Background - 26.03.2021 - 00:00 

Climbing the Highest Mountains and Skiing to the South Pole: A Lesson for Entrepreneurs

START Summit invited Anja Karen Blacha, a German mountaineer, to the stage. She holds a number of climbing records including becoming in 2017 the youngest German woman to successfully climb Mount Everest and the youngest German overall to climb all seven major mountain summits.
Source: HSG Newsroom

26 March 2021. Setting goals, moving forward on a plan, convincing stakeholders to believe in you are steps that come to mind when entrepreneurs start out on their own, but they are also the same steps that Anja Blacha used to plan her journey in 2020, where she set the record for the longest solo, unsupported, and unassisted polar expedition by any woman in history, having skied for almost 1,400 km from Berkner Island to the South Pole.

Similarities between climbing and entrepreneurship

With these experiences behind her, Blacha was asked if there were parallels between her expedition and entrepreneurship. She talked about the different stages that she went through planning her trek. The first stage of course is setting the goal. The next steps had to do with planning and preparation which involved making thousands of small but important decisions. Something simple like deciding what ski poles to take had consequences. Aluminum or carbon ski poles? One set are heavier, but they are sturdier. She pointed out that even though many are small, you can't show up at the South Pole and wing it. You have to be prepared.

Next, Blacha talked about convincing stakholders to support her goals, pitching to funders and convincing people that she could make her vision a reality. She noted as well that the actual expedition was the smallest part of the entire project.

What makes all these achievements more impressive is that they all came while she was working full-time and using her Bachelor's degree in Business Administration from University of Mannheim and her a Master's degree in Philosophy from Birkbeck, University of London.

Passion is contagious

One pleasant surprise for her was that once her employer saw her passion for mountaineering, they started to support and encourage her even if it had nothing to do with their business and she became more diligent with her time.

A key lesson for entrepreneurs in her view is taking the first step - this is the most difficult. She believes having the courage to take the first step, afterwards everything will fall into place. The skills, the resources will come later. When setting new goals, she takes an honest look at her own skill set and her own experiences in helping her decide on making new goals. By doing this you don’t have to start from scratch. You can start from scratch, but you don’t always have to.

Photo: Adobe Stock