While it’s ‘hot’ news that the film industry is encouraging celebrities to wear sustainable clothes on the red carpet, the Belgian start-up Wølven Global has been way ahead of them. One of the leaders of the wolf pack is Sander Van de Walle, co-founder, believer of circular economy and alumnus of the Master in Management program at AMS. His passion for entrepreneurship was clearly already there, but AMS provided both inspiration and a sound basis to start his own business.
Sander works at a cost engineering department while his childhood friend Claus is an industrial engineer. Both very technical jobs, requiring great precision and operating within a predefined set of rules and procedures. Though Sander and Claus love their jobs, they were missing a bit of adventure in their lives. So they decided to start a business next to their ‘day job’. Wølven Global provides them with the perfect release for their creativity and sense of adventure.
The Master in Management program proved to be the perfect preparation.
They didn’t embark on their journey totally unprepared, however. As it turns out, taking the master’s degree in management at AMS proved to be the perfect preparation, says Sander Van de Walle: “It helped us in three different ways. First of all, AMS provided me with the inspiration to finetune our concept. Claus and I knew we wanted to do something ‘sustainable’, but we weren’t exactly sure what. Now AMS is all about sustainability. It’s not just part of the curriculum, to AMS sustainability is a way of life and doing business. We went to an Inspiration Night, listened to pitches of sustainable start-ups, got to work on sustainability projects and voila, the idea of Wølven Global was born.”
To AMS, sustainability is a way of life and doing business.
“Wølven Global is about sustainable clothing ánd trendy urban design. You can order a 100% sustainable original sweater at our Wølven Global web shop. After one year, customers can either keep the sweater or return it to us for free. The returned sweaters are sent to WMH. They resell the sweaters in their local second-hand store or to OVAM-certified textile recycling companies. The profit is invested in e.g. education projects to help third world countries. So in our own way, we try to live up to the SDGs at Wølven Global.”
It’s okay to dream big, but you need to get things done too.
“But having a great sustainable business idea is not nearly enough, of course. After all, your business needs to be profitable as well. It’s okay to dream big, but you need to get things done too. That’s where the master’s program came in really handy again. Marketing management e.g., helped us to define our customer groups. And during the financial management classes we learned all about the pitfalls for start-ups, how to get funding and how to draw up an effective business plan. All of this proved to be invaluable to get Wølven Global launched in a proper way.”
You get so much more out of your training if you get to do real life projects.
“Another thing I learned at AMS is to work on a project basis and with project teams. Group work is a big part of the AMS learning approach and I really enjoyed that. You get so much more out of your training if you get to do real life projects yourself and if you can brainstorm and finetune ideas with fellow students. At Wølven Global, we always work with small projects, developing and realizing them step by step. And we are building our own mini ecosystem, working together with other creative people. That way we can bring in new ideas and expertise and stay on top of things. And it’s just so much more fun to do business together.”
It’s been a fantastic journey so far.
“Wølven Global was launched in November 2019, so our adventure has only just started, but it’s been a fantastic journey so far. And we’ve got plenty more ideas, that’s for sure. We have a new collection coming in spring this year, we’re building our online communities and we’re planning a big ‘offline’ community event for this summer. It’s just great being able to build your own business step by step, working together with other creative and entrepreneurial minds and seeing your ideas come true.”