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, their way of working and how they master challenges. The founders receive support from the FSIWS.
In part 25 Alessandra reports about her startup HELDINNEN.
Your product idea explained in a few sentences:
Thousands of years of knowledge about medicinal plants rethought: we have developed a drink made from medicinal plants for the period to counteract the common discomforts during menstruation.
What makes your product unique?
A drink for the period in this sense does not yet exist on the market. What distinguishes us from competitors who offer tablets, teas or granules is the fast and natural remedy thanks to the medicinal plants contained in them. With the HELDINNEN. brand, we also want to break the taboo of periods by making them more visible and bring menstruation into the center of society, where it belongs.
How did you come up with this idea?
I have actually been involved with the use and effect of medicinal plants all my life and have grown up with the knowledge of medicinal herbs. The idea for the drink and the HELDINNEN brand came about a year ago, together with my life partner. Privately, I had been working on a solution to relieve menstrual cramps for quite some time and had an intensive conversation with my life partner about the taboo subject of periods and how to deal with one's own menstruation. The idea for the product and the brand came almost by itself.
What aspects of the product, packaging and distribution are particularly important to you with regard to a possible market launch?
Starting from the composition of the product to the production and packaging, we want to act sustainably and therefore rely on organic and regional ingredients as well as suppliers.
What difficulties did you have to overcome in the product development process?
Since it is a new product, we could not orient ourselves to competitors. On the one hand, we didn't have a framework to hang on to, but on the other hand, we had a lot of freedom for our own ideas and there were no limits to our creativity.
How did you motivate yourselves when things weren't going so well?
The big goal is to use the product and the brand to empower menstruators, increase their well-being and promote period visibility. Achieving this goal was and is a huge motivation. Many small feelings of success as well as the exchange and feedback with and from other founders is also crucial to keep going.
Working together as a team certainly wasn't always easy, was it? How did you structure it so that it worked well?
In fact, I, Alessandra, founded and am solely responsible. However, I like to speak in the "we" form because I wouldn't be where I am today without the support of so many great people (friend:ing, family, partners, networks, funding programs).
What was the most triumphant or emotional moment for you so far?
The most beautiful and moving moment was the feedback from the 200 women who tested the drink first. I was overwhelmed by the response and their experience with the drink and now I can't wait to launch and introduce the drink to the world.
Do you exchange ideas with other startups or network with them? How?
In fact: Yes! Incredibly much. Last year, I attended many events, both online and in person. It is always incredibly inspiring and exciting to exchange ideas with other founders and to see how they burn for their ideas. The exchange is incredibly valuable for me and I find it very nice to see how knowledge is shared and how we support each other. Many acquaintances have also become friends over the past year.
What tips can you give to other startup founders in the food industry or elsewhere?
I think the most important thing is to persevere. We all have dry spells and days or even weeks when nothing progresses and you start to doubt - the idea and yourself. But if you keep in mind that this is part of it and realize that everyone else is just boiling water, it somehow becomes easier to keep going. But even or especially in these phases, a benevolent and supportive environment is important. Here I could count on my partner, friends and family - thank you!
What are your plans for the future of your startup?
In addition to the drink for the period, we would like to launch at least three more drinks. The recipes are already there, so something is definitely happening here. Of course, we hope that the product will be accessible to everyone and that we will soon be found in retail stores. And the big vision for the future is to build a community in which menstruators are empowered and knowledge and experiences are exchanged. And together with our partners WASH-United and Periodically, we want to fight period poverty and raise awareness.
Info: Food Startup Incubator of the HSWT
In 2019, the HSWT launched the Weihenstephan Food Startup Incubator (FSIWS). This enables students and employees of the HSWT and the institutions associated with the Weihenstephan campus to bring their business ideas in the food sector to market maturity. Through the FSIWS, external founders can recruit competent students from all areas of the food value chain as partners or employees, for example in the context of final theses or with the students as co-founders.
Link to the startup of the previous month:
Startups @ HSWT | Part 24: www.hswt.de/presse/news/article/startups-hswt-teil-24-ediriam.html