I couldn't say yes quick enough, especially because my dear friend Liz Shepherd was going too. Liz and I met in 1996 when I was a newly-qualified optometrist straight out of university. She worked at the practice where I did my pre-registration year. For the last 13 years, she has worked as a business development manager for STEPPER.
The early October weather was beautifully sunny and mild. On our first evening, Hans Stepper, the founder of the company, hosted a reception and dinner. It is hard to believe that he is almost 83 years-old and still works full-time. It was all very informal which meant we could mix and get to know one another. Hans and his daughter Saskia are warm and inclusive and the family dynamic between them is a joy to behold. The respect and love between them is apparent and their passion for the business shines through.
The following morning we went to STEPPER EYEWEAR offices just outside Stuttgart. Head of Brands and Marketing, Alex Davis gave a fascinating insight into the global appeal of STEPPER and its performance throughout the world. There are exciting times ahead for this wonderful company.
As one might expect, we were able to try on the spectacle frames, something I will never tire of doing. I was particularly excited about the STEPPERS range. This is more fashion-forward than its sister and with Saskia as the face of this range, it cannot fail to be super-stylish. These are frames to turn heads and I’m looking forward to trying some of the pastel sunglasses next spring.
That evening we went to Cannstatter Volkfest, the beer festival. I hadn’t been to anything like it before so didn’t know what to expect. It is held every year on a large site with a fairground and several large beer tents. And by tent, I mean a large wooden hut with a capacity of around 4000! There was live music and beer aplenty. The atmosphere was incredible and the vast majority of those there, myself included, donned traditional costume. Dancing on the tables is expected and although I was among the first to step up, Hans’s 83 year-old wife soon followed! That epitomised the happy, fun-loving, open nature of the Stepper family.
It was a fantastic trip from start to finish and an absolute privilege to be there. Meeting and socialising with the Stepper family is something I will never forget. In this rapidly changing corporate world, it was refreshing to see for myself that this is a true family business. One which works, eats and plays together.