AU Entrepreneurship course boosts student business of sustainable packaging
A Vietnamese, sustainable straw was the inspiration for two AU students' thriving business of sustainable packaging for restaurants and takeaways in corona times. Aarhus University's open entrepreneurship office, Food eHub, assisted in applying for the first initiating capital.
Food eHub is an entrepreneurship course led by the Department of Food Science at Aarhus University. All students at Aarhus University can get support and guidance on how to make their idea within food and agriculture a viable business.
A couple of the students who have made use of this offer are Christian Møller and Mads Krogh Kristensen, who study business economics and law (4th semester), respectively. They know each other all the way back from nursery class, and their idea of a company emerged on a journey in Vietnam, where they discovered straws that were sustainably made.
- We saw these sustainable straws, which were compostable and even edible, and we thought that there might be a need for something similar in Denmark, says Christian Møller.
Idea evolved through competent feedback
Around a year ago, they revisited the idea and contacted Food eHub for support.
- The hub coordinator recommended us to apply for grants and helped us target our applications. This resulted in our first grant, which was a Sustainable Development Goals Micro Grant of DKK 50,000. It got us started and has made it all possible, says Mads Krogh Kristensen.
Since then, the idea has evolved into focusing on sustainable packaging in general within the framework of the company GS Supply. The entrepreneurs supply both restaurants and takeaways, and they produce packaging with the respective customers' logos. The materials used are, for example, certified from sustainable forestry or recycled plastics, and can be made from bamboo or sugar fibres.
Photo: GS Supply
Corona caused both challenges and opportunities
Christian Møller and Mads Krogh Kristensen started their business shortly before the corona pandemic hit Denmark.
- There was a need for packaging for several restaurants because they changed into offering take-away, when the service had to close. We were able to deliver this in a sustainable form and with a logo, says Christian Møller.
However, when the second wave of corona hit, the two entrepreneurs could also see this on the turnover. Now, however, they will soon begin three new, large distributor agreements, and in addition to this, the company counts a salesperson, an intern and an investor on the sideline.
- We believe that we will be able to live from the business before the summer, and our goal is to create an optimised and automated business, says Mads Krogh Kristensen.
They will both continue their studies, but at reduced hours, so that they will have the sufficient time to develop both the company and the academic skills.
Research expertise helps entrepreneurs
Michelle Williams is Head of Department of Food Science at Aarhus University and she is pleased with the many, innovative food companies that grow through the Food eHub.
- Many students at Aarhus University have entrepreneurial ideas within food; especially within the sustainability and health areas, even though they may not be taking a food-based education. We see that the Food eHub, now mentoring 11 food based start-ups, can partner students overcome some of the earlier barriers in becoming entrepreneurs, by providing expertise, networks and advice related to food. Some students need their products validating using our research expertise in the Department and some only need partnership to find the right path within the food sector, says Michelle Williams.
In the process from straw to the total supply of sustainable packaging, GS Supply have also received guidance through Food Ehub's advisors, mentors and researchers from the Department of Food Science. This has focused in particular on how they could implement the sustainability aspect of the product, and the product development from straw to boxes, cardboard mugs and bags etc.
Give your idea life through entrepreneurship course
If, as a student at Aarhus University, you want to develop a business based on an idea within food and agriculture, you can contact Food eHub.
Participation is free of charge, and even an idea in the early stages is welcome. Food eHub is based in the entrepreneurship community The Kitchen in Aarhus C and at the Department of Food Science, which is located in Agro Food Park in Skejby, Aarhus.
Christian Møller, co-founder, GS Supply
Tel.: +45 2086 8236
Charlotte Bay Hansen, entrepreneur advisor and manager at Food eHub, Department of Food Science
Tel.: +45 9350 8925