costs.
In the 1970s, many German textile companies began shifting production to countries with far lower wages, such as India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Interestingly, Augsburg, the Bavarian city where Ms. Trinkwalder started Manomama, was one of Germany’s most important textile production centers at one point.
“Two years ago, I was something of a small sea horse in the industry – today I’m a shark”
Among Ms. Trinkwalder various challenges was her lack of textile production knowledge. A friend working in the industry broke her into the industry, teaching about fabrics, sewing and processing – all within three months. The first products were cotton shopping bags, to be sold through for socially conscious retailers such as the drugstore dm in Germany. The company has meanwhile branched out to produce trendy jeans, t-shirts and women’s dresses. Among its biggest customers: the supermarket chains Edeka Südwest and Real, as well as the telephone company Vodafone.
Ms. Trinkwalder plans another project for the long-term-unemployed – this one outside the textile industry. But that’s all she is willing to reveal for now.
Translated by Sarah Mewes.