Cultural Entrepreneurship: Julian D. Winter - Family business with cat

2021-03-29 The 23-year-old is studying cultural studies and for his bachelor's thesis he investigated the founding of a co-working space using ethnographic methods. Now the student is publishing his results in a book.

Julian Winter in a white shirt. ©© Wertvoll Fotografie, Petra Reger
Julian D. Winter researched a co-working space with ethnographic methods for his Bachelor's thesis: "I became a member to capture the dynamics and understand the motivation of the people."

When Julian D Winter wrote his bachelor thesis, this was part of his data collection for what would become a book chapter. For four weeks he worked in a newly founded co-working space. The student wanted to know what influences the development of this small family business. A mother and her daughter had converted a former carpentry workshop into workspaces. Julian D. Winter used ethnographic methods of which the origins lie in anthropology. The idea of ethnography is that researchers live with social groups to learn about their way of life. Therefore, Julian Winter became part of the co-working space. "I became a member to capture the dynamics and understand the motivation of the people", he says. Hence, he himself became part of the object of his research. During these four weeks he recorded his observations, sensations and conversations. He also conducted scientific interviews, recorded temporal rhythms and arranged his impressions in literature. "For me, participant observation is an exciting method. I enjoy working with people and I am interested in their motives. But the theoretical background is just as exciting for me. In social science, one's own feelings have to be contextualized.“

Julian Winter combined theory, methodology and data analysis so well in his bachelor thesis that his supervisor Boukje Cnossen, professor of business administration, especially cultural entrepreneurship, suggested that he publish the work. "She was very supportive in preparing it for publication", says Julian D. Winter. Now his results will appear as a chapter in the Research Handbook on Entrepreneurship as Practice. In his chapter, the student and his supervisor discuss the dichotomy between family dynamics and business aims. On the one hand, family-owned businesses have great advantages, because the founders often look beyond mere business goals and can even act altruistically. On the other hand, it is more difficult for families to take on a professional role due to their personal ties. 

Julian Winter’s research showed that not only people are responsible for success. In the newly founded co-working space the cat of the founders played an integrating role. The two women could not leave the animal at home alone and took it with them into the office. The people got into conversation with each other through the cat and quickly the animal developed into a company mascot. 
Julian Winter was also able to share his observations and results with the founders. It was not the first time that the bachelor candidate used ethnographic methods. He had already examined the roles of volunteers in a church service. Julian Winter himself is involved in a church congregation in Hamburg, where he makes music and plays biblically inspired hip-hop. "I was interested in the motivation of the volunteers and how the group experience is created during the service. Professor Cnossen gave me good and helpful feedback on my work", says Julian Winter. The 23-year-old has already founded a music network and sees himself professionally in the realm of cultural organisations. "The research has changed my way of thinking and broadened my perspective.“