RE:ganic is a start-up based in Münster whose mission is to clear the world from the plastic. It does so by combining organic fibres/byproducts with organic binding agents to
create bio compostable and biogenic materials for short-lasting products or long-lasting products.
Adisa: Can you tell me a little bit about your business, what it is about, and maybe particularly what inspired you to create it.
Jose: Yeah, sure. We are a young startup that is based in Münster. Our name is RE:ganic, comes from the re that relates to sustainability, recycling, all of the things that come with it; and organic, because our goal is to create materials that are 100% organic and actually compostable and that can be used as an option for plastic materials. And they are actually fossil fuel free. So we're not using fossil fuel to create our materials, rather than we have them from the nature and from organic composition and the chemical side. What inspired me as a single person from the team is that I was always keen on sustainability and seeing how to make the world a better place. I've always been on the side of being just a little bit conscious about the lifestyle that we have as an individual and how we can improve from there.
So when I came to Germany, I think that was one of the most important highlights of my life, because coming here made me realize the amount of options that you can have to live in a more sustainable way and to just be more nature-based, let's put it that way.
So when I came here, I started my studies and in the process, I met a lot of people that were really connected into this. And then I started to talk to my professors and my lecturers. And from there it just came out of the idea of why not just using recycled waste material, that is, it's been created by the food industry daily and find some organic binders that you can add to it and then maybe, maybe come up with something that might help to reduce the amount of plastic pollution the plastic produces around the world.
Adisa: So you've been an entrepreneur for some time. What do you like most about the process?
Jose: Well, this might sound a little bit weird, but I think the challenges are the most exciting part of it. When you face a wall and you realize: “ok, this is the end of the road for me”, and then out of nowhere, you just pull something out of your sleeve and say, “hey, but we can do this”.
And then you embrace another talent and you just have to think very fast on how to shift your ideas and how to course everything that you were working on and into a different way without losing that. For me, that’s the most important part. And that's it's just the challenge of just realizing “ok, this is actually alive and therefore it changes constantly”.
Adisa: Ok, so you would say you like the process of growth and resourcefulness and resourcefulness and flexibility that you gain through being faced with a challenge?
Jose: Totally, at least for me. I don't know if I'm just a very weird entrepreneur, but for me, the challenges are the most exciting thing, because, as I said, it just it makes me realize that you're alive and you're not just stuck in one place and not doing the same thing continuously. Rather, you are going back, analyzing and then moving forward, but from another side or another perspective.
Adisa: What does it take to be a good entrepreneur? What are some skills, hard skills, soft skills or mindset, that is really important to possess to be a good, successful entrepreneur?
Jose: Well, I think I think that's a very good question, because I usually think as one entrepreneur, you cannot do everything; you are not just one-man orchestra. It's impossible to cover every single aspect of becoming an entrepreneur. Of course, you need to have some hard skills. You need to understand how to, for example, create a business plan and how to address a need or how to identify a need and then to create something out of that. You also need empathy. You need to understand. You need to understand for yourself who you are and where you want to be in the future. Then you need to understand your partners and their struggles and how you might just help them with their struggles. So the overall challenge of the overall business carries on. You also need resilience. So like I just told you, whenever you face a wall and you say “wow, this is the end” and then just not dropping your arms and just say, “no, let's go, let's keep on fighting”. That's something that since very early stage of my life, my family taught me that. And that's something that has been sticking around with me and never letting things put you down. I think not only for entrepreneurs, but for a lot of people in general. That's one of the things that they should just have courage within themselves, resilience, problem-solving and lateral thinking. You're not just only focused on one goal and money is not the only thing that you need to pursue, but there are endless things. At least for me and my team, I know for certain, we're not looking for money in this business. We are actually trying to develop something for the future and to just lower the emissions that the whole production cycles have created. And we just want to go for the well-being of the environment rather than the well-being of ourselves with the money that we can create with the products.
Adisa: So it is purpose-driven entrepreneurship rather than profit-driven. The profit is just a by-product of the whole process.
Jose: Exactly. If we can just make a living out of this and we just don't starve during the month, that's perfect. To overcome, as I said just before challenges and to and to think yourself like, OK, I'm doing something good for the world feeds us more than just having money in our bank account, which is not bad at all.
Adisa: Do you think can mindset to be your greatest strengths as an entrepreneur or the single greatest strength lies in another area?
Jose: To be honest, I don't I don't consider myself like a very can-do person, I'm rather more focused on just finding solutions and doing things in order to achieve results. Of course, that's a can-do attitude. But I'm really more into the overall holistic approach of a team. For example, whenever you have a team, you need to get to know them. You need to understand them. You need to see what are the struggles. And I think most of the time, we just forget that we're working with people and not just working with people as in as in “ok, this person is breathing”, but “ok, we all have problems”. And those problems will, of course, affect the overall performance of who we are and also what are we going to develop in the future.
So I try to see myself as a guy that tries to catalyze the environment of people and just push that forward. And I really think I'm more of a people person rather than a business person. Can-do mindset is very hard and something that entrepreneurs, most of them have very printed in their DNA. But I think sometimes that attitude or that mindset itself just creates bigger problems in the future rather than solving the problems that you start with your business.
Adisa: Where have you learned the most about how to be an entrepreneur and what stimulated your growth the most?
Jose: So I have to say that as a business student for over six years – I studied for three years and a half in Chile and I am ending my studies here – I, of course, was into business plans and marketing and such, but I didn't learn a lot on how to become a real entrepreneur in university.
I've learned more about the whole process within the two years that I've been an entrepreneur or so, talking to people, self-learning, going through YouTube videos and seeing, for example, how to pitch. Ok, I know, a little bit now how to pitch. But in university, they don't teach you how to pitch. They just say, “ok, stand in front of the class and just present”.
And yeah, I think the networking environment has helped me a lot and has taught me a lot as well. I kind of just decided from one point and said, “ok, no one is going to help me to do this. So I just have to go and say, “hey, my name is Jose Miguel and I have this idea and it will be cool if we could just talk”. And from there I've learned, I've had meetings with CEOs that I would never expect to have in my life, and I've just had them, so I was like, “ok, I think I can do this”. And what have stimulated my growth the most? It's exactly that. Just having the connection with people and learning from them and asking them what is their experience and what were their mistakes and how they improved from their mistakes, as well as how they handled them. So I can also see, “ok, they had this problem, I can also do it like that, like they did. But I can also see another side of the problem and solve it with another solution”.
So what has stimulated my growth is the connection with people and now that we are in the REACH Pre-incubator program, it's also been very useful. The tools and the information that they give us. And they just have all; they have a lot of information that you can just go and read. So I think it's like a safe space for entrepreneurs. It's very important for them to develop their skills in a safe environment, such as a predictable program, for example.
Average student would say like yeah I learned a lot and I learned how to become an entrepreneur at a university. That's totally understandable. I'm not a 1.0 student.
I think how universities teach students, is not the approach that I would do if I were a professor or lecturer, because you need to have more real problems, real scenarios, let's say. And then you just tell students: “ok, do it, do it yourselves”. It's something that you need to just put yourself in a situation and see how you swim out of the pool.
Adisa: What are some concrete things that you do to build your growth mindset and improve your mental strength?
Jose: To grow mindset, I think the best is just to imagine the future and imagine the possibilities that you can achieve with what you're doing. I think that's one of them. For me, it's the thing that makes me the happiest and makes me feel like very rich from the inside; knowing how many things we can achieve from this, and how many people we can help, how many problems we can solve.
That's for me, what makes me wake up in the morning and say, “ok, you want to do this again”. And for it to improve my mental strength I talk to people. I realize that it's very, very, important, especially now in these times. Just to talk to people and to say, “you know, I'm going through this”. And it doesn’t matter if the other person is like really into the topic or really knows anything about your idea. Just the fact of letting things out calms your mind and is like: “ok, I talked about this. I heard someone and he gave me advice on that. And now I can say, ok, I feel in a better position than I was before to face the same obstacle right now”.
So talking to people is very important to have that mental strength and yeah, of course, just empowering yourself and kind of looking in the mirror and say, “you can do this and that also works. I mean, I'm not I'm not a very you-can-do-it person. I don't like to watch myself in the mirror and although sometimes not all the time, but I do push myself to become a better person than I was before or yesterday.