Alexandra Pelka (Austria / Commercial Agent, Sustainability) and Andrea Fastelli (Italy / Chemical Products)

Andrea Fastelli (HE) and Alexandra Pelka (HE)

New Entrepreneur (NE):

Name & surname: Alexandra Pelka
Country: Austria
Age: 27
Sector of activity: Commercial Agent
Did you already start your business? Yes
Name of business/website: AP Projects
What is your future business? Commercial agency for sustainable solutions and services

Host Entrepreneur (HE):

Name & surname: Andrea Fastelli
Country: Italy
Sector of activity: Chemical products
Experience in running a business (in years): 17
Name of business/website: Tecnochimica SpA
What is your business? Chemical products for the leather industry

Period of exchange: 14/04/2021 – 12/10/2021
Duration of exchange: 6 months

In which ways did her exchange benefit Alexandra’s plans for her business?

My name is Alexandra Pelka, I am 27 years old and come from Austria. Since the beginning of 2021 I am running my own business called AP Projects and focus primarily on sustainable solutions and services I want to provide to interested companies.

My goal is to become a well-known and connected commercial agent with a holistic portfolio of sustainable technologies and solutions, who can improve businesses in their performance. As part of the UNECE for Transparency and Traceability of goods I am aware of the necessity for innovation and sustainability, which gave me the motivation to start all this. There are many companies offering similar solutions, but they often lack the supply chain approach or have greenwashing issues. I want to be known for holistic and truthful sustainability tools that can help meet the company’s needs and requests.

I first saw an advertising for the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs program in a newspaper for entrepreneurs in Austria and then again when I went to the Chamber of Commerce in Austria.

The reason for me applying to the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs program was my desire to get to know other entrepreneurs and learn from their experiences. Furthermore, I wanted to improve my language skills in Italian and create a network in another country. An important objective for me was to improve my skills and know-how in the leather industry, as this is my core business at the moment. In addition, I was looking for someone who was as passionate about sustainability and innovation as I am.

I have to admit that I was very lucky to find an amazing HE such as Andrea Fastelli from Tecnochimica. We were immediately on the same page and had bold ideas how to make a change towards a more sustainable future. His motivation and ambitious ideas made it easy for me to immediately commit to this project. We both knew that we could learn a lot from each other and the weekly meetings with the whole team at Tecnochimica were of enormous value. Tecnochimica is a chemical manufacturer in the heart of Tuscany, focused on the leather industry. His vision is the use of a by-product such as hides with sustainable chemicals and create a truly sustainable article out of it.

During my stay I worked on leather making processes with the technicians to learn everything I needed to know for future projects. We developed new articles and did trials in tanneries in Italy and also abroad. It required a lot of patience, chemical knowledge and customer relationship skills and every trial gave me more confidence in my abilities. The team was great and soon after the first trials I was able to do them alone as well.

Another great achievement was the improvement of my business Italian and vocabulary, as Italian is the only language spoken by many tanners in the area.

In addition, Andrea Fastelli organized weekly meetings with me to work on my business plan and on marketing strategies for my company and connected me with other potential clients. During the six months of work we had significant achievements and many of them included signing new contracts with clients in German speaking countries. The exchange was a full success for both of us.

In general, the whole team was distinctively welcoming and immediately integrated me into the team. They took me out for lunch, talked to me a lot to make me feel comfortable and even planned activities outside the office hours. I already had experiences abroad (Erasmus 2017), but this one was one of a kind and if possible I would extend it. I felt supported and valued from everybody and there were no problems whatsoever. Due to Corona I had worries at the beginning of the project, but as Italy opened up quite quickly, I even had the chance to enjoy the cities in Tuscany and meet new people.

I will definitely stay in touch with my HE as we both want to continue our collaboration, and Andrea Fastelli offered to work in their office when I’m in town, which gives me a basis in Italy whenever I have clients there. For now, I have to return home and process what I have learnt, which includes further steps with the clients I gained during the stay.

I can without any doubt recommend this experience to anyone who is willing to go abroad because it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity that will broaden your mind and helps you to grow as an entrepreneur. It’s all about getting out of your comfort zone, trying something new and finding what makes your abilities unique.

Concluding Remarks

Alexandra Pelka: “Personally, I enjoyed this exchange a lot. Andrea was such a great host. He really tried to engage me in every action and explained his thoughts thoroughly. One can see that he has a lot of experience in his field and Andrea is a very calm and good teacher. For him it is important to share his knowledge and he was very open-minded towards my ideas.”

Andrea Fastelli: “For me it was a pleasure to host Alexandra as she is very creative, open-minded and eager to learn. My learnings from this collaboration are definitely regarding our potential to become more sustainable and we will work together with Alexandra in this regard. It is a great project with benefits for all parties and I am very happy about this experience.”