AUF AUGENHOEHE wins at the 2019 Tommy Hilfiger Social Innovation Challenge
Changing the world for the better, that's something we all want. But where to start? We from the Berlin-based start-up AUF AUGENHOEHEhave decided to turn the fashion world upside down. Our goal: Fair fashion accessible for everyone, also for people who have been neglected from the fashion industry so far. The idea comes from the founder Sema Gedik. Today, our team also consists of Elisabeth Kitzerow, who rocks our social media presences and designs the website, and Natalia Wisniewski, our strategy expert, who keeps the company on track.
Together we make fashion for people with dwarfism. As a young design startup, you face a wide variety of tasks, that go beyond simply developing products and maintaining a web shop. How can you bring niche products to market while growing as a company? In the beginning, this can often only be done with help from external supporters. Scholarships and competitions are a good option here. On the one hand, to get financial support, but also to build a network of experts, mentors and coaches. We were therefore delighted to hear about the Tommy Hilfiger Social Innovation Challenge in spring 2018.
We learned about it through said network. Here we want to take the chance for a big shout-out to the creative and cultural consultancy Berlin! We then looked at the terms and conditions for participating and thought, "That fits perfectly!"
For the application we racked our brains about topics such as the vision of the company and our social impact. Suddenly everything went very quickly. Just a few weeks later we were invited to the next round. This time it was about taking a closer look at the entrepreneurial side and providing answers about the business model, market potential and target group. Our work paid off and we made it to the final. Around 700 companies, initiatives and start-ups had applied, now we were already among the last seven teams.
As part of the award, we were invited to Amsterdam by the Tommy Hilfiger Group for a design sprint. Here we would work on solving a critical business. Together with a team of employees from the agency OneUp (a start-up thinking agency in Amsterdam) and Tommy Hilfiger, we worked on our question from the initial briefing to prototyping. In the end, we had interesting new input that we were able to implement in the following months.
Following that, it was time to put everything into preparing the pitch in January. Preparing a good pitch takes a long time. Ideas are developed, overturned, re-absorbed and then completely re-thought, but it is precisely this process that can make a good pitch in the end. As a support during this process all teams worked together with David Beckett, a fantastic pitch coach. He accompanied our preparations with constructive feedback and years of experience. We spent the full holiday season preparing the pitch, because we knew how important that opportunity was to increase momentum around inclusive fashion. The pressure was high, even at the trial pitch among friends in Berlin, who gave the finishing touches to our pitch. Now it was just a question of rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing. At this point, we would like to thank once again all those who have supported us with feedback and suggestions over the last year. Then we went back to Amsterdam. Another three days of preparation, acclimatization and pitch training with Coach David. What sounds a bit like holidays here, actually consisted of packed days full of training, pep talks and briefings from the Tommy Hilfiger team, always the AUF AUGENHOEHEday-to-day business in mind.
During the dress rehearsals, we also got to know the other participants. We were thrilled with how diverse the selection of finalists was made. All had a connection to the value chain of the fashion industry, but at a wide range of levels.
And then it was finally the day of days: Monday, pitch day! We knew the time slot: 12.0m-12.30pm we went to the jury room. 7 minute pitch and 20 minutes of Q&A with the jury consisting of Tommy Hilfiger, Tommy Hilfiger CEO Daniel Grieder, CFO Martijn Hagman, Katrin Ley of Fashion for Good, Willemijn Verloop, Felipe Santos and Arizona Muse, were over quicker than we would have thought. We came out of the pitch with a good feeling – it had all gone well and we felt we had adequately represented the vision of AUF AUGENHOEHE. Then in the afternoon we went on to a public pitch, which Tommy Hilfiger hosted as a big event to the Social Innovation Challenge. Hosted by David Beckett, all teams had the chance to present their company in front of around 400 visitors. To celebrate this occasion together with us, we had invited a friend of ours from Amsterdam that also has dwarfism.
After presenting the audience price, Tommy Hilfiger and Daniel Grieder took the stage to announce the winners. “And one of the winners of the Tommy Hilfiger Social Innovation Challenge this year is: AUF AUGENHOEHE!”
We won! Together with the teams of Selina Wamucii and doctHers, we were awarded with a grant, a 1-year mentorship from Tommy Hilfiger and a place in the INSEAD Academy.
The hard work has paid off and to be honest, took load off our minds. We still have a long way to go with AUF AUGENHOEHE and to get certain projects going we need financial support. But now we can really begin to make our goals a reality. Speaking of reality: The first time we truly realized that we won was about a week later, when we got the first mail from the project managers at Tommy Hilfiger.
We can already say that the effort was worth it. The support of Tommy Hilfiger, the learnings from the design sprint and also the planning of the next collection are even easier to do with the financial support. We have a lot of plans and look forward to you joining us on this path. Together, we can change the world bit by bit.
Pictures by Tommy Hilfiger/ PVH Europe