Leonardo Cocucci (Italy/Sustainable Tourism) and Stephanie Maher (Germany/Tourism)

HE Stephanie Maher and NE Leonardo Cocucci

Background information of NE:
Name & surname: Leonardo Cocucci
Country: Italy
Age: 35
Sector of activity: Travel and tourism, Sustainability
Have you already started your business? No
What is your future business? My idea is to create an ecolodge where people can spend time in nature, respecting the environment, but keeping some of the comforts they are used to.

Background information of HE:
Name & surname: Stephanie Maher
Country: Germany
Sector of activity: Travel and Tourism
Experience in running a business: 16 years
Name of business/website: Seminarhaus GmbH / https://www.seminarhausbrandenburg.de
What is your business? It’s a seminar house for business and yoga retreats, offering cultural events, workshops and festivals. The business hosts worldwide visitors, with a majority of European people.

Period of exchange: 06/07/2020 – 03/12/2020
Duration of exchange: 5 months

What did Leonardo learn about leading a business in the sustainable tourism sector?

I am an Italian guy that always dreamed of being independent and creating his own business. At the beginning I didn’t know where and how, so I started to travel to different parts of the world. I lived in Australia, Israel, Ethiopia and Madagascar and finally realized that I didn’t need to go so far to create my ideal place. Italy is a perfect spot: a lot of nature, good infrastructure, artisans and one of the most touristic places in the world.

The main problems inside my mind were mostly two: firstly, I had to define exactly what I wanted, and secondly, I had to find a place where I could gain experience and where I could learn from an already ongoing business. Regarding the first problem, the solution came quite fast, looking inside myself and trying to put into words what are my desires and trying to understand how I want to transform my life into a meaningful experience (at least for me). Suddenly I got an answer. I want to create an ecolodge: a place based on the idea of reforestation and restoration of the land with nano houses where people can spend time and connect again with nature far from the noises of the city.

Concerning the second problem, I had to find a place with characteristics similar to the one I was dreaming about.

Through a friend, I heard about the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs program. I looked for a place in the countryside, close to nature, a place where hospitality, long-term residencies, and sustainable life were the main activities so that I could share my experience gained around the world and I could learn from people leading a business for several years.

I finally found Seminarhaus GmbH in the east of Germany. The place is set close to a national park and it’s a well know seminar house for yoga retreats and business meetings. I found the place very inspiring. I straight away connected with one of the owners, Stephanie Maher, a dancer and choreographer and we started several projects together. Our time together was very valuable because I was involved in different aspects of the projects (grant subscription, infrastructure construction, management of the customers, etc.). I was helping Stephanie in her daily activities and in addition, I was free to create and lead my own projects. Five months flew by very fast, I learned a lot about how to run a business and how to make it profitable, while she learned from my experience as a permaculture teacher and from my studies in sustainable agriculture.

I can say that now I am back to Italy with more confidence, more experience and ready to make my own dream become true.

Concluding Remarks

Leonardo Cocucci (NE): “In order to be successful in your business, it is very important to share experience and knowledge with people that have similar goals like you. For these reasons, the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs program is a great tool to get new ideas and get inspired by others.“

Stephanie Maher (HE): „The Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs program is a great way to meet people and to grow as a human and entrepreneur.“