Founded as a carpet maker in 1883, the family-owned Vorwerk Group has grown into a specialty household equipment and cosmetics maker, turning over €3.5 billion, or $3.9 billion, in sales last year.
Jörg Mittelsten Scheid, one of the descendants of the original founders Carl and Adolf Vorwerk, is honorary chairman of the Wuppertal-based company.
Mr. Mittelsten Scheid took charge of the company in 1966 at the age of 33. Since then, Vorwerk has grown and expanded internationally with its Kobold vacuum cleaners, Thermomix cooking mixer and Jafra cosmetics brand. The 80-year old’s achievements have earned him the honor of ‘Handelsblatt Family Entrepreneur of the Year.’
Everyone in Germany knows the Kobold, and Thermomix, the company’s multipurpose appliance, is the hottest ticket in the kitchen, with sales booming. Either you have one, or you want one.
The two product lines generated €2.4 billion in sales last year, making up the bulk of the group’s total turnover. The original carpets and flooring business only brought €88 million worth of revenue.
The company now employs around 30,000 people. What is the secret of Vorwerk’s success? One thing is clear: two centuries of business success does not happen by chance. Something else is at work.