Monday, August 3, 2015

Google open mind.

The first thing that comes to your mind when entering the main lobby at Google is the something like: "wow, that's different". I personally haven't expected to come to an office which also could have been a Kindergarden or a leisure center at first sight. Bright colors, different interior, open spaces and room to think - all that seems to be strange for someone who only knows modern and plain office buildings and leads to the question: "How do they keep up their professionalism?"

But as our two hosts at Google Megan Danielson and Matt Jones began to speak and talk about their company the picture of a distinct corporate culture started to make sense. The entire culture is about open your mind. Work-life-balance is really important such as enough recreational activities when you need to clear your mind. Furthermore, time to think play a major role at Google. Google has applied a model known as "20%-time" that allows "googlers" to spend 20% of their time on something different than their actual project. As innovations are a key resource it's crucial to come up with new ideas - and that's the way to face it and get there. To round it up employees are provided with healthy organic food which again supports their mental and physical abilities.

"Make the world a better place"

"Don't be evil"

"Be transparent"

"Do cool things that matter"

"Take risks"

Missions and visions that come along with google and their employees. Hearing Megan and Matt conveying this strongly shows how googlers have internalized these. One strong team with low hierarchies where everybody is supposed to interact with everybody and a culture that leaves enough room to step out and think out of the box - that's what makes google strong!

If I'm thinking of our own venture "foodentity" the google culture is really admirable but not required for our business. I'd say it's great to have all those benefits and room to open your mind but for us as a start-up the most important thing is just team-spirit. The low hierarchies and the openness to all others is something we will apply to our venture. But especially in the food business "taking risks" should be vehemently avoided.

We all know that google is one of the largest firms on earth, we all know how much power and influence they have and we all know how much google knows about us. It is hard to believe that they don't take advantage out of that. But how strong the spirit and internal culture is and how strongly googlers stick to their missions Megan and Matt demonstrated perfectly.

Making the world a better place - not the worst mission to stand up for everyday, isn't it?

The organizational culture of a Bee Hive

The bee is more honored than other animals, not because she labors, but because she labors for others’ – St. John Chrysostom.

This quote is extremely suitable for Brenda Palms Barber and her social enterprise Sweet Beginnings. Her inspiring story gave me new perspectives and insights on social entrepreneurshipOn Tuesday 28th of July we visited Sweet Beginnings, a social enterprise. They produce honey and natural skin & body care products, for more information visit their website.

The inspiring Brenda Palms Barber, founder of Sweet Beginnings, was frustrated by the lack of job opportunities, that the residents in North Lawndale were having. Especially ex-convicts, even after serving their time and following the NLEN U-TurnPermitted Program,  they were not given a second chance. 
She launched Sweet Beginnings and gave some of the graduates of the U-Turn Permitted Program a 90-day job opportunity. They learned about science, education, accounting, packaging and many other things which allows them to grasp that second chance and improve their lives.

The organizational culture of Sweet Beginnings could be compared to the organization of a bee hive.
The Queen Bee in a bee hive is the central person, the one who creates the others and let them work together. Brenda Palms Barber, the Queen Bee of Sweet Beginnings does not only educate the ex-convicts but also allows them to work. She is passionate about her business and her mission, and that passion is contagious. When leaders are truly passionate, people feel included in the leader’s commitment, part of making important things happen. That’s satisfying on a very deep level, and it lasts. 

A Queen Bee does not make honey herself, but surrounds herself by others who produce honey. This is also the vision Brenda Palms Barber has about good leaders: They surround themselves with other amazing people. Surround yourself with good people and let them shine, that is what true leadership is all about.

The quizzes for the new employees about the core values of Sweet Beginnings, just show how important it is that everybody understands and follows the mission and vision of the company. Everybody has to be on the same page, before you can advance in business or in life.
One important lesson for my StreetTube project, was that she told us that people do not care about the story if the product is not good. So focus on the product (content) and people will become interested in the story behind.

Her wisdom and insights gave me not only some new perspectives for StreetTube, but also for my future life and that is why I want to thank Brenda Palms Barber for sharing her inspiring story.

Investment in trust

Have you ever thought about the idea of working with a person that was involved in any sort of crime?

Of course the first reaction that comes to our mind, is that this would influence our working atmosphere in a bad way. We wouldn´t feel comfortable anymore and would also suspect only bad things from this person.  So our answer would be no we don´t want to consider working with criminals.

I have to admit that I have thought the same way about criminals until I´ve met the most passionate and authentic person during our whole excursions. Brenda Palms Barber
teached us to take the opportunity of opening our minds and give criminals the possibility to introduce themselves. We should keep in mind that:

That means that people who have committed a crime are often not “bad” people for the rest of their lives, but just need a way to show us that they become a better version of themselves.

So how can we as Foodentity guarantee our customers the professionalism of  well educated and responsible employees and at the same time make a difference with our strategy?

 I think we definitely need to make a “difference” with our strategy. Because we are trying to give people a better life through great food, so why shouldn´t we give also criminal people the chance of a better life? Of course there is the fact that people with a criminal background are often less educated than “normal” people, but what if the person is just as well or even better educated as other people who apply for a job at Foodentity and don´t even get the chance to be part of our team just because of one mistake they have made in their life. Foodentity wants their customers to be open minded and to try something that brings even more health in their life, so we are not allowed to be simple minded when it comes to our own employees.  Brenda also mentioned that you have to fascinate the people with your idea.  So why should we only fascinate our customers. If we are able to make our on employees really satisfied and corporate claimers, the fascination for our brand will spread on its own.

So how can we as Foodentity make our dreams come true…
Foodentity will try to not judge about people in advance.  We will not only adapt the  concept of Target, in which we asking the people about their criminal background at the end, we also want to try to work with people, who have a criminal background, when they are showing us that they are able to learn all necessary skills for our job.

You may now thinking that this idea is a little bit too big for a start up. That we are not able to train the people and that we don´t have enough money, but as Brenda mentioned the people will only love your idea, when your are thinking big enough.  So I think Foodentity will not only make a difference by enhance the life off a huge amount off people with great food, but also by making the world of former criminal people a little bit happier:-))

So working with all types of people is not only a social "thing" but also a long-term investment. Because if your are investing in trustful employees you are also investing in your brand! 


Sunday, August 2, 2015

Everyone deserves a second chance! - Sweet Beginnings

Sweet Beginnings - Everyone deserves a second chance!

written by Felix Kardell

Today, dated 28th of July 2015, we had the chance to meet Brenda Palms Barber at her workplace, Sweet Beginnings. Brenda’s business offers full-time transitional jobs to citizens returning from incarceration, in order to improve the quality of life for the community of North Lawndale. Her vision is to increase the living standard for people in disadvantages communities by increasing social justice and lowering income inequalities on the long run. This excursion particularly took place in accordance with our leadership and culture class, administered by our professor Valarie Beck. Brenda is the CEO and founder of Sweet Beginnings and offered to guide us through her company and tell us about the implementation of leadership and culture in her business. For more information about Sweet Beginnings and Brenda please see

Sweet Beginnings has been founded with the primary goal of doing well to the community and its people. When you hear Brenda talking about her business, you can literally feel the passion that she has for her mission of helping people who return from incarceration to get reintegrated into society. Thereby she is improving their chances for a better living standard in the future, and simultaneously improving social justice within society. Ultimately, she supported this impression by emphasizing that in order to maintain leadership and culture within her company, the most important thing is passion. There are various benefits of having a passionate leadership style, which can be found on the following website:

During Brenda’s speech we also got to know John. He is currently working at Sweet Beginnings and is a good example of how this passionate leadership style and culture can change a person’s life substantially. Before he started working at the program, John got arrested ten times. Accordingly, he found himself in a situation in which nobody would give him a chance to show off his working skills, which eventually have shown to be outstanding as a beekeeper. Brenda gave John and 18 other people a “second chance”, a chance for a better life, a chance for a better future. For me Brenda has proven to be a role model, visionary, and a true leader!

Many of the structures of Sweet beginnings can also be applied to our business Green Dish. Passion, as it is one of the main drivers of Sweet Beginnings, is also grounded in the core values of our company. We have the passion for vegan food and we truly believe that this way of eating has several health benefits to our bodies. We hope to transfer our passion onto our customers by sensitizing them for the great variety and taste of vegan food. Our vision is therefore to integrate animal-free food as a valuable alternative for the daily food consumption for the majority of society.


Felix Kardell

Saturday, August 1, 2015

search for the ZEITGEIST

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

by Alexandra Zinnkann


“Do cool things that matter” that’s one of the numerous mottos, which were presented to us on our excursion through the Chicago GOOGLE office. Getting the first step into the office one already breezes the air of innovation and the spark of Zeitgeist automatically jumps on to you.

With its very creative and playful design and furniture as well as the large announcements of off-the-job offers, like meditation or Japanese this office really reflects a corporate culture. One subject which really sticked out to me was a treadmill, with a writing table attached. That makes it a perfect symbol for GOOGLE’s work philosophy: Employees should always search for the Zeitgeist and be innovative and on the same hand have a positive work-live balance. That’s only one of the reasons why Megan Danielson, the head of Industry, Travel and Matt Jones, the team Lead and Principal Account Manager, who identify themselves as “GOOGLERS” love working for this global company. Both are also very passionate about the global rotation program, in which employees have the chance to go for a longer period abroad in order to grow personally and the leadership opportunities given to them. Megan personally highlighted the feeling to actually getting part of other companies through intense in-depth work with external agencies and clients. Mat especially appreciates it to work with such “wonderful human beings”. And of course there is the famous, free available, mostly local and organic catering and the 20% time, in which the employees are requested not to spend on their actual work, but come up with new ideas.  Altogether aroused the impression that Megan and Mat absorbed the corporate culture and are actually a part of the company and feel that Google actually cares, both in the in-and outside for its employees.

To me it is remarkably how well GOOGLE succeeded in providing a positive and innovative working atmosphere. But how can we, as a service-oriented hospitality business create and manage our organizational culture? Organizational Culture in the Hospitality Industry

Since the hotel business is not such depended on creating continuously new and innovative products, it is not necessarily desirable for us to create an innovative spirit. Nevertheless it should also be our aim to create a pleasant work atmosphere and build a strong team spirit in order to work hand in hand and strengthen the workflow within the daily hotel routine. We also heard during our stay that employees are encouraged to take risks. This empowerment to employees could apply for the LIB Hotel as well; every employee should have permission to make our guests happy. I am convinced that if we keep the spirit in our company, it will reflect towards the guests and with this we will provide them a pleasant stay in a home-like atmosphere. In order to maintain and improve this spirit, we could do it as GOOGLE and have mentoring programs and annual employee surveys. 

Last but not least GOOGLES slogan “Don’t be evil” could be a desirable guiding theme for every company. How could the LIB take care to be fair to their environment in practice? Using only local suppliers, organic and seasonal food and interacting with our neighborhood could be an answer to that. 

However for me personally the question if GOOGLE could really change the world to better by bringing the Internet to everybody, as wished by the chairman Eric Schmidt, stands still open. To find your own opinion about this topic, have a look at this examples of charities using technology to tackle problems and transform lives around the world GOOGLE is supporting: Google Impact Challenge

Thursday, July 30, 2015

„If no one is laughing at your idea – you are not thinking big enough!“

 Be(e) love – how Sweet Beginnings and Brenda Palms Barber change lives and what other businesses can learn from it.

By Konstantin Keller

It is a good thing to have an idea for a business. It is even better if that idea helps a lot of people and provides a well-deserved second chance for them that others are not willing to give them. And if you are actually able to make profit with it, it is actually a quite amazing business and a wonderful story.

All of those aspects come together at Sweet Beginnings – a Chicagoan company that I visited with my fellow students in the framework of our entrepreneur program. Brenda Palms Barber, CEO of the company, took the time to introduce the business and it's philosophy and culture to us. She made it her task to provide jobs in difficult neighborhoods and to people who did their time in prison and want a chance to complete their own personal “U-Turn” - a second chance to improve their own lives that they are way too often denied. At Sweet Beginnings, the employees are being introduced and included into the honey business – in this multisided work environment, they learn aspects of bee-keeping, science, education, inventory, accounting and many more. In this way, the company gives it's employees the tools to build their own future and leave their past behind them: Less than 10% of the people who worked with Sweet Beginnings return to prison. Some of them actually used their new knowledge to open up small own businesses in the bee-keeping sector and become entrepreneurs themselves – another proof that Sweet Beginnings is all about encouraging people to improve their lives on their own!

Brenda had and has a clear vision of what she wants her business to do and what kind of culture she wants in it: “If nobody else is going to provide jobs and hire – we will!” She told us that many people did not believe that a business idea like this could survive or actually make a profit – and how she and all the other people in Sweet Beginnings proved them all wrong: “You need to think creatively, put some trust into people and them into the right positions and above all – you need to do your business with passion!”

Her passion for her idea was definitely tangible in the whole room during her whole presentation and was followed by the sentence that stayed in my head for the rest of the day: “If you have an idea for a business and no one's laughing at it – you're not thinking big enough!”

Creativity and new business ideas, trust in yourself and others and passion indeed made the organization a company with over 400 employees and – probably even more important – a company that actually makes a profit. When the pure tablehoney business was not profitable enough, Sweet Beginnings found other ways and business fields to make money with it, e.g. with skincare products on a honey base.

Since our own project “säft.” is a creative new business idea that has suffered some backlashs, I could identify myself a lot with Brenda's words and advices. Even though unfortunately we are not able to do so much for the community, I personally took a lot of ideas for organizational culture away today. The most important ones:

1: Believe in yourself and your colleagues – if you do not believe in your idea, nobody else will!
2: Always be open to new business ideas and keep developing existing products – their might be new markets and opportunities that you probably did not even think about yet!

And the most important one for me as CEO of our company as well as in any future professional career:

3: Real leadership means getting into something you care about and be a game changer – make a difference!

I will definitely make sure to keep that in mind – thanks Brenda and thanks Sweet Beginnings!

For those of you who want to read more about being a “game changer” and making a difference, I stumbled across this interesting article that I can recommend:

And if you want to keep updated about säft. - follow us on Facebook ( and Instagram (!

Thanks for reading!
Konstantin (@Konstanberlin)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Bee the difference by Stephanie Kirchstetter

Bee the difference

by Stephanie Kirchstetter

If you ask people “Would you do anything for your friends and family?”, nobody will deny that they would. When growing up in a bad neighborhood and drifting to the wrong side of life, people sometimes make bad choices, which often result in prison time. These choices then give them a criminal record, which makes it almost impossible for them to be re-employed. This is where social justice organizations step in, because U.S. government does not, to help these formerly incarcerated individuals to reintegrate both socially and professionally. 
One of these organizations is the North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN), which supports the North Lawndale residents to meet their unmet unemployment needs. Each individual does not only have the opportunity to receive training in anger management and employment, but they also receive help during the period they try to apply for a job. 
A study of the company found that 57% of the adults in this area are either involved in criminal actions, served time in prison or are on probation.
Therefore the company introduced a program called the ‘U-Turn-Permitted-Program’, in which participants can change their direction and re-start the engine of life. The motto of it is ‘Once someone served their time in prison, they’ve served their time!’ Meaning that program participants will not be judged by their past mistakes, once they completed their punishment, but on their current performance.

However, the NLEN goes even further than that: In 2004 the organization helped Brenda Palms-Barber launch a new company called Sweet Beginnings, LLC, which gives its employees the opportunity to gain work experience by working in a full-time transitional job at a ‘bee-farm’. The participants will take care of the bees and hives, harvest honey and make the ‘beelove’ products, such as honey and the newly introduced skin care line. It was proven that through this 90-days-training the recidivism rate of the team members decreases from 55 %, which is the average in the state of Illinois, to below 10%.

If you ask Brenda, why she is doing what she does, one can see her watery eyes when she speaks about her passion. Before she founded Sweet Beginnings, LLC and was only working for the North Lawndale Employment Network, she tried to find jobs for her clients. She often got the same response from employers: Not now, come ask again in two weeks and so on and so forth. Therefore, she decided she had to do something to help these people, because everyone can make mistakes – small or big. So after she recognized the problem, she came up with some ideas, the final one being working with bees, because ‘they are the only animals that create food for the humanity just because of their existence.’ Some people might have not taken the idea too serious in the beginning, but as Brenda says ‘If you have a dream and nobody is laughing about it, you have not dreamed big enough!’
Now they are even selling their honey in eleven Whole Foods and a couple of Mariano’s retail stores all around Chicago. 

So how did Sweet Beginnings, LLC get that far? How did they finally succeed in earning profit last year? Not only due to Brenda’s dream and passion the business did succeed, but due to her being a great leader, which is a title she does not give herself. But Brenda has it all – she is called the ‘Queen-Bee’ at her company:
  • A strong conviction, which motivates her, that she can change something about this situation.
  • A great relationship with her clients/followers, which she developed carefully.
  • A great leader also needs the acceptance for fellowship.
  • Awareness about the responsibility she has for her followers.
  • A strong enough self-esteem to accept that someone else is better in a field and if he/she has more skills, they need to step up to the podium.
  • An ability to transfer her spirit to her employees.

After the impressive meeting with the ‘Queen-Bee’, I thought to myself: How can I adapt what I’ve learned today to our project the LIB? How can I transfer Brenda’s leadership style into our management?

The two most important things that I’ve learned are that (1) your passion drives your business and (2) you should be encouraging your team to step up and embrace their skills.
(1) The LIB’s mission is it to offer a place where people from all over the world meet and feel comfortable, through our heartwarming atmosphere and unforgettable unique urban experience. It is our passion to give guests an unforgettable vacation in our hotel. In order to achieve this the hotel staff, meaning the management and each employee, has to live by that spirit. Through our passion, we have to transfer this spirit to our employees, which than execute the job in our sense.
(2) In order to have a well-functioning team, it is important to accept and recognize the skills of each employee. Even better the whole hotel staff should see itself as a team with each one of them contributing to the hotel’s success. If employees are encouraged to embrace their skills, it can only be a win-win-situation. A leader is only as good as his/her team, because he/she cannot be good at everything. A team requires specialists in different areas, which not only help to succeed, but this procedure also motivates the team through the recognition from the leader, because of their contribution.