Magdalena Neicu was working in her own leather studio – Bruiaj Arts – in Cluj for more than one year when she decided to participate in an Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs exchange with the support of Fundatia Danis. She aimed to improve her creator’s skills to enhance her studio’s products – taking her leather accessories design to the next level with the support of an experienced entrepreneur from a big city in Europe. Thus, in 2019, for three months, she worked on her business development with Lapàporter – Artisan Leather Goods in Berlin, Germany.
Almost two years later, we interviewed Magdalena to understand how the exchange supported her business growth.
How did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
The desire came after my decision to design my life in a different way. Thus, I decided to switch from the law field into something that implied much more creativity for finding specific solutions for a better lifestyle.
How did you overcome the challenges you faced during the exchange in Berlin?
There were many days of hard work and learning new things at Lapàporter. However, all my focus was on using all the exchange time in the studio, investing in learning new leatherwork techniques, and absorbing all the details that could help me in the future. And this process was sometimes overwhelming, but the whole experience and the work were revealing for my business in the end.
Also, I started to learn German a few months before traveling to Berlin, but it wasn’t really enough to have a fluent conversation. Still, it helped a bit in my daily life in the city, but not necessarily at the studio. So, most of the time, I spoke English with the host entrepreneur, but the fact that I also knew a little German helped me.
How did you perceive Fundatia Danis’ support, your intermediary organization for the exchange?
I remember fondly that Cordelia from Fundatia Danis was constantly interested in my progress during the exchange programme. She was almost like a mentor for me during all this process. She was actively involved in finding solutions and trying to help me overcome certain obstacles encountered during my exchange and after this ended.
How did you and your business benefit from the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs Programme?
Today, one year and a half after the end of the exchange, the programme’s benefits are very obvious to me. My business perception changed because Berlin’s cultural mix allowed me to be exposed to new and different social-cultural habits that always make one more flexible. Apart from this, the experience has also helped me shape my short, medium, and long-term business goals. In the short term, I have improved my already developed products and I have introduced a new collection of leather goodies. In the medium term, I am working to transform the workshop into an open workshop, as a hub, inviting other artists to collaborate with Bruiaj. However, the influence of the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs Programme on my long-term goals is the best outcome of the exchange. At this moment, I feel that the work I am doing is going exactly into something I know I would like to see in a few years.
Finally, would you recommend the experience to other young entrepreneurs?
The program helped me strengthen my business idea, and it greatly increased my self-confidence, both creatively and entrepreneurially. I strongly consider it a must-do programme for any young entrepreneur.