If you've ever wondered how a start-up works and how to find the appropriate courage for taking the plunge into self-employment, you can hear the perspective of our founder Katia in the YOU GO SISTERS podcast. In a conversation with Nathalie Cerny, Katia gives a behind-the-scenes look into the life of a founder and talks about her thoughts and tips on founding and how she would like to develop Blue Farm in the future.
Nathalie: What made you decide to start a business yourself?
Katia: I have always enjoyed working independently. This became so pronounced at the beginning of my professional career that I always put my foot down and quickly wanted to take on my own areas of responsibility. I simply enjoyed supporting companies and working on a vision. And I was lucky enough to always work closely with founders and see what entrepreneurship looks like on a day-to-day basis. Though through it all, I've always said that when I found a start-up, I want to do something with impact. I never wanted to found a start-up just to found one. And when Philip approached me with the idea for Blue Farm, it fulfilled all of that for me: on the one hand, I've been drinking plant-based milk myself for more than 8 years and know too well the situation of not having any milk at home. So a powder to mix myself just makes sense. On the other hand, Blue Farm also has a real impact: you can do something good for yourself and the environment in the morning by saving a lot of packaging waste and transport emissions if you invest 10 seconds in the morning and mix your own oat drink.
What is your take on the plant-based dairy alternatives market and what made you decide to start there?
It's already a trend to switch to plant-based milk alternatives, whether for health reasons because you're lactose intolerant or for sustainability reasons. Plant-based nutrition is also something that you can do incredibly well as an individual if you want to have an impact on climate change. On the other hand, you also have to be aware that if you follow a plant-based diet, you can also potentially consume a lot of additives. That means a plant-based diet doesn't necessarily equals a healthy diet. And that's what we as Blue Farm have set as our mission; to bring both a very sustainable product to the market, but also a clean label product. Clean label in this context simply means that there are no additives and we keep the ingredient list that is as short as possible. In our case, oats and salt - that's all that's in the powder. The oats are enzymatically treated, which means natural enzymes are added, which then break down the proteins in the oats and that creates the sweet creaminess, which makes the powder easy to blend. But that also makes it doubly stressful for us, because we want to bring a sustainable product to market that is clean label.
Nathalie: What was it like founding from the position of a secure job and what told you that was the right decision?
Katia: Uncertainty is definitely something that always resonates with a start-up, especially when you give up a secure job. I think it is important to define for yourself what is important to you. For me, when it comes to work, I'm just very intrinsically motivated. I love what I do. And sure, a big salary is nice, but that's not everything.
And when it comes to the topic of founding a company among women, I have also noticed that women are inclined to take a step only when they feel competent enough to do so. They always say that men are paid according to potential and women are paid according to competence. I don't want to stereotype too much, but I have noticed that 3-4 years ago I would have been unsure whether I was ready for a start-up. Last summer, however, I reached a point where I realized that I'm not afraid of anything anymore and there's no challenge I can't manage. And that just gave me a hell of a lot of confidence and that's why last summer was the perfect time for me to found.
Nathalie: What advice would you give to people considering starting their own business?
Katia: I think it's very important - this applies to both men and women - that you become aware of what you can actually do and where you need help. I think founding a company as part of a team is always good, because then you are not faced with a big problem on your own, but you look for a partner beforehand who is complementary to you and who catches you where you don't see your 100% strength. I recommend taking the time with your founding partner to talk openly about this: what are the strengths, weaknesses and most importantly the values that each brings to the table. Is this something I can get along with? And if all this fits, then define the common vision.
Nathalie: And what challenges did you experience while founding?
Katia: I can only say from my perspective that it's all half-baked and you shouldn't think too much in advance, but just "do it". The road to success - even with a start-up - is always rocky, you get knocked back, you have to get up again and keep going.
But founding also means not being afraid to ask for help. That's very important: you're not omniscient, which is why founding in a team is a very good tip from my side. And I think it's also part of having the courage to speak up, because there are no dumb questions. Simply asking questions gets you extremely far in life. Women may also be a bit more shy than men, but again, always encourage yourself and push yourself. And if you've done that enough times, it will eventually become second nature. And when you're nervous, it always helps to remind yourself that everyone is just boiling hot water. Be self-reflective and always keep in mind what you can actually do and have already accomplished? Then you don't have to sink into the ground when things don't go 100%.
Nathalie: And what does the future of Blue Farm look like?
Katia: Well, our DNA is definitely powder-based plant-based milk. We are currently working on a barista edition, which will be particularly interesting for cafés and restaurateurs. And internationalization is of course also an issue for us, because we already get a lot of inquiries from abroad. If you want to have an impact, you have to think globally. Because the more people we reach, the more packaging waste and unnecessary emissions we can save.
Nathalie: In conclusion, what would you like to give other women to take away with them?
Katia: When I reflect on what has worked well for me, this applies to both men and women: In order to advance quickly professionally, it is important to create a clear understanding of what I actually want and then to fight for it and work hard. I don't think you have to set yourself a goal at 25 where you want to be at 35. Having your own goals helps enormously to motivate and push yourself. The other issue that I think is important is about the work environment and culture within a company. Here you should quickly become aware of whether your manager is an enabler and has an interest in developing you as a person individually and enjoys seeing you grow.
For a start-up, all I can say is find the right partners and mentors and don't be afraid to ask for help and think big.