Where were you born?
I was born in Switzerland. My parents were contractors and I have been allowed to work on my dad’s construction site ever since I was a little kid. He was the most special person for me. An important fact is that we were not Christians. My parents were reformed, because they wanted to get married and that was not allowed in our church. They decided to marry, stepping out of the church. This was to me an important detail of my childhood, because we grew up without a religious background. As I was saying, I keep my dad in a special place in my heart: he always showed us how to fix something, weld something, calculate something, and so we had a lot ahead of the other kids. We were always able to fix everything in the village. So that was a bit of my education. We were quite different from all the others. I remember not having a TV, and children laughing at us, for being the only family not owing a TV.
What do you remember from your childhood?
My childhood was simply special, different. We had a lot of arguing, we were 3 brothers, everyone always wanted to be the best. We could not share a cake, it was difficult to divide it by 3. We have not learned to give the other one the better. Everyone always wanted to have the better. So we had a lot of quarrels and that was not nice. Otherwise I think we would still be together today and could have done something great. Everyone has their own way – but one day I said to my brother that from today I will never argue with you again.
You married and then you came to Romania, how was that?
Yeah, first I did my apprenticeship after school I went to America half a year, half of it from New York to San Fransicso on a small cutter. I came home and I thought I was the best! I thought Switzerland is the best and the others do not know anything. However, I became sick of Switzerland and I decided I didn’t want to live there anymore. I wanted to go to another place, so I studied the map of the world and found a country that is similar to the topography, also has summer and winter and where I thought I could be a farmer. Then I emigrated. I ended my military service early. I have written an application that although I was small, may be of age, so that I can emigrate. Then I emigrated in Argentina. But then it did not take much time for me to notice: “Maybe many Swiss are not so funny, maybe I’m the weird one”. I prefer to take myself by the nose and see what’s wrong with me, so there I was, back to Switzerland. Then I started looking for the meaning of life a bit and yes, then I had to change myself for the first time.
What brought you to Romania?
I helped a lot in a church and just changed myself and the pastor said one day: “Can you go to Romania? We want to build a small chocolate factory. And for me as a farmer, it was an honor for someone to have such confidence in me, and I said: “Yes, I’d like to go.” And so, one year after we got married, we went there and just looked for a field where we could build a factory. Of course we had to start small, that was one – we did not have much money. We were three friends, a businessman a pastor and I.
How did the pastor come up with the idea of building a chocolate factory?
The pastor was actually a Romanian, a Swabian from the building land. And he said he would like to help the country. On one hand with the preaching and on the other hand also practically. And we were all friends, the businessman, the pastor and I.
And the businessman said: “Would you like an old machine that we no longer need to fill chocolate? Let’s do a little chocolate factory. “And so they came up with the idea to make chocolate and looked for someone to join in, because they could not leave Switzerland, forever.”
What motivated you to come to Romania and build a chocolate factory? In a country that may not be the destination of many in developed countries?
We did not really look for something or some place to do business. For we have learned in the Church, one should seek good in others first. A few times we went on a mission trip from the pastor to Romania. And I have always seen, when we brought relief supplies, clothes, food, and such, was always such a difficult situation. People really got the stuff out of our car and argued about it. You could not tell them anything. They were just so taken with these gifts. And the next time we went to the same village, nothing has changed, for they did not feel better, because of what we gave them. I almost felt that they were getting worse and worse because they did not handle and produce anything themselves. And then I thought it would be good if we had another solution to help people. And as the pastor saw, thought, let’s do something practical. Because often people said: “You preach to us how we should live, we do not even have enough to eat! Give us something to work on.” Then the pastor said: “Yes, it is not difficult to work, but to change lives is difficult. We can give you some work. “Then we started this little factory. At that point we had 30 – 100 – 300 employees. Yes, that’s not the problem. But we have also seen, the better financially they are, the more the spiritual life goes down, you just do not look for God so much, if you have everything. ”
How do you take your decisions?
Just asking God, what should I do now. Maybe you did not always make a mistake, but you often did. Us, humans, we make a lot of mistakes. When you choose wrong, look inside yourself! When you choose right share it with others. That helped me a lot too. It’s also helped me to stay small and humble, to ever teach myself.
What motivates you to go further, not just giving in, not just saying “I have too many problems”?
I’ve always seen there was a solution to every problem, there’s never been one that was too much. You do not have to see everything, the whole mountain. You do one thing, the other and try to solve it. I never planned out my entire life, but I had my spirituality and that, that relationship to a higher power makes you get over life’s challenges.
I like to do a lot of new things. When I see something in a new business that we have started over, I see how we could improve. It’s nice, if you bring a bit of experience from the different areas, then you know you could use it that way. Then you come up with ideas that no one has ever done. It does not always work, but I like to try. I’ve always liked to hire someone who’s just there for a new technique or innovation – and always trying, every day. And so you can see a lot of interesting things, try and some things are successful.
You know, maybe, important too, I used to worry about the problems in the past. But as I have fought this struggle in my life, I have said, if I continue like this, I will soon be a dead man. This is a fight that goes on for life and death and when you start the fight, after that it brings on all the other things that come in one’s life, which are not so bad. It is much worse than the life and death struggle.
People sometimes kick their shoes, they say something bad about you, but it’s not as bad as the first fight. So I learned we are in a fight here. And if we do not fight and fight properly, then we will never be well. You can be successful everywhere, whether it is in business or in the family. What is very important to me, if it is not true success in the family, then you have no strength afterwards. If you make order at home, then you can be good everywhere.
What do you think makes you different from others who are rural and poor, for example? Do you have more money; do you have more wisdom?
There are many people who say yes, you have it easy. You have a lot of money, you can invest. We cannot do all that, that’s why we’re not feeling well. And I love to tell them: “Come on, I’ll start from scratch again. Take everything away from me, just leave my shoes here and my shirt. I’ll go to the next village without anything. Next year, I will have something again. Because I learned to work, to think with my hands.
So you could start from scratch to zero from today and have the same again, like now? All around the world?
I could start from scratch. Whether it is the same as now, I do not know. But we would also be fine somewhere. We know that we would not lack anything.