Re:Wien Startup Success Story: Einzelstück

Einzelstück, founded by Astrid Aschenbrenner, gives textiles a second life by hand-embroidering. Oekobusiness Wien talked with this social enterprise and explored its impact on sustainability, and the vision that drives Astrid.

What is Einzelstück? What does the company stand for?

Einzelstück offers second-hand fashion hand-embroidered. Through my volunteer work in various clothing chambers in Vienna, I realized that we have a huge problem with textile waste and that NGOs can hardly manage the amount of textiles due to a lack of resources. That’s why a few years ago, I had the idea to buy this clothing from NGOs, have it hand-embroidered, and thus bring it back into circulation. Einzelstück stands for education and awareness around the topic of textile waste. It is important to us to create awareness among our customers to use clothing items as long as possible and not to dispose of them because of a small stain or hole. 

Durability is not our only goal. The purchase of an Einzelstück also includes the possibility to support social projects, such as the House of Hope, ZeFaBe, or ViniziWerke, with a donation to the NGOs. The heart of our company, however, is our embroiderers – young women, pensioners, or people at risk of exclusion, with us they take the opportunity to generate additional income.

Why did you start a social startup? What role do the embroiderers and seamstresses play?

It just made sense. I started a test call to see if something would come back, and it was a success. We now have a diverse team of embroiderers, young and older, with different nationalities. The embroiderers play a crucial role, as I can’t embroider and without them, my idea would have remained just in my head. They all have different stories and handwriting. Some of them do it for pleasure, others to improve their income. We adapt to each story and are happy to meet so many great women.

What was your biggest learning in founding an ecological startup?

 


To develop an understanding of why many corporations choose against the sustainable path. It is more expensive and more complex. But it is feasible, and it is certainly the only right way. My biggest learning was recognizing the importance of creating business, financial, and time plans. I have many ideas, and the more well-known my company became, the more ideas came to me from outsiders: “Have you already tried X? Have you thought about doing Y? If you offer Z, then…!” I learned to take all ideas seriously, write them down, and insert them into the timeline when there’s time. It’s important that the core product runs reliably. Only when I can guarantee that, can I think about dealing with other things, especially when I work alone. If I spread myself too thin from the beginning, I can’t reliably deliver anywhere and thus sabotage my own company. So my tip: Everything on its own time.

What do you wish for the future (in terms of sustainability, clothing, your startup, etc.)?

Well, if I’m allowed to think big here, and I like to do that, then I would wish for climate justice and social justice. I would like to see effective laws for our environment and wish that there are no more human rights violations along our supply chains. I would also like us to shift the focus in the climate debate away from the individual and towards the actual problem causes. While we must do our best at the startup level and continue to work for a green and sustainable future, this only leads to change if the companies that harm people and the planet without restraint are held accountable and change their behavior.

What still needs to be done to make Vienna a green and sustainable city?

I believe this is a bottomless pit. So for now, I’m just focusing on three arbitrary things, because the possibilities are endless. A good start would be to green all the stops in Vienna, to promote facade greening, and to work on roof gardens. The city heats up incredibly in the summer, biodiversity has been suffering for years, and these two problems could be massively contained by this. Furthermore, we could work on reducing food waste in all public food distributions, whether at schools, universities, or offices, and offer more plant-based meals. Examples like Ghent in Belgium, show what changes this leads to. And foremost, Austria has been without a climate protection law for over 900 days. In times of this crisis, not even having an official roadmap to protect the climate is catastrophic.

How did the Re:Wien program from OekoBusiness Wien and Impact Hub Vienna specifically contribute to developing your business idea?

By finally getting my idea out of my own four walls, it was able to develop much faster. I received many impulses and ideas, some of which I will implement, others not. But this movement has set a lot in motion and opened up new perspectives. I was able to meet like-minded people and exchange ideas.