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Biel entrepreneur aims at businesswoman title

The Swiss Business Woman Award encourages women to push for more high profile positions in business, according to Irene Hiltbrunner Keystone Archive

The bi-annual Swiss Business Woman award takes place on Tuesday, and in the third and final part of a series on the nominees, swissinfo profiles the founder and chief executive of Dynamic Business Services, Irene Hiltbrunner.

This content was published on June 11, 2001 - 13:13

Founded in 1983, Dynamic Business Services offers phone, reception, translation and secretarial services to clients, who rent office space at any of its three business centres in Switzerland. Two are located in Biel, and one in Bern. Hiltbrunner also has a Spanish subsidiary in Barcelona, which she bought in 1989.

She came up with the idea of opening Dynamic Business Services while working as an estate agent. She had just come through a messy divorce and was struggling to make ends meet.

"It was a hard period," she remembers. "Morally I was at zero, and I had no money as I still had to finance my divorce."

Nevertheless, Hiltbrunner decided to open an estate agency, but soon abandoned the idea of being a run-of-the-mill estate agent. After obtaining a bank loan she bought her first building at number 19 rue Neuve in Biel, which was to become her first of three business centres.

"When I started doing business as a real estate broker I discovered immediately that the cost for offices and staff were too high for me. So I took the idea of the business centres in the United States and adapted it to the Swiss market," said Hiltbrunner.

Hiltbrunner's business has grown from strength to strength over the past two decades. For between SFr900 and SFr1,200 a month, companies - particularly start-ups - can rent a serviced office, with all the amenities available to bigger businesses with their own premises.

Hiltbrunner believes she is an example to other women who want to change their lives. Her slogan is "All your dreams are possible", and she also believes that Switzerland offers women the opportunities they need to get ahead.

"I think that Switzerland offers, as do many other western countries, many opportunities for women who want to be successful," explained Hiltbrunner. "All the competitors in the [Business Woman award] competition are successful and they are all examples for other women."

Looking back over her career it seems the corporate ladder was not an option for Hiltbrunner, whose business now employs some 20 staff. "As an individualist and a very risk orientated person, I found that setting up my own business was the easiest way to achieve the goals I had set myself."

Outside work, Hiltbrunner studies Zen meditation techniques, organises charity concerts, and enjoys driving what she calls "beautiful fast cars".

Ask her a simple question, such as "How much does your business make?" And she says: "Turnover is not relevant at all because the value of my business is to be satisfied with what I am doing and especially how useful I am to my society and my environment."

The Swiss Business Woman award is to be announced on June 12 at a gala dinner in Zurich. The award, run by champagne makers, Veuve Clicquot, has been going since 1972 and is held in some 20 countries.

The other finalists on the Swiss shortlist are Ricarda Berg, managing director of M+W Zander in Zurich, and Basel-based GetWellness co-founder, Barbara Staehelin, who has been nominated along with her business partner, Catharina Maulbecke.

by Tom O'Brien

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