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Judith Huppertz and Christoph Verstraeten in their violin making workshop, working on violins.

Interview with Judith Huppertz, Vitula

Skilled violin makers Judith Huppertz and Christoph Verstraeten set up their own violin construction workshop in the centre of Aachen in November 2015. Then aged 28 and 29, they were the youngest violin makers to run their own workshop.

They restore valuable stringed instruments, many of which are hundreds of years old, and regularly construct new stringed instruments, taking their inspiration from the old instruments that they hold in their hands each day. They also undertake all forms of conventional repair and maintenance work on violins, violas, cellos and double basses.

How did you come to set up your own workshop together?

Judith Huppertz: I always knew I wanted to be self-employed, even before I started my training to become a violin maker. But our actual decision was made, relatively speaking, on the spur of the moment. At that time, Christoph and I were both working for other people, but somehow dissatisfied with our situation. One afternoon, early in 2015, we sat down together and thought about what we could do to change things. Because we both knew that we were ready to become self-employed, we made the decision there and then to do it as quickly as possible.

Judith Huppertz works on an element of a violin.

What did you do after making that decision?

Huppertz: First of all, we told our family and friends. They were all really pleased and supported us in our project. We then started to look for premises straight away with my parents. In fact, we found one that was suitable, where we could live and work.

Were there also people who were not so positive about your project?

Huppertz: Of course, there were also people who had doubts about our idea to start up a business. Most of them considered that we did not have enough experience to manage our own violin workshop. However, because we felt ready for it, their doubts actually motivated us-we wanted to show them that we could do it.

We then went to a seminar, where we met the business adviser from the Aachen Chamber of Trade. He supported us in drawing up a business plan and we are still in contact with him now.

- Judith Huppertz

How did you come across the STARTERC ENTER NRW and how did it help you?

Huppertz: I enquired online about funding opportunities and that is how I heard about the business start-up seminars run by the Aachen Chamber of Trade. We then went to a seminar, where we met the business adviser from the Aachen Chamber of Trade. He supported others in drawing up our business plan and we are still in contact with him now. However, the STARTERCENTER NRW helped us with other things, such as providing advice when it came to drawing up our agreements.

What do you think it takes to be successful if you want to start your own business?

Huppertz: The most important thing is to be passionate about whatever it is you want to do. Because you spend a lot of time doing it, and there are also times when things don’t go quite so well. At times like that, you need staying power to get you through those phases. You also need to be patient and take one step at a time. Ultimately, I think an idea is not enough-to be really successful, you also need a plan.

Looking ahead

Judith Huppertz looks down, work on a violin.

Judith Huppertz and Christoph Verstraeten are currently both running their violin construction workshop, which has now grown to become a master craftsman’s workshop. They are planning to expand their business and recruit staff in future.

All images © MWIDE NRW/Christopher Koch