Lea Lange sits on the terrace of the FluxBau, a place that epitomises Berlin’s diversity. Here, you don’t only enjoy good food, but also take in concerts and readings or simply enjoy the view in a relaxed atmosphere.
Above the Spree, which flows particularly wide at this point, the silhouette of the Alexanderplatz television tower can be seen in the distance against a background of blue sky. The German capital’s distinctive landmark. Driving through the Kreuzberg district in the new A-Class Saloon, it keeps popping into the picture. “Berlin inspires me anew every day,” says Lange.
FluxBau: concerts and readings take place in this event space, which belongs to the Berlin radio station Flux FM.
This start-up embraces 90 employees from all over the world.
The city is the perfect home for the 31-year-old’s company, Juniqe, and not least because the flourishing start-up scene in Berlin attracts talent from all over the world. “Our 90 employees come from 26 countries. You’ll only find this kind of international diversity here.”
Lange started Juniqe in 2014, at the age of 26, with her friends Marc Pohl and Sebastian Hasebrink. The idea for the business grew from a personal need: as a design enthusiast, Lange was constantly on the lookout for beautiful individual pieces for her home.
But the more stringent her standards became, the more unattainable she found the furniture, works of art and design objects she craved. Someone in their mid-20s rarely has a budget of several thousand euros for a painting, a sculpture or a table. Lea Lange and her colleagues developed a strategy and a business model to make art more affordable. “We were so convinced by the idea that we approached investors before putting too much thought into it.” Today, when she recalls the first steps of Juniqe, she has to smile. “At 26, you’re still totally fearless,” she says. Their model was not exactly rounded off by then. But the three founders quickly won champions over with their determination, enthusiasm and persuasive idea.
Just get going – that’s still the founder’s motto today. In the meantime, Juniqe has commissioned a team of curators to search worldwide for up-and-coming and established artists, whom the company offers a platform with their online shop, juniqe.com.
The portfolios of 600 talented creatives range from stylish drawings and photographs to posters. The artists sell their designs through juniqe.com, which the company prints on various products. The artists get a certain share from each item sold in the online shop.
Creative lab: the office of Lea Lange’s company, Juniqe.
A mere five years after it was founded, Juniqe now has customers in 13 European countries with a turnover of tens of millions of euros. Lange and her partners even made it onto the Forbes list of the “30 most successful European entrepreneurs under 30”.
What drives them? “We want to make our customers’ life and world more colourful and beautiful with our products. Life is already serious enough. So we try to get people smiling through humour, irony and a bit of nonchalance.”
We park the A-Class Saloon not far from Juniqe’s company headquarters in Kreuzberg. Lange leads us through the light-flooded open-plan office, full of contagious energy. Employees constantly ask her advice, for a quick approval, and on we go. Lange loves these moments. Sharing knowledge and experience is her most dearly held principle, not only because it is good for Juniqe, but also because she wants to encourage others to realise their potential. “I am a boss on an equal footing and quite good at showing others where their strengths lie,” she says. “I believe that social intelligence is one of the most important skills an executive needs to have.”
Lange is inspired by eye-catching design – and the A-Class.
View of the Oberbaumbrücke bridge connecting Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg.
On the way to lunch, we take a short detour in the A-Class over the nearby iconic Oberbaumbrücke bridge, which connects the Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg districts. Lange looks thoughtfully out of the window at the Spree and the panoramic view. “I’ve been living in Berlin for eight years now, and every time I look at it, it takes my breath away,” she says. “I was born in the port city of Hamburg and I love water. Perhaps the river and the canals are the reason I have found peace here.”
Arriving at Salumeria Lamuri, it immediately becomes clear that Lange chose the place for a reason. The delicatessen makes a distinct impression with its tasteful murals and original Art Nouveau tiles. “It’s like taking a little trip to Italy during your lunch break,” she enthuses over salad, burrata and pasta with truffles.
A break with style: Lange in front of the Italian delicatessen Salumeria Lamuri.
Museum Island: the founder gets into the new A-Class Saloon.
As far as Lange is concerned, enjoyment is also a question of which senses get stimulated. “Attractive design and aesthetics in everyday life are important to me. I don’t overdo it, but in my flat you can definitely see that someone has put some thought into it and invested their time.” From the choice of wall paint to the accessories and vintage furniture, Lange, like many of her customers, draws her inspiration from social media platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest. “My taste involves a great love for detail,” she says. “Even if I’m buying a salt shaker, I’ll always choose a design that attracts attention and looks interesting.”
As an art lover, she also gets inspired by strolling through museums and exhibitions, she says as she glides the A-Class into a parking space in front of the Berlinische Galerie. The museum exhibits internationally renowned artists who have a connection to the city. “I’m a big fan of Berlin’s many museums. I like to go to the Gropius Bau and the Hamburger Bahnhof, and on Saturdays I often stroll through the many small galleries.” Real life is sometimes a better source of inspiration than the internet.
We stroll from Linienstrasse to Auguststrasse and on to the Mitte district, towards historic Berlin, across Museum Island and reach the square Bebelplatz. Come dinnertime, though, we steer the A-Class back to Kreuzberg. There is an immense variety of restaurants, but Lange does not stress over her selection. “I find it breathtaking that Berlin exudes a different flair in every neighbourhood,” she says. “On days like these, I realise once again how much I love this crazy, multi-faceted city.”