Hello Cindy. Your guiding principle is, “The world is made up of those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who ask what happened.” Where do you place yourself?
I grew up with the message that everyone in life should make the world a little bit better. That was also my goal after graduation when I decided to go into the arts. I thought art makes the world a better place. But sometimes, especially at events like art fairs, I noticed how superficial the industry is and how much “garbage” is sold as art. So it was time for me to take a new direction that would actually make our world a better place. I no longer wanted to watch passively, but to become really active. And I was able to become active in climate action with the founding of Planted.
Campus Founders educates the next generation of responsible founders with a focus on values. How do you take responsibility for the next generation?
At Planted, I take responsibility for future generations through my work every day, as we try to make our planet sustainable through various actions. Our goal is to do everything we can to preserve our planet so that a good life for people and living things on Earth is possible in the future. That’s why we develop climate solutions that make it easy for everyone to help protect the climate. We enable companies and individuals to offset their CO₂ footprint on a monthly basis and plant regionally climate-stable trees. But that’s not all: We are currently working on a software that enables companies and their teams to reduce CO₂ via climate protection challenges. In this way, we are actively reducing CO₂ emissions on our planet and helping to ensure that all future generations experience our planet in the beauty that we are doing right now.
You now want to use your business to help other companies take a step toward a greener future. How do you help them do that?
I am responsible for all sales, marketing and public relations at Planted. Through me, companies learn about Planted in various ways and are motivated to become active together with us and create the greatest possible impact for our planet. I am the first point of contact for these companies and enable them to get started with active climate protection in an uncomplicated and fast way. In addition, I also support them in the long term on their path to net-zero emissions.
What values are particularly important to you at Planted and what is your contribution to a sustainable society?
Climate protection is a very emotional, but also difficult topic. That’s why it’s even more important to make it as transparent and tangible as possible. It’s also important for us to stay positive and keep hope alive for a more sustainable world. We want to drive positive change and act in solidarity. This is the only way we can make the earth a place worth living in the long term and thus contribute to a sustainable society. We know that time is short, but a raised forefinger does no one any good and tends to scare people away. That’s why we want to motivate people in a playful way to protect the climate. Because every contribution counts, no matter how small the commitment is.
To sustainably establish yourself as a founder, you need an entrepreneurial mindset. What mindset do you start the day with and how does it help you move forward?
The idea that we are doing something meaningful with Planted and that the team is doing its best every day to stop climate change is my biggest drive. Above all, scaling plays a big role because the more successful we are, the bigger is our impact. Profit for Purpose is my guiding principle here. To achieve a real impact, you need both: financial resources and the right motivation behind them.
The saying goes: If you have a goal in mind, talk to those who have already achieved it. What role models motivate you in particular?
It’s difficult to name just one specific person. Every day I meet courageous, great, inspiring people who influence me on so many levels. I think it’s important not to aspire to just one person. Many roads lead to Rome but you should always find and walk your own personal path.
The Campus Founders want to give orientation and support to founders. What kind of support did you have when you founded your company?
I was lucky that two of my co-founders already had experience in founding companies. We were also part of one or two accelerators, which I can highly recommend. They provide support in a wide variety of areas and usually have a very good network, which is very important, especially for young founders.
Founding a startup is associated with many hurdles and often takes founders* out of their comfort zone. What challenges did you face during the founding process?
The biggest challenge is self-management. Especially in the early days, you’re bursting with ideas and it’s important to stay focused. Always asking yourself, where exactly do I want to go with my company? What could be holding me back? Here it helps to have a clear line. We always say “cut the crap,” meaning full focus on the mission. In doing so, we try not to let anything distract us from our goal. Another challenge was the fact that, as a career changer, I built up an area that was more or less foreign to me. There’s a lot of hard work involved – but anything is possible if you want it!
On the way up, it’s important to celebrate every positive experience. What has been your greatest sense of achievement so far?
In our fast-paced everyday lives, we often don’t realize what we’ve achieved in such a short time. We were able to plant over 100,000 climate-stable trees here in Germany in our first year, thanks to all of our supporters, and work with major companies. We were named Cologne’s Climate Star and Founder of the Year 2022 and were able to build a great and talented team of people who are all passionate about the same cause. For me, however, the greatest sense of achievement is that we can inspire so many people for our mission with Planted. Without this success, we would not be where we are today.
We support new founders in their continuous development. What helps you learn and grow?
External coaching, further training and working with freelancers definitely help me to develop in different areas. But beyond that, new founders should also have the right hands-on mentality and be willing to dig into new topics themselves. Without this willingness, it doesn’t work in my opinion.
What topics and questions do you think are particularly important to female founders at the moment?
In my opinion, the topics of sustainability and feminism are currently at the top of the agenda. For me personally, it is important to deeply embed equal opportunities and social justice in our corporate culture from the very beginning. A big question that I think concerns many female founders is how the economic system for self-employed mothers will develop. Female founders need to be supported when re-entering the workforce after maternity leave and also in the period thereafter. When starting and running a business, one of the hurdles female founders face is this.
What qualities should female founders in particular possess?
Women are the classic candidates for the Imposter Syndrome. They question themselves and their abilities far too often and make themselves look smaller than they are. As a Female Founder, the most important thing is therefore to believe in yourself and your abilities and to assert yourself confidently in our male-dominated economy. What is often underestimated by us women is also the topic of networking. From my experience, I can say: get out there and talk to other female founders, get feedback, support and advice. Talk about everything that’s on your mind and connect with people. Networking is where the potential for success lies. There is nothing worse and more time wasting than working in your own bubble and wanting to do everything on your own.
Vision and mission. Campus Founders focus on “zebras” rather than “unicorns.” Unicorns are Unicorns that shoot forward really fast. Zebras are herd animals who share the community mindset. Where do you place yourself?
I would say we are somewhere in between. On the one hand, we can’t afford to lose any time in the fight against the climate crisis, which is why we decided to raise outside capital to drive Impact faster. But on the other hand, we are only where we are today because of our shared team spirit with Planted.
This also reflects our mission, which we drive as a team every day: We believe that only together can we stop climate change. Only by reaching as many people as possible can we preserve the planet for future generations. We can’t do it alone, we need the community to do it.
About Cindy Schüller:
Cindy Schüller is the co-founder of Planted. The green tech start-up was founded in 2021 and is committed to preserving planet earth and its resources. For example, Planted helps companies reduce and avoid CO2 emissions.
As a co-founder, Cindy knows which hurdles have to be overcome in the start-up process and where the right support is especially important as a female founder.
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