Marahrens Group: a testament to tenacity

Jan-Christian Hashagen reveals to Rebecca Gibson how his family’s business has evolved from small beginnings to become an international signage business over the past 75 years 

Marahrens Group: a testament to tenacity

Marahrens Group

Jan-Christian Hashagen works alongside his mother, Janina Marahrens-Hashagen

By Rebecca Gibson |

Before Heinrich Marahrens could begin his eagerly anticipated engraving apprenticeship in Bremen, Germany, World War II broke out and he was conscripted to serve in the German army. Almost immediately, Marahrens removed the wheels of his bike and buried them in his parents’ garden.  

“He was determined to start his apprenticeship as soon as possible when he returned from what he hoped would be a short-lived war, so he didn’t want the German army requisitioning his only mode of transport,” explains his grandson, Jan-Christian Hashagen. “After several years away at war, including a terrible time in captivity in Russia, he eventually returned home, dug up the wheels, rebuilt his bike and successfully completed his training as an engraver.”  

Capitalising on his newly acquired skills, tenacity and entrepreneurial spirit, Marahrens founded Marahrens Group and began producing small, engraved signs and branding irons in his parents’ living room in Bremen-Lesum in 1949. Four years later, he moved the company into its own premises in Bremen-Walle and later to Gröpelingen, before passing management duties to his daughter, Janina Marahrens-Hashagen, in 1982. 

Marahrens continued to work alongside his daughter until he retired in 1998, helping her to grow the existing business, expand into new areas and construct the company’s current headquarters in Bremen-Grambke. Marahrens-Hashagen remained at the helm of the company until 2017, during which time she invested in product development and increasing the size of the team from 25 to 250 people. She now has an advisory role in the business. 

Today, Marahrens’ grandson manages the firm and is part-way through his quest to internationalise the business, which now designs and manufactures signage for maritime, safety and global branding applications. In this role, Hashagen has already established teams in Germany, Asia, Finland and the USA, and has formed a shareholding partnership with Estonian sign manufacturer Adfactory. He continues to prioritise the three key values that have sustained the company’s 75 years of success: courage, determination and hard work. 

“My grandfather fought hard to establish the business, my mother was dedicated to expanding it, and I’m proud to build on both their legacies to drive our future growth,” says Hashagen. “My family is committed to delivering high-quality, innovative products, services and experiences to our clients, while expanding our business and supporting and developing our employees. We’re personally involved in every project, which enables us to fully understand the challenges our clients and employees face, as well as the changing market trends and the opportunities we have to innovate and evolve our offering.”  

Like his predecessors, Hashagen focuses on long-term, strategic planning and takes carefully calculated risks. “This approach helps us to anticipate and adapt to changing customer demands and market conditions, while our entrepreneurial spirit means we’re willing to experiment with different materials and production methods, or branch into new markets, if we feel it will benefit our clients,” he explains. 

Marahens Group 75 years

Heinrich Marahrens founded Marahrens Group in 1949

Marahrens Group’s employees are equally dedicated to providing high-quality products and continuous support to clients.  

“Our people are our biggest reason for success,” says Hashagen, adding that the team is intentionally diverse. “Many of them have worked with us for decades, so they’re highly skilled, knowledgeable and experienced, which means they can help our clients with all of their signage needs.”  

To empower employees to work productively and deliver projects efficiently, Marahrens Group continually invests in improving its infrastructure and upgrading its processes. For example, it has digitised multiple processes and now creates 3D virtual models of its signs for clients to review. “We’re also installing new digital printing machines in our Florida factory and will make ongoing upgrades to our other facilities and processes over time,” says Hashagen.  

He also aims to make Marahrens Group’s products, manufacturing methods and installation processes greener. “We decreased our energy consumption by 30 per cent in 2023 by making incremental changes, such as minimising paper use and using recycled or natural materials for our signage and packaging where possible,” he says. 

The firm has already printed signs on fully recycled acrylic and experimented with signage made of a bioplastic derived from fermented plant starch. It is now making signs out of recycled fishnets salvaged from the oceans. “We want to protect our planet and offer our clients more sustainable options,” says Hashagens. “We’re already working with a couple of major cruise operators to trial fishnet signage, and we’ll continue to explore how we can use other sustainable materials in future. Of course, we’ll always be forced to make a trade-off between sustainability and both durability and regulatory compliance.”  

Testament to its 75-year history of delivering high-quality signage and services exceeding customer expectations, Marahrens Group has an increasingly full order book for 2024 and beyond.  

“We’ve secured contracts for multiple revitalisation projects and we’re expecting more to come,” says Hashagen. “We’ll invest to enhance our processes to better support clients throughout the lifecycle of their ships and expand our operational network to increase our capacity to cater for customers worldwide. This will ensure we remain a reliable and trusted partner for all our customers, employees and their families, and other stakeholders.” 

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2024 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Review for FREE to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox. 

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