Ambrosium – sparkling business ideas from Saxony-Anhalt

For some months, Anke Sterzing and Tommy Hielscher have been revolutionizing the food industry with a sparkling business idea. Hailing from Magdeburg, they have invented "Beauty Secco", which not only contains a substance that helps to keep the skin looking younger and supports the muscles, but also comes with pleasure and a portion of wellness. With a fresh entrepreneurial spirit, a broadly-based network and sparkling ideas, the start-up wants to continue on its start-up journey with the "Ambrosium" brand.

The product known as "Beauty Secco" seems to have it all. A 0.75 litre bottle contains 11 grams of collagen, while a 0.2 litre mini-bottle contains three grams of the protein that every multicellular animal carries in them, including people. It supports the tissue and can, in simple terms, make us look a little more beautiful. Anke Sterzing and Tommy Hielscher came upon the idea of enriching a prosecco with a product that captures the idea of beauty at a spa hotel over a cup of ginger tea. When sipping their bland-tasting tea, they realise that "there needs to be a drink that tastes great, that’s healthy and that fits in with a wellness and beauty experience," recalls the Doctor of Economic Science.

The initial experiments in the kitchen

Back at home, the couple with a thirst for knowledge begins to experiment. Tommy Hielscher, the athlete, fetches the product from his cupboard he uses as a dietary supplement when training: collagen. “Collagen is an important protein, it counteracts the aging of the skin and helps build muscle," explains the business information specialist who recently completed his doctoral thesis on the topic of "Medical Data Mining". In their kitchen, they mix first-rate prosecco with collagen – and are enthusiastic about the results. The prosecco fits in with the concept of pampering, while the protein has many benefits: "Collagen is something everyone has in their body, it can be taken orally, it’s completely soluble, it is odourless, and it is one of the few food supplements that is proven to strengthen the beauty experience," explains Tommy Hielscher.

Support from several directions

Driven by their initial successes and entrepreneurial spirit, they start conducting their initial tests. "Our parents had been self-employed for a long time, so we knew all about the advantages and disadvantages of running their own business and we were genuinely up for the challenge," explains the 34-year-old. Thanks to academic support as well as open doors in universities and institutes, in 2017, things move very quickly. They complete further analyses and are supported, among others, by experts from the area of food processing technology and the wine institute of Anhalt University of Applied Sciences. The results of the analyses show that collagen really is suitable for mixing with prosecco. They create a recipe, perfect the process, and badger wine merchants in order to find a suitable prosecco-maker. This is followed by taste studies with test subjects as well as an ideas competition with design students and professional designers on the visuals of the bottle, the labels and the packaging. The test subjects then rate the proposed bottle designs in a study project. "We were surprised when we ended up with a black bottle with a gold label in front of us," explains Anke Sterzing. "But in the end, it was the right choice. After all, we are offering a premium product which should come over as exclusive." And that also fits with the name of their company: "Ambrosium", which is derived from "Ambrosia" – in Greek mythology, the food of the gods.

Coming to grips with the international market development

It takes about three quarters of a year from the initial idea to the day on which they hold the first bottle of their product in their hands – which sounds quick, but is still too slow for the entrepreneurs. "We are very impatient," says Anke Sterzing, "because we are convinced that this product can work". This impatience is of benefit to the entrepreneurial couple when it comes to the marketing and distribution. "We find it very hard to take ‘no’ for an answer" says Anke, who hails from Magdeburg, smiling. They approach supermarkets, retail chains and the major players from the perfumery and beauty sectors. "We want to conquer the beauty-wellness and fashion markets, not to mention spas, hotel bars, discos, golf clubs and fashion boutiques," says Tommy Hielscher. They determine their target group as lovers of prosecco and champagne and fans of wellness, fashion and beauty – as well as all bon-vivants. They set up an online retail business and work through the nights, folding cartons, making phone calls and writing emails. Some respondents say no, but many others are curious. The response from Tina Müller, CEO of perfume chain "Douglas" and former marketing director at "Opel", for example, is positive: "This is one of the most innovative products I have seen in a long time." Praise of this kind spurs the couple on. For a long time, they have also been planning to tap into neighbouring countries in addition to the German market.

 “Beauty mulled wine” at Christmastime

At the "International Green Week" Anke Sterzing and Tommy Hielscher forge several contacts, and "Beauty Secco" also proves to popular at "Fashion Week". "These trade fairs were also good for being able to make contacts with established companies, including ones from Saxony-Anhalt," explains the 30-year-old. At the "Day of Retail", they convince the "Edeka" Group of their product. Since the start of the year, "Beauty Secco" has been listed here regionally. Product orders are developing on a positive basis. “Beauty Secco" is also listed at the perfume chain "Douglas", where, according to Anke Sterzing, it is now one of the best-selling gift products. Beauty institutes, hairdressing salons, wellness hotels such as the "Schindelbruch Nature Resort" in Stolberg, Saxony-Anhalt, and the international hotel chain "Jumeirah" are also among the customers. "Beauty Secco" from Magdeburg is also listed at the insurance group "Allianz Deutschland AG", where it is available for purchase by branch managers for customer gifts and events. The deliveries are rolling. In November, they received the third batch of their product which was delivered to a warehouse in the vicinity of Magdeburg – consisting of 12,000 small bottles and 8,000 large bottles. The entrepreneurs don’t doubt that they will dispatch them all. And rather than dwelling on the present, they are continuing to think ahead. At Christmas, “beauty mulled wine” is to be bottled – a good Dornfelder in the black bottle which has since become a trademark. The product range is set to be expanded soon, reveals Anke Sterzing. "We're bubbling over with ideas," says the entrepreneur, who is also pursuing her academic career. "We may well turn more of our business ideas into reality here. The basic factors in terms of accessibility, the research institutes and the network we have built up in Saxony-Anhalt would be hard to replicate elsewhere.”

Author:  Manuela Bock