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The company founder

New paths and opportunities are always opening up. This conviction, and the knowledge that people have to eat to keep body and soul together, were already in Hilmi Selçuk's mind when he came to Germany. When he got there, he discovered a gap in the market: his compatriots were used to Turkish specialities, and German cooking did not appeal to them. This simple observation started Hilmi Selçuk on an amazing path as an entrepreneur.

However, what makes his career really remarkable is that he did it all twice.

This man had the strength to start from nothing and work his way to the top, twice over. He is a model of energy and courage – in the way that he made a fresh start again and again, and succeeded. But let’s go back to the beginning. Hilmi Selçuk, who had trained as a mechanical engineering technician, came to Germany as a Gastarbeiter, or ‘guest worker’, in October 1961. To realise his dream of having his own workshop in Istanbul, he started working in a shipyard in Hamburg. However, on returning to Turkey he found that the money he had saved was not enough to allow him to build up the business he had dreamed of. So he returned to Germany in 1963, followed two years later by his family.

Hilmi Selcuk Ausweis

Hilmi had noticed that the Turks in Germany had difficulty finding the food they liked and were accustomed to. After several strong (but unsuccessful) attempts to obtain a business licence from the German authorities, he finally succeeded. Using the money he had saved, he first bought a short-haul transport company, in which he worked in the mornings. His afternoons were specifically dedicated to sourcing Turkish food products and selling them on to his compatriots in migrant workers’ hostels. In 1970 he sold the transport company to concentrate on his retail and wholesale food products business, becoming one of the first Turks to operate in the food trade in Germany. He quickly became well-known in the sector in the Frankfurt area.

Prompted by the concentration of Turkish Gastarbeiter settled in Salzgitter, he opened another business there, followed by further wholesale businesses in the wholesale markets in Duisburg and Hamburg.

Because of the size of the companies, by 1972 a lot of commuting between the branch offices was necessary. By 1976 Hilmi Selçuk had expanded his business contacts beyond the borders of Germany, and was even having tinned food produced under his name in Turkey, specifically intended for distribution in Germany. However, he also suffered large financial losses, owing to the sometimes very poor condition of the packaging. On the positive side, he had opened the German market for goods from Turkey for other Turkish business people. He became something of a father figure for many Turks in Germany, supporting other Turkish people starting out in business whenever he could. However, in 1979 he lost control of his companies and as a consequence he had to close them. Hilmi got no support from the German state; on the contrary, the tax office demanded the payment of tax arrears. However, he finally won his case with the help of lawyer Rüdiger Kurz.

After the collapse of his companies, he attempted as far as possible to settle his debts. By that time the market for Turkish food products was very large, so he found it hard to regain his foothold in the sector. At this time Hilmi discovered another gap in the market: pastirma, a cured beef of Turkish origin, was extremely hard to obtain in Germany at the time. He began producing pastirma in Germany using an authentic, traditional recipe. Pastirma is now obtainable in all food markets in Germany and throughout Europe. In establishing his new company, Hilmi gained indispensable help from his family’s knowledge and experience.

Hilmi Selçuk learned from the challenges he encountered how important hard work and honesty are. He would not swap his experiences for anything – they are part of his life’s journey. As a determined businessman, one of his goals is naturally to expand his business, but what is far more important to him is his family.