In this interview series, HSWT presents startups that are part of the Food Startup Incubator Weihenstephan(FSIWS). The series introduces the companies and their product ideas, how they work and how they overcome challenges.
Your product idea explained in a few sentences:
Women have a cycle with four phases. For each phase, different nutrients are important and each phase holds different strengths and weaknesses. With our products, we help women make the most of their cycle and feel good in each phase.
What makes your product unique?
So far, there are no products on the market that address the individual cycle phases and their specifics and advantages. That is our USP. We also use purely plant-based ingredients and completely avoid additives, preservatives and artificial flavors. Of course, all products are also sustainable, vegan, gluten-free and lactose-free. This is also in line with our fundamental belief that nature has everything in store for human health and that we should also take care of the health of the planet in return.
How did you come up with this idea?
The impetus at that time had been my PMS (premenstrual syndrome), which I finally got under control by changing my diet. Over the course of time, now more than 12 years, I have continued to study the cycle, tried a lot myself and found that even after many years I can still further optimize my cycle through diet and medicinal plants - although I have always been of the opinion that "nothing more is possible". For example, I was able to completely eliminate my fatigue before menstruation - before I still believed that this was simply part of it.
The more I was allowed to learn about the cycle, the greater my fascination became. At the same time, my disbelief (and also my anger) grew about how stepmotherly this topic is unfortunately still treated by many doctors - even by gynecologists - and that many women cannot be helped, although every woman has to deal with hormonal issues at some point in her life. During my own "cycle journey" I experienced the power of self-responsibility and would like to bring this attitude to other women with my products and make their "cycle journey" as pleasant and short as possible. After all, it shouldn't take 12 years.
What aspects of the product, packaging and distribution are particularly important to you with regard to a possible market launch?
It's important to me that the product really picks up my target group and also shows what potential there really is in the cycle. The female cycle is a very emotional, intimate topic. It's also important that these topics, for which there are often no terms at all, are presented in a positive light - whether on the packaging or in our social media content, for example. The product is intended to open up a completely new market that does not yet exist in this form - namely cycle-appropriate nutrition. Therefore, in addition to the product, knowledge transfer is also very important.
What difficulties did you have to overcome in the product development process?
I found it difficult to develop a product that really met the needs of the users. At first, it wasn't that easy to identify them, because there simply isn't a comparable product on the market yet. The question of which product it should be - a snack, a shake or a powder, for example - also threw up a few loops.
During product development itself, between 30 and 50 recipes were tried out for the first product, Moonies, depending on the variety, until it was launched on the market. Here, it was mainly a matter of bringing together the right consistency with the right taste and the right ingredients. I was able to learn a lot about recipes from comparable products in the trade. In the end, it was a time-consuming process, but the sense of achievement at the end definitely outweighs all the efforts!
How did you motivate yourself when things weren't going so well?
Even though I always firmly believed in my concept, the question remained how long it would take until the product was on the market and whether it would be successful. And of course, everything always takes longer than expected, so you should be prepared for that. It is also important to know yourself and your strengths and weaknesses well and to get support. In my case, since I am a single founder, this meant that I looked for a mentor right at the beginning. Even without a team, it is essential to have a sparring partner for your ideas. With this mentor, I discuss almost everything that has come up and where I know that she can possibly give me a different perspective or perhaps has an idea that I wouldn't have come up with myself. For female founders in particular, there is also a lot of support here in the form of mentoring programs - I can only recommend looking around and applying.
Working together as a team is certainly not always easy, is it? What made you decide to start up on your own?
Indeed, disputes among founders are dangerous for every startup - that's why I founded alone after careful consideration. You should not rush this decision, just as you should not rush the choice of co-founders when founding a team. I think it's very important to get both professional and moral support as a single founder. I therefore work with freelancers, get advice from friends and other founders, but also have a mentor. That's why I never feel completely alone as an individual founder and always have someone to talk to.
What was the most triumphant or emotional moment for you so far?
There have been many small "triumph moments" along the way, but the product launch stood out so far. You work so long on this idea, which initially existed only in your own imagination, and then to see it really realized - an indescribably great feeling.
Do you exchange ideas with other startups or network? How?
During the Corona pandemic, I found it difficult to network with other startups because online calls could not replace face-to-face meetings. I made some contacts through Linkedin by simply writing to more experienced founders. However, personal contact is very important to me when networking. I am therefore very much looking forward to real trade fairs, conferences or chance encounters, for example in the new premises at the incubator or in the production rooms.
What tips can you give to other startup founders in the food industry or elsewhere?
I think it's important to talk to other people about your startup or concept in the early stages. But it's almost more important to recognize at some point from whom you should really accept feedback and from whom not. You should ask yourself whether this person is also where you would like to be. And when it comes to the product itself, you should also talk to your target group as early as possible.
What are your plans for the future of your startup?
A dedicated shelf at drugstores with our cycle-appropriate products!