Return"It’s gone from 'It drags the neighborhood down' to 'It improves the quality of life’" Interview with Dennis from MTN Germany
MTN Germany is one of several Montana Colors subsidiaries spread around the globe, which also includes operations in the USA, Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Australia. Based in the Northern German city of Hannover, the outpost serves the whole of Germany as well as many other countries in Europe.
For the latest interview in the MTN Dealers series, we connected with MTN Germany Managing Director Dennis Manzke to talk about his early contact with graffiti, making moves with Montana Colors and next month’s Hola Utopia! event in Hannover.
Hi! Can you introduce yourself?
Sure, it’s a pleasure. My name is Dennis, I’m the managing director of Montana Colors’ German subsidiary. I was born and raised in Hannover, Germany. I got infected with the graffiti virus at a young age in the late 1980’s, like so many others of my generation, by watching movies like Style Wars and Wild Style on television. The combination of having an image as some kind of an outcast, outlaw – not for the sake of doing bad, but with the purpose of spreading my name in an artistic way all over the city – was extremely appealing to me.
When remembering that time, I can still smell the paint of my first markers, which used to be Eddings at that time, and the terrible chemical smell of the cans we managed to get our hands on back then. Those odors will stick in my mind forever! The fire was lit! Good times.
Who currently makes up your team at MTN Germany?
Our crew is currently nine members strong. In the back office we have Julia, who manages the office, and Marc. Both of them do a great job of handling the day-to-day business, solving problems and offering excellent service to our customers. In the warehouse, Wester and Mario work on orders, accepting deliveries, handing out pallets and boxes to the transport companies.
In the field we have our sales representatives, Timo and Lennart. Both of them have to cover huge areas, which demands a high level of organization. Sergey takes care of our social media and the online shop. Our head of culture, Artie, manages cultural events.
Last but not least, I need to mention Teddy, our warehouse dog. He’s such a beautiful soul, a good boy indeed!
Can you tell us the story behind the German subsidiary of Montana Colors?
MTN Germany started back in 2002. At that time Jordi was looking for new business partners in Germany to distribute his products. The connection was made via the "Battle of the Year" organization, whose headquarters is located in Hannover as well. Next year we are celebrating our 20th anniversary – man, time flies.
The last year-and-a-half has not been easy for anyone, but a lot have people have acquired new skills and adapted to different needs in that time. Can you explain what you’ve learnt, and steps you’ve taken to stay competitive?
During the last year-and-a-half, the need to have a strong bond with our customers has become more evident than ever before. Breaking habits created during "normal" times shows the need to be flexible, to quickly adapt to new situations that can appear overnight. But, at he same time, never lose focus on your targets, stick to your plans, don’t let uncertainty paralyze you.
Germany is known for having a dedicated and diverse graffiti scene, at the forefront of the world scene in many aspects. Do you think your end customers have higher standards when it comes to their paint and artistic materials?
Good question. Well, I think our customers are used to working with high level products, as they have been available for quite a number of years now, but I don’t think that’s different from other countries. Graffiti is everywhere, worldwide, so are stores to buy the paint from. Physical and online.
A whole generation of writers is used to planning their color schemes from ranges of 200+ vivid colors that cover well, something that would have sounded utopian in the early 90’s. Jordi’s vision to make a vast range of high-class spray paint accessible to nearly everyone at a reasonable price has become a reality.
There is also space for plenty of famous murals in Germany, from the historical pieces on the Berlin wall to modern contributions by Flying Fortress, Stereoheat, Kef and Nasca. Do you think local councils are particularly receptive to this type of intervention?
Yes, local councils are getting more receptive. Street art has undergone a change in the public's perception – it’s gone from "It drags the neighborhood down" to "It improves the quality of life" in many cases. But still, there are a lot of people that need to be convinced, and a lot of walls that need to see some paint!
In Hannover last year, Hola Utopia! took place – a mural festival that promotes progressive values in modern cities. The artists for this years’ edition have recently been announced, so you must be excited about the second edition in your hometown. Is there anything you’re particularly looking forward to?
I’m really looking forward for that event as a whole, we’ll have a lot of great artists in town, painting for five days, it’s going to be awesome. The vibe at last year’s first instalment was fantastic, despite having COVID-19 playing the role of the evil antagonist. All the people involved in the planning are doing a great job to make it even better this year.
Can you share an especially memorable day with us from your experience working at MTN Germany?
One memorable day was my first visit to the factory in Barcelona. I’d been working with MTN Germany for one year at that time in 2013, which was nice, but visiting the factory, meeting the MTN family and seeing how much heart and passion there is in this company opened my eyes. Today, eight years later, the cooperation with our Barcelona family is stronger than ever, and I’m glad to be part of the global MTN family.
How about a tough day that you were glad to get to the end of? What did you learn?
Tough days happen, it’s a part of working and trying to achieve something. I learned two things: 1) patience is a virtue to cultivate, 2) the most important thing is a crew to rely on, willing to go the extra mile when needed. It’s all about teamwork.
What was the last MTN product you used? Can you tell us what you did with it?
The last product I used? That's easy: MTN PRO Gotelé, to fix a part of some textured wallpaper that the dog had chewed up :D
Worked out perfectly, highly recommended!
ShareJuly 29, 2021