Ethico Food develops and manufactures a range of healthy, vegan, high-protein, soy & gluten free food products that has the taste and texture of meat. After winning the STARTERtech program, two members of Ethico Foods, Anu Menon and Roma Beria talked about their experiences relating to this program and starting a business.
Where did your idea come from, why did you choose this idea, what kind of problem you want to solve?
Anu Menon: The idea came from the fact that my husband and I have been wanting to become a vegan for quite a while but every time we try, we can’t get the protein we need. So I went out to the market to try and find something that was soy-free and gluten free but I couldn’t find something easily. So I decided to design it on my own and create this product.
How did you find your way to STARTER program?
Anu: TTÜ had advertised the program on their Facebook page.
Roma Beria: I was suggested by my friend. He participated in previous STARTERtech program, but not the advanced one. I thought I should give it a try because he really liked it.
What does that program teach, which skills and experience did you get?
Anu: I understand now how the Estonian business community works. I have expanded my network in ways I would have never imagined because I’m new to the country. We were taught the lean business model canvas methodology. That’s something I didn’t know before and it’s been something that has been so beneficial to the development of the company.
Roma: The biggest thing I took from this program was that I was able to talk to so many investors and so many actual successful people. The small tips that they gave me actually meant a lot because from that I can see how I can develop my ideas. It was very informative.
What do you value most about things you have learned in this program?
Anu: I think it’s the group of people we did the program with – they are so supportive and so inspirational. Also, the organizers were always there for us and linking us up with the industry was really really important. Also, using every weekly session as a deadline and next step forward created an excellent structure for me, in addition to the amazing coaches we had who kept us on track and moving forward. The program provides so many awesome resources at your fingertips.
Roma: I like how supportive the government of Estonia actually is to startups and promoting starting your own business. If you have a really good idea and want to develop yourself, you can do it in Estonia – this is the right place to do it!
What were your mistakes or misjudgements that you had to deal with, when developing your idea and what did you change/learn from?
Anu: The biggest mistake was trying to do everything myself. I realised I really needed assistance and help from my team and also advisers around and people from the industry who have done it before. Getting their feedback was very important. I spent a lot of time sitting with experienced advisers trying to get their opinions on how I can shape the business.
Roma: Trying to do everything at the same time – you have to do it step by step, that was the realization.
Anu: Now I consider everyone’s opinions before I actually make a decision. I’m always talking to the industry experts before I actually do anything. Before this I was just thinking „this is the way I do it and I will just do this“, but now it’s completely different.
Roma: You have to have some kind of plan, for example what are you going to do in 2-3 years, and you have to follow that plan. If you see there is something you have to change, you don’t have to say „oh I know it’s right“ – you have to pivot at some point.
Why would you suggest STARTER program to your friends?
Anu: I think it’s an awesome program to jumpstart your business. The idea that it gets you to the sales is so important because the mentality of „let’s just start up a startup“ is just not good enough. Getting to the sales is the hardest point and the program takes you through the whole process step by step. Each week they take you through a new experience and a new lecture. It opens your eyes up to what should be done and you get feedback from experienced experts on how to get your company to the next stage.
Roma: You actually get to interact and talk to those people who are successful. They give you tips that are actually useful in life because they have experienced it themselves when they were starting. The advice they give is extremely important to any beginner in startup industry. That’s why it’s so important to have connections with them.
What are further plans with your idea?
Anu: The next step is finalizing the product with the food scientists to get it market ready and running trials and tastings to refine the product. After that we have to think about setting up our own facility for production, marketing, branding. We ask people to join our facebook page to get invited to exclusive tastings: fb.me/ethicofoods
Edu ja Tegu STARTER programme is financed by European Social Fund and the Ministry of Education and Science.