Climbing to Success

Agile entrepreneurship

Founders Markus Matt and Arne Sauer are old hands in their leisure sport, rock climbing and bouldering. On the other hand, they are completely new at the business of running indoor rock climbing facilities. Three years ago, they had the idea of opening a bouldering center in Freiburg, thereby turning their hobby into a job. But before the idea could even get off the ground, two competitors popped up, who were already in the middle of the construction phase for a similar project. Just in the nick of time, it became clear to the founders how important it is to know your market, keep an eye on the competition, and seek professional support. With the help of Steinbeis consultant Peter Becker, this ambitious endeavor would finally become a reality.

Fueled by hard work, expert know-how, and industry knowledge, the planning of a modern bouldering center got underway in a different location. The two founders had previously had their eye on a suitable property in Grenzach-Wyhlen, a community located on the outer edge of southwestern Germany. The new property had also been discovered by the competition, but this time they were determined to beat them off the starting line.

To do this, they needed an extensive financing package, and to overcome this financial hurdle would require bringing various investors on board with a selection of financial instruments: equity capital, private risk capital (from business angels), subordinated capital from the reconstruction loan corporation and startup loans, as well as credit from house banks and guarantee banks. Early support from a private investor known to both founders was very important for both of the young entrepreneurs. To convince all investors that the two founders’ plans were feasible, the first step was to carefully develop the business plan, which was still in its rough draft. In a second step, they had to give close thought to ownership arrangements and contingencies. With many parties involved and lots of discussions going back and forth, this was an arduous process that at times seemed destined for failure, especially considering they had to get the financing in place before someone else swooped in and signed a rental contract on the property they had in mind for the project. And since, at the time, the building wasn’t an indoor climbing facility, the construction company started getting a bit impatient, eager to move ahead with the planning of the interior. This type of project requires very detailed planning and it’s essential to work through each individual point of action – from the preparatory phase to the grand opening. That’s because there are huge upfront costs, even in the preparatory stages, and these cannot be covered by income at this point.

At the start of September this year, the time had finally come: LÖbloc – DIE Boulderhalle (LÖbloc – THE Bouldering Center) opened its doors in Grenzach-Wyhlen. It was designed to unite the rock climbing scene with a wide-reaching audience in order to tap into the potential of climbing as a widely popular sport. Bouldering (rock face climbing), used to be considered a good way to train technique for athletic climbing. In the meantime, it has developed into its own type of rock climbing, a hugely popular trend in athletic climbing. So a modern bouldering center has to appeal to a wide range of customers. It has to be both a sports facility and a place to meet up. The snacks, drinks, accessories, and equipment on offer in the shop are an important secondary source of income for the business owners.

The aim of the founders? To make LÖbloc a meeting place for sports enthusiasts in the tri-border area. With workshops and introductory courses, the founders hope to get more people excited about the trendy sport – especially people who have no previous experience with bouldering.


Peter Becker works at the Steinbeis Consulting Center for Business Startups. The Steinbeis Enterprise focuses on consulting and coaching in the pre-startup phase with brief consulting sessions of eight hours or less and indepth consulting sessions of up to a maximum of ten days. They touch on aspects such as founder personalities, KODE analysis, skills and requirements profiles, and reasons or motives for founding a business.

Peter Becker
Steinbeis Consulting Center for Business Startups (Freiburg office)

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