Vollpension – The Best Cake is Grandma’s Cake

In the two Vollpension-Cafés in Vienna, young and old come together. In these “generation-cafés” the cakes and sweets are prepared by retired seniors working as cooks and hosts. The cafés are a space for guests to feel welcome, drink coffee, eat grandma’s cake and get into a conversation with the seniors working there. This ideally makes a diverse group of people – young and old, tourists and Viennese – get in touch heart to heart, countering the growing gap between young and old.

As Hannah Lux, managing director of Vollpension states, the interest to work in the cafés has been almost overwhelming: “When we published a job offer for seniors on Facebook we received 120 applications in the first 8 hours.” This big interest of – mostly female – applicants shows, that generation-cafés like the Vollpension are needed. At the same time, these applications and the stories behind them tell a story of old-age poverty, loneliness and point also to a gender aspect – as many women who didn’t have a job in favor of raising the kids now have to live off a tiny pension. ” These challenges have to be tackled on a broader scale. Politics, civil society and entrepreneurs have to come up with a solution together.” – states Hannah.

The idea for the Vollpension arose in 2012, and co-founders Moritz Piffl and Mike Lanner immediately tried it out as a temporary pop up project in the same year. Then, in 2014 the Vollpension toured as a mobile café through Austria with “Wien Tourismus”. This is where the team decided to go for starting the business together. The first café opened in 2015. Currently the Vollpension operates two cafés in Vienna, with a total staff of 80 – many of them seniors who only work part time. The business doesn’t receive any special sponsorship, is highly popular in Vienna and is financially sustainable.

What does Hannah have to say about the challenges for entrepreneurs in Austria?: “Especially as a young woman, becoming an entrepreneur is still for some reasons quite an unusual path in life. Very often you encounter somebody questioning your choices or doubting you. Glass ceilings still do exist and it can be quite draining to constantly be questioned in your choices and decisions. What has supported me a lot was to be part of a community of people who also believe in their own ideas and doers. The network of Impact Hub in Vienna was here a very important place for me.“

For Hannah, the most important lesson she learnt as an entrepreneur was how important self development is. “To build up a business doesn’t only require a sound business model and the financial and legal frame. It’s very much about working on your own topics, challenging yourself and reflecting your own patterns. For real innovation you will challenge established systems and encounter resistance and barriers. To overcome them, you have to know yourself and be courageous.” – adds Hannah.

What Hannah would change in Austria to inspire more youth to start a business?

“I would make school a place where failure is totally acceptable and normal. The way it currently is, students are punished for making mistakes, and therefore tend to be scared to get out of their comfort zone, which I believe can harm creativity and in the end innovation. It would be great if kids would learn from an early age that failure and the learning you draw out of it are a normal part of everyday life and nothing bad.” – concludes Hannah.

Visit Vollpension official website, and check their Facebook page, for more information.

Photo credits: Mark Glassner

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