This exchange between myself and Michael Fitzner was a huge success. I would recommend this programme to anyone that has recently started their own business or are planning to do so. I consider myself very fortunate to have had the chance of participate in the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs.
Michael and I have very similar characters. We got along very well from the very first day. We both like to push our limits and challenge ourselves, to improve and do things more efficently. We love to joke around and can find it difficult to do normal things.
I wanted to start my own company for years now. But, I always found a new excuse why I couldn’t do it right now. Michael has taught me how to think like an entrepreneur. He is a professional forager in Copenhagen for more than 12 years. It isn’t really the profession you would think would be entrepreneurial. When you think of a forager, a person that picks wild edible plants, herbs, berries, mushrooms and seaweed for a living, you would think just getting by. However, Michael likes to calculate and is calculating all day in his head potential profit. Then that gets calculated towards how much profit per day down to how much per hour. The aim to pick for X amount an hour really drives you to try to be faster and more efficent at picking. Which makes sense. He is well aware that the aim for each hour to pick is pretty high. But it needs to be for this kind of business to make sense. Because there is so much driving involed in every day. I would say it was minimum 2 hours of driving per day and up to around 4-5 hours. Which if you count both of us that is 8 hours of wasted work time. Of course, it is not wasted as we had to go from one place to another to find good areas to pick different things.
We might be picking plants from the beach such as Beach Kale and Wood Sorrel. Which is as the name suggests is a salad like plant that grows on the beaches in Denmark. It is well known by the older generation there and I got asked a lot about it whenever we were picking it. Wood Sorrel is popular in restaurnats as it looks incredible and has this mix of sour and green taste, as the name suggests it grows in the woods. The good areas between these two spots are about an hour apart.
I found it fascinating to be calculating all the time. I am one of those persons that math always came easilly for me and was always top of the class in math without much effort. In high school I lost interest for it as I felt like there I had to calculate just to calculate, with no meaning behind it. Now I am calculating again. All day and I love it. It might be simple math but I am calculating it in my head.
Michael would share the prices of everything that he sells to the restaurants with me. Which was perhaps one of the best lessons that I got. This is information that I think is difficult to get out of entrepreneurs. Especially in such a narrowed down niche, foraging wild plants for restaurants. If I would have been working for him instead of doing the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs, I am not sure if he would have been sharing so much information with me. Because then I could be a potential competition down the line. I think this is what the EYE programme is made for and it exceeds at that. To get hands-on experience and information in whichever field you are getting into or trying to get into. But now only that, but to get to share back.
I am a professional trekking guide in Iceland. My skills have to do with people mostly. How to make sure people are relatively comfortable in often not so comfortable situations. Whenever I mentioned something about group management or as simple things as how I conduct my toilet breaks or first aid in wilderness, Michael would always listen. Even though he has been working with culinary interns from the restaurnat Noma for many years (8 if I recall correctly), he was always curious to listen for the chance of improvement. I have also been dabbling into film making so that was part of our deal: that I would record and edit videos for him to share on his social media. I made three videos for him: two of foraging and one of him planting strawberries.
This EYE almost didn’t happen. I got accepted to the programme through the office here in Iceland, but their EYE contract was not renewed. By big fortune, I got in contact with Ana at InterCollege and explained my situation. She was so helpful throughout all the progress. She explained the situation to the official EYE office and got a green light to let me go thorugh with this project. She helped me out before going to Denmark and would check up on me regularly and there was especially concern when I was starting as that was the beginning of the pandemic lockdown. Fortunately, I was already in Denmark, we decited it was worth giving it a try at least. I hope to get to thank Ana in the near future by inviting her on one of my tours here in Iceland, when they are up and running. A huge thank you to Ana for everything she did to make this EYE experience becoming a reality.
Never in my life have I learned so much important knowledge in such a short time. I did learn a ton about foraging wild edible plants and I have already been able to identify many of the same plants we picked in Denmark here in Iceland. My plan is to have my own guiding company and guide tours in the Icelandic landscape, to hike and always to pick some wild edible plants for my guests. Now I am ready. I am scared of starting my own thing, so now i just need to start. I have started to plan the tours and how I will operate it. I have a mini bus on a stand-by for when the country opens again for tourists. Now, equipped with an ocean of knowledge I will find a way to stand out. I will find a way to navigate through the hard times as Michael always says. I can’t wait to show Michael when my tours are up and running.
When I arrived to Denmark, Michael was my mentor. He still is, but now is also my good friend. We will stay friends until we get old and bald. Well, he is already bald so it’s just me that needs to catch up on that.
If you are thinking about starting a business or have already started. Go to the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneur webpage and sign up right now. I would 100% recommend it.