Lisa-Marie Groh is a recent high school graduate and a tough entrepreneur. She left school in June and immediately began managing her own restaurant: Lotty’s at Zwenkau harbour. Here, visitors can enjoy Italian food, ice cream and cocktails, all with a view of the largest lake in Leipzig’s Neuseenland lake district. Lotty has been Lisa’s nickname since she was a child, hence the choice of name.

While many of her former classmates are heading off on holiday and wondering what to do after that, Lisa has a plan. “I’ve given myself a year to see whether this job really suits me,” she says, and adds: “But I know from my parents what it’s like to be self-employed in the restaurant industry, working long hours with no public holidays.” Lisa’s parents have managed a restaurant called Groh directly opposite Lotty’s for three and a half years. “I’ve always helped out a lot there. Firstly, because it seems a bit silly to just hang around when your parents are working so hard, and secondly, because I always found it easier than school.”

A change of course: from competitive sport to running her own business

Lisa made sure she completed high school and gained her school leaving qualifications first, though: “Giving up isn’t an option for me. When I start something, I finish it.” She sounds surprisingly mature and clearly has a lot of stamina. But that’s hardly surprising, as Lisa-Marie is an athlete and boxed six times a week for five years, competing against men. In fact, she originally wanted to pursue a career in competitive sport. “I love boxing, especially the strategy aspect. You don’t defeat your opponent with strength, but with your mind. It’s a great feeling.” However, a tragic accident in which she seriously damaged her right hand put paid to her plan of becoming a professional sportswoman. It has taken a long time for the 18-year-old to accept that her wrist is no longer strong enough to withstand tough boxing training.

Team performance: tackling challenges together

Lisa-Marie is now putting all her energy into establishing her own business. It goes without saying that the support of her parents and a loyal team are crucial for success. “I know I can always count on my parents. We discuss everything important, but they allow me lots of freedom to make my own decisions.”

Lisa-Marie’s parents have been business owners for many years and enabled her to get started in the industry. However, it’s now up to her to prove herself and make a go of the business. Sometimes she even needs to go a bit further than others. “When you’re the daughter, you need to work twice as hard to show you can do it.” And that’s exactly what she does – working 13 or 14 hours in the restaurant, serving, placing orders, drawing up staff rotas and concocting new ice cream creations.

Lisa-Marie Groh leads a team of four people she knows she can rely on. Managing the team may not always be easy, she says, as they are all older than her, but it works. “It was funny,” she says with a smile, “when a waitress applied for a job and wanted to come for an interview and my parents told her: ‘Your boss is on a school trip today’.” The young woman has since been given a job at Lotty’s, and at the age of 19 is only one year older than Lisa.

And what do her friends say? “They think what I’m doing is great. Many of them are still looking for work and would love to know what they want to do.” Listening to her, the young woman comes across as hands-on and more mature than many of her peers, which is mainly due to the fact that she has clear objectives in mind. “I want Lotty’s to become a meeting place for young people. I want my guests to enjoy coming here, to take time out to eat and try something new. I love coming up with new ice cream creations and cocktails.”

Lisa-Marie attends training courses and seminars to help her progress in the restaurant business. She knows that she needs professional training and a qualification and she is currently considering whether to do an apprenticeship as a chef. “It’s always good to know how things are done so I can really understand what goes on in the kitchen and judge for myself.” Another example that shows how an 18-year-old really can be quite grown up. In a good way.

All photos © Robert Strehler.