The first steps
Spring 1958 in the small town of Morsbach in the Upper Mountains: Young Walter, second child of Berta and Peter Solbach, has no money but a vision. Just a few months earlier, the 24-year-old had passed his master's examination in blacksmithing. He is already familiar with the industrial world from Rheinelektra in Mühlheim, the Müngersdorf construction locksmith's shop, the German Federal Railway and the Josef Hermann metal construction company in Steeg.
Walter wants to start a family with his wife Maria, née Hermann, and build up his own business. For 680 marks he acquires his first own equipment from his former employer: a two-piece forge and an anvil.
Work was there,
but also no money!
- Walter Solbach
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The family business: The first steps
These are simple circumstances in which the "miracle of founding a company" takes shape: The first address is the old chicken coop behind the parents' home, which is just 25 square meters in size. Walter and Maria Solbach are people of faith, and their Christian image of humanity and their trust in God will not leave them, especially as entrepreneurs - nor will their pragmatism and their Bergisch sense of humor.
Together, the young couple sets to work. Maria doesn't take up the blacksmith's hammer herself, but she lends a hand wherever she can. She takes care of the children at the same time. The company's first customers were the farmers in the area: Walter Solbach repaired their agricultural machinery and shod horses and oxen.
1958 - traditional blacksmith's craft was the basis
The economic miracle: Walter Solbach seizes the opportunities
At this time, Ludwig Erhard, the Federal Minister of Economics, also had visions: Just one year before Walter Solbach's courageous step into self-employment, his book "Prosperity for All" was published. Poverty still reigns in Germany. Walter Solbach's customers also often lack money for basic necessities a few years after the war.
But that is soon to change. Germany experiences its legendary economic miracle. The young company will continue to grow with the general economic upturn. Already after half a year the first cultivation is necessary for the shoeing of the animals. At the same time, a kind of hardware store for agricultural equipment is created.
Solbach manufactures railings, windows, doors and the steel structure for the Morsbach school. In addition, the young company helps contract work for industry in the region.
From small beginnings, WSM is picking up speed with new developments.
The first idea for success: Notice boards
Through these contract manufacturing orders, Walter Solbach quickly recognizes the advantages of series production for his craft business. First, he handles larger quantities of pallets on which he stores jars. Then, at the end of the sixties, the company founder had a brilliant idea. He wants to produce Notice boards in large quantities and secures a property right for this purpose: A top hinge holds the door, which can thus be opened and closed easily. The modern, weatherproof Notice board, made in Morsbach, replaces wood with aluminum. It is based on a DIN grid for the notices and has rubber grooved boards, or alternatively a metal backboard with magnets adhering to it.
Of course, the new Notice boards have to be sold. The Solbach couple therefore acts like a professional advertising agency on their own behalf, designing their own brochures, buying addresses from church congregations and local governments. In the evenings at the dining table at home, Maria sorts the mailings according to postal codes; this makes postage cheaper. 25,000 parishes alone will be contacted. Returns are meticulously recorded. "There were even love letters from interested parties," Maria Solbach recalls. Follow-up actions are launched. Orders are coming in!
The spectrum is growing: Canopies and Bicycle parking systems
Whenever the daily business routine allows, Walter and Maria visit exhibitions or trade fairs. They travel to the USA. In many areas, they are already much further ahead than in Europe. Through his new contacts, Walter always stays up to date. He knows what's going on in the world, is constantly getting new ideas.
Since 1969, roofing for bus stops has been part of the craft company's offer. This means that no one is left out in the rain anymore - certainly not in the rugged Eifel region, from where the first orders for bus shelters are coming in.
Walter Solbach soon discovers the market for Bicycle parking systems, which can eventually be covered. His Bicycle racks initially come from the Netherlands. They are marketed jointly with a Dutch partner. It will not be until ten years later that the first ecologically oriented party in western Germany will be founded, which will also make environmentally friendly mobility with public transport and bicycles an issue.
With Shelter systems and Bicycle parking systems, Walter Solbach has again identified new trends and successfully introduced them to the market for the company.
1969 - the first Shelter systems are manufactured at WSM
A lived slogan: Quality in metal
The fact that Walter Solbach comes from a craft background sharpens his eye for the products of his company: Above all, the quality must be right. The company motto is therefore simply but confidently: "Quality in metal".
This means high-quality material - which Solbach usually obtains from nearby Siegerland from suppliers he knows well - and perfect welding technology. In 1964, therefore, he was certified as a welding specialist in Duisburg and in 1967 as a welding engineer in Frankfurt. The fact that the products last so long even in wind and weather makes them popular with customers. In order to guarantee the high quality standards in the hard daily production routine, the company is certified according to DIN ISO 9001 for the first time in 2000.
We were a small store.
That was our advantage.
- Walter Solbach