One of Luxembourg’s most formidable business forces, Christianne Wickler’s entrepreneurial career began when she bought a local petrol station, close to the Belgian border, aged just 22 years.
Today that petrol station has grown into the well-known, independent retail space – the Pall Center, a name which also adorns premises across Luxembourg including the City, Steinsel and Strassen.
“Right from our beginnings in 1982, our main focus has always been on the service level towards our customers,” says Ms Wickler.
This year, the Pall Center celebrates its 35th anniversary with the opening of Station 44, a new 1000m² business centre.
“Our greatest achievement to date is to build a solid base of trusting loyal customers. We have a strong commitment to Luxembourg, our local community and our neighbours across the border,” she explains.
Station 44 is a hub for start-ups and young entrepreneurs
Station 44 will be a hub for start-up companies, to support the curious and entrepreneurial spirit that has been the driving force behind Christianne Wickler. The organisation is also planning to open space with adapted rents for young creative entrepreneurs in Steinsel, above its grocery shop.
“We want to promote initiative and creativity among young entrepreneurs, and to offer affordable space to work and exchange ideas. It’s based on the belief that society relies and thrives by involving 100% of its potential – both men and women equally, eliminating discrimination and offering the choice to venture to everybody,” she says.
Commitment to the environment, locavorism and the Beki
A firm believer in environmentally friendly retail, The Pall Center has more than 2,500m² of solar panels installed on the roof in Oberpallen, and buildings are cooled by greenhouse gas-free units. The centre also collects its own honey and cultivates vegetables with an “Aquaphonie” system.
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Actively promoting “locavorism” (the consumption of locally produced goods), Ms Wickler sees this as an integral part of her environmental efforts, as well as an opportunity to support Luxembourgish products and entrepreneurs.
She is also an avid supporter of the Beki local exchange micro-currency, since its introduction in 2013. The Pall Center helps with the active circulation of the Beki and in doing so supports local producers and artisans.
However Ms Wickler recognises the importance of international trends: “Luxembourg is a melting pot of different cultures, and it is not foreign to us to cherish the local and international. Diversity and integration come together through mixing the products we offer.”
Inspired by women but not gender-biased
The historical figures she most relates to include pop diva Madonna, fashion aficionado Coco Chanel, and Simone Veil, a French lawyer and politician who served as the European Parliament’s first president. She admits that public service like entrepreneurship takes 100% dedication, which is why she chose not to continue her political career. “I came to realise that I had to choose, so the decision was evident to me.”
A member of Equilibre – a think tank to promote work/life balance in Luxembourg for both genders, she admits that work life balance is a somewhat outdated concept. “It implies that your work and your life are two distinct and mutually exclusive concepts,” she argues.
Entrepreneurs should “keep trying”
One thing is certain, entrepreneurship flows through Christianne’s veins. Her father is the founder of the civil engineering company Wickler brothers, now managed by her brother, and her sister created Asport stores.
“I grew up in a family for which constant contact to a multitude of different people was a daily routine and exposure to multi-culturalism was a reality not an abstract catch phrase,” she says.
She has four children who support or expand the family business in one way or another, as part of a new generation of young and creative entrepreneurs that she sees as important to the future success of the home-grown economy in Luxembourg.
Her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to keep trying even if you fall down: “My parents taught me that failure and the resulting disappointment are an integral part of life and that after you fall down, you get back up, dust yourself off, take a deep breath and keep trying.”