Sky high on the export market
In conversation mit Markus Müller and Michael Werner, CEOs of Fresh Breeze GmbH & Co. KG
Winner of the 2017 Niedersachsen Foreign Trade Award
Fresh Breeze GmbH & Co. KG has made its name with lightweight sport aircraft for one or two people, built in Bissendorf in the Wedemark north of Hannover and sold all over the world. Since 1989, Fresh Breeze has steadily built up sales abroad, and the company's achievements were recognised this year with the Niedersachsen Foreign Trade Award.
Mr Werner, Mr Müller, how did you get into this line of work?
We began almost thirty years ago in a typical backyard garage, with plenty of bright ideas but next to no money, selling sports equipment for the new trends like windsurfing, mountain biking and razor blades. We knew right from the start that we wanted to go much further. Back then, paragliding was the cheapest and the least regulated way, to get up in the air, and because there aren’t any mountains around our way we developed small propeller motors strapped to the pilot, so you could take off from any flat field.
You export around 50% of your output - how does the export trade work?
We’ve built up a worldwide network of importers and dealerships; in each country there’s an importer with a large warehouse, where customers can get advice and try out our products. These importers have sole rights to trade our machines in their area and so they can react independently to local demand. With one-off enquiries from countries where we’re not represented we still offer individual advice, but the main network delivers both economically and ecologically valid services, with bulk orders rather than single deliveries.
Which countries are the main markets? And how do you enter new markets?
In the early days the USA and various European countries were the main focus; today we supply clients on every continent. And the Asian countries are becoming increasingly important. With our ‘Made in Germany’ top quality and customer service we’re opening new markets exponentially – but also through regular participation at international trade fairs and events. Advertising over the internet and in international print media places our products in the public eye – and the success of our pilots at international flying competitions speaks for itself.
How do you select new markets?
Among other factors, it depends on where we’re allowed to supply customers – our ‘manned flying machines' aren’t approved in every country. Along with that, the dealerships have to be compatible with our company: integrity is essential, of course, then the connection with a regulated infrastructure, competence on the market, and membership of a certified flying school. Last but not least, the company ethos has to be right for us.
And what does the export market mean to your business?
Up to three million Euro annual turnover. Twenty jobs depend on it, and four more have been created in the last three years. And it means further growth – in our existing markets and now in China, where we’ve just made some very promising contacts.
Where does the dream of flying go from here?
We’re at the planning stage with both major and more modest projects to take the dream of flying and leisure sports to a new level.
Medium-term, we’re working on a tricycle that can be folded up very compactly without tools. The first prototype is ready and the maiden flight went well; we just need to complete continuous testing under the most demanding conditions and the machine will be ready to sell.
Our long-term project, one we’ve been working on for years now, is a flying car – a road-legal three-wheeler that can also take to the air with a paraglider wing.
And you’re staying in Niedersachsen? If so, why?
Niedersachsen, the Wedemark, is our home – we grew up here, made our dream of flying come true here, and can only benefit from staying here. Both the generous support of the Niedersachsen State and excellent cooperation with the Hannover Region authority have helped us carry on here in Bissendorf.
The location itself, too – being close to the motorway and airport, with a well-developed rail network is an advantage for international customers and suppliers.
For us, it’s important to keep our manufacturing base in Germany – ‘Made in Germany’ quality is our unique selling point. Engineers, test pilots, mechanics, sales and marketing all under one roof – that’s what makes our company fascinating, special, and authentic.