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Did you know chewing gum has plastic in it and it’s the world’s second most common form of litter? Zabrina Ziegler on how to build a sustainable startup and True Gum’s mission to educate and create impact.

by Female Startup Club
April 27th 2020
01:02:32
Description
Welcome back to another episode of Female Startup Club. The flavour of the hour today is a nifty brand called True Gum that produces all natural, plastic free chewing gum out of Denmark. And yes I kno... More
it's been a few months since I joined the hubspot podcast network and I'm so excited about the other shows in there that I'm learning from, especially the gold digger podcast hosted by Gina Kolata Jenna's show helps you discover your dream career with productivity tips, social strategies, business hacks, inspirational stories and so much more. I just finished listening to her recent Episode about how she grew her show to 60 million downloads and was blown away by some of the insider tips she shares and here's something else you should Know on January three, you're going to hear a certain someone in Jenna's show that certain someone being more, make sure you pop it in your diary because I am so beyond excited. I can't wait for you to hear it. Listen to the gold digger podcast wherever you get your podcasts. This is episode 11 with Sabrina Ziegler. Mhm. Mhm Hi and welcome back to another episode of female startup club. The flavor of the hour. Today is a Nifty brand called True gum that produces all natural plastic free chewing gum out of Denmark.

And yes, I know exactly what you're thinking and it is true chewing gum is plastic and how gross is that. But the funny thing about this brand is that I actually spotted them in my favorite cafe in Geneva in border pack, loved it, searched on insta and became an instant fan girl, they've got such a beautiful and educational instagram, which is where I learned that chewing gum is plastic in it and after I googled the brand, I was happy to see that it has a female founder in the mix. And alas, that was pretty much how I got my intro to the brand. I got in touch on insta and the rest is history to put things into perspective. True gum is now stocked in thousands of stores around Europe and the world and is producing up to 500 kg of gum per day in their own factory. Anyway, enjoy the app. It's a goodie. This is Sabrina for female startup club. Let's get started. I want to go back to the very beginning and talk about what you were doing before True gum and how true came to mind. Yeah, it's a couple of years ago now. It's very weird to think about.

But so peter and one where four people found it to them and peter and martin has the original idea. Um And they were just, I think it was back in 2016 just sitting and eating this uh, like wholesome meal and uh, talking about what was in chewing gum, they were sharing this pack of gum that was like pink or green or something that's very unusual for food or at least and maybe only candy has this type of colors. And they were discussing what's actually into and down because it stays on the streets and can stay there for quite some time and they were just googling around and quickly find out that it had some petroleum chemicals inside which were daily life called plastics. And they were like, that's weird like why do you, why would you make it like that? And quickly they found out that of course sometimes went in like early days during gun was made from, from actual gum from the countries.

And then they don't know being, you know, curious as they were. They were like, yeah, maybe we can make it ourselves. And they started searching for like how can you buy gum base? And is it like something that's only uh we purchased it for instance from south America. But then they figured out there was lots of countries around the world that increase in Asia and so on and they just, you know, maybe a little bit naive just got started like, let's buy some gum paste from one of these countries and just try and put some flavor in it and and see how it's working and try to figure out the recipe from their home kitchen. And at this time point they were still working 40, 50 hours in their daily jobs as well. So it was all during the night in the evening. Um and then I think they of course with their background, their more commercial background than than than I have.

They were like, okay, there's also a business opportunity here if this could succeed and you know, taste great. Uh, and then they started looking at the markets and say okay, it could be that people would want to purchase this type of chewing gum, But then they did a lot of testing and then eventually along the way, half a half a year later, in the beginning of 2017 I came out um together with the 4th uh as well, Jacob. And uh well Jacob's background was very similar to Peter and morton's background, commercial background from business school, but with more economics, uh I have to say perspective. And uh I came along very very randomly. It was just uh they found me on linkedin actually, which is uh gay for Lyndon. So I was just out of university, uh studied food science in my bachelors, and then I studied human nutrition on my masters and during this time uh my masters, I thought so human nutrition can be used anywhere.

And maybe how do you say jobs like where you princess you have to eat more vegetables a day. And then the government goes out to people saying, okay, I have these guidelines, and then you could be one of these persons making these guidelines, and I was like no this is not me, it's way too boring, it's a lot of computer work. And and uh studying for many many years and I was like no, I have to do something more creative. And then I got a job, student job at a tractor factory here in Denmark actually. Um And it's called Tom's Chocolate Factory. And then I got to be uh R. And D like the development assistant there, and I was got got to work with these developers at the factory, and it was so much fun and being creative, you can just like what's trendy out there and you can put whatever you want into chocolates.

And then I actually ended up doing my uh uh masters there and I did some probiotics in chocolates and was so much fun being there and being part of that, and I was like no, I have to do something else, and just sitting in front of a computer, I have to do something like yeah, I don't know uh creative at least, and I write the stuff on my link, and I was working at the chocolate factory, I was in R. And D. Work and then All of a sudden this two guys wrote me. So you've been developing chocolates. And uh so could it be kind of the same as chewing gum maybe because we need a hand? And I was like chewing God, well how hard can it be? Let's let's take a look at it. And then we just met up at some random cafe here in Copenhagen, and I was like, I was unemployed and just out of university, and I was like yeah that's at least I can do something while I'm looking for a job because at this time point I didn't really think that it was gonna be like a job like a real job.

And I was thinking now it could be something fun on the side maybe. And uh then I met with Peter and martin and we sat down and they talked about their ideas and I guess chewing gum could really be a new way of looking at the whole chewing gum category because people did not know that it was any that was drastically in chewing gum. I was like it's interesting. I didn't know. And I was educated within the food area at least and I should have maybe known but contain these artificial flavors and so on. And I was really hooked and I was like this this could be this could get big, this could really be a good business opportunity as well. So we actually just got started and got a lot of samples, you know just making kitchen cheering girl. Uh and it was everything was so sticky and messy and really really tough to work with. Nothing compared to chocolate.

Chocolate is the way you see it to work with. But along the way we were okay this is starting to taste okay a couple of months in and we set up these cafes and we're tasting a lot. And uh and then we went to some of the schools just to go to the canteen and hand out some samples and uh to see what people thought, you know it was. I think some of the first there you know, you need to get some feedback before actually hitting the right recipe for sure. Especially with something a chewing gum and the gum base itself didn't really have a very nice taste because it's, well it comes from a tree. So you have some kind of modulate it a little bit. Um But I think then we just got a lot of feedback and a lot of the feedback that we got to begin with, it's kind of hard and well it doesn't have a lot of tastes and uh tastes a little bit like trees and stuff like that.

And anyways we kept pushing through and we just got some new samples and talked to a lot of experts which is a very long story of course, but a long story short to begin with them, we found some companies and then like actually that made some flavors and we kind of figured out through them that like how is the recipe actually because chocolate and candy and all these hard candy for instance, they have, there's a lot of recipes online and for chewing gum is very much of the secret. Uh so we were struggling with actually getting the right recipe to get the texture right and the flavor right. But then a company in Denmark actually still Meral, I don't know if you know it. Um but they have been sold to Mandalay's now, but it was actually used to be danish. And then we got actually some experts who actually used to work there in the 80s and 90s to talk a little bit with us and share a little bit of their secrets.

Um Yeah. And then sooner or later, how you should say that we we got a recipe that we're actually working. And of course when I think about the drink we made back then was really, really horrible compared to now it was not really edible, but people were really sweet and we had a lot of people, people's feedback and and we just kept them. It's really trial and error. So that was kind of the beginning of the whole thing. Yeah. And at that point you were still in the kitchen making it yourselves with the recipe that you got from the other company and the flavoring. Yeah, exactly. We got all these things we just ordered for like private purpose. We were not really accompanied back then were just media, but cafes and discuss it. And we were working firstly in Peter and morton's kitchen and their poor roommate really hated it. So we took all the stuff to my apartment. And then I was just yeah, developing the chewing gum from there until we had to grow out of that.

And actually got some customers. But at this point there was no customer, it was just trying to get the right recipe and and the raw materials, right and so on. And so how did you get the first customers? What what did you didn't start a website or I think at this time point that we were all living in Copenhagen. So it was very, it was a very good place to start because there was a small cafes and and very nice uh very nice. How do you say uh luxury brand Dings and so on and we could fit in very nicely there um together with these maybe a little bit more artsy things and we're located at museums as well, which was also very weird outlet but it was working. Um but the very first customer actually was a small cafe in Copenhagen and it was actually a chain.

Um So we could see an expansion possibility there, but we just tested in one store just to see if people would actually buy it and if the pricing was right and so on. And at this time point the packaging was very much different than it is now. So people were, I think at this time when people really didn't know it was food or if it was, I don't know something else, it was it was difficult for people to know because we didn't have any, how do you say uh nice footage on the packaging or something like that. So we were missing quite some some things at this time point, so it's been a lot of developing in that, but this was the first place to actually take it in with a small small cafe in Copenhagen. And so did you just go in and like basically knock on the manager's door and you were like, hey, can I sell this? Did you already have to have like a certification to sell an F and B product or how did you go about that?

Yeah, it's of course there's at this time when we were already moved out of the kitchen actually, we moved into a small place because we were the startup event actually, and we talked to a couple of guys there who started this kitchen kitchen company where they made these like, very natural role looking kitchens and was very, it's not anything to do with food, but but they discussed a lot about how to do a startup and we had to get some ideas and how to, you know, not, you know, fall into, uh how do you say it's called the pit? Uh like like going the wrong direction to begin with. So we really were trying to discuss this with them and they said to us afterwards after this event that this is quite interesting, you're trying to make a natural plastic free touring.

Um it's not, never been seen out there is like the first mover, I think that was the thing that interested them and they were like, so we have some space here. We have some different, uh, engineers sitting here and they were, how do you say like uh they were the first investors in our company actually, uh so we moved all of our stuff there and made their second floor completely had to say uh, possible to produce food stuff in. You had to have like twin surfaces and all this stuff. So that was actually where we produced. So they were also a strategic partner from the kitchen point of view. And the funding point of view, definitely. Yeah, they actually, they were part of the funding was also to have very low rent because in Copenhagen it's very expensive to get a place. Uh we I didn't want to go outside of Copenhagen yet. It was way too early states.

So we didn't know if it's going to be selling or anything at this time when we weren't selling yet. So we really had to figure out to be a place where it could be uh authorized to produce food. And we had the danish food authority, they had to be able to come there, check it out and see everything is made properly. And uh and then we could go from there to a kind of a more factory, but at this time point it was definitely more kitchen scale and factory, that's for sure. But they got us this Very nice area. We had maybe 16 m2 in their second floor just to have somewhere to have all our raw materials at this time. Friend. Yeah. And then we actually back to the question was actually uh we just knocked on the door. And and just So we have this chewing gum. We really like it. I hope you like it to kind of and and just shook hands on a very short term agreement. So if they got like, I don't know, maybe 20 packs for free, then they we could look at a deal if they could actually sell it.

Uh So yeah, it's definitely to begin with. It was very important for us to just get their feedback and have some partners to be able to get some good feedback from. And the big change like supermarche and sets up such things was impossible to get into at this time point it's you have to kind of build a brand before actually getting into supermarkets for sure. So the small cafes and a museum was a good place to start out. And so was that the strategy you're kind of stuck with all the small, smaller kind of boutique stores and then you started your outreach to the bigger supermarkets or did they end up coming knocking on your door? Actually both. But luckily our brand because to begin with we had this very acsi idea of the packaging and so on. So our brand was very you couldn't people couldn't figure out if if it was a bandage or birth control pills and we've heard so many different things and it was like ah that's that's really not good.

People should be able to look at the packaging and immediately know, okay, this is chewing them. Or at least know that it's a confectionery product. Um So we also went through kind of a rebranding to get the packaging that we have today. Well actually multiple rebranding but we have had four different looks of our packaging. But but when we finally got the right one, then the supermarkets came knocking on our door because we started selling better in the small cafes and 7 11 in Denmark has uh not really sure how many stores they have, but maybe three or 400. And they are located in a very nice place, especially in Copenhagen. And it's kind of the convenience store that you go to when you need to buy cigarettes or just like going with the train, you just go into purchases something to drink. And then if our gun at that time point we were in a really bad position, a really bad spot in the in the shop.

But if we would have been maybe the cashiers uh then for sure we would it would it would have been so better. But but it is like chewing gum. It's uh it's a tough thing tough thing to to sell if you're not at the registry because chewing gum is not something that you put on on your grocery list. So when you're at the supermarket you need to be able to put yourself in a very nice spot at the store. And the everybody knows that the chewing gum next to the cashier's, that's all the big brands like Wrigley's and so on. It's it's almost impossible to push them aside and get something like ours at this time when we were very, very, very small. So it would it would not be possible. So, I think the strategy was correct from outside to to start build up the brand in the small stores. Figure out if we were supposed to be like a small, a small niche product or if we should go to the supermarket way.

I think for the first time we discussed the with the supermarket chain was maybe uh two years, 1.5, 2 years into Project of True Done, because we were thinking about that against maybe more, you know, the health stores that we want to sell our chewing gum. And we were having this uh variants that were very like mint and match er you know, we always have this hint of a match, a hint of turmeric and and such things. So we were looking at more like health stores than supermarkets as well, like uh maybe people don't really want this, they just want to experiment or peppermint or something. It's very ordinary. So it took us a long time to actually figure out that, okay, both the to grow business, you need to be in the supermarkets, but but also people want to buy a natural product, they want the clean label and so on. And so in the beginning, in that first year compared to now, for example, to paint the perspective picture how many boxes of gum would would you have sold in that first year?

And how many do you sell now? Like what does the supermarket by? Yeah, I think for the very first year, I think it was about cereal packages we sold then there was all development. We really we handed out a lot of lot of samples but we really didn't sell a lot. So and that's during that year where we try to figure out what kind of packaging as well and that's where we hit the right one with the one that we have now, it took us almost a year. So it was alongside development of chewing gum recipe as well. I think for the second year maybe we I think we produced, I don't know, maybe 10, 15 kg a day maybe. Something like that was very very small, Small amounts of it. That's all the handmade. It's like a lot. Yeah. Yeah, it sounds like a lot. No, but today we're actually producing about 500 years. So it's it's growing it quite fast. It's really uh for chewing gum it's um I think that the first year we had, I don't know, 23rd just for kind of testing and trying to figure out like what is our brand, what is true come and and where should it go, because When we, at the end of 2018, I think that's where we we were in 711, but figure out that convenience stores and health stores, that's definitely not enough.

And uh it could go around, you know, with the business, but definitely was not. We really wanted to, you know, be a successful alternative to to steamroll and Wrigley's and all these conventional types out there. So we wanted to be in the same position in the store. And we were relatively, I wanted to build it into something something bigger. And and that's where, luckily for us, it was a very big success in a small, danish local supermarket chain, which is very organic and maybe the right customer, definitely at this time point, it was a very, very nice success. And then the bigger supermarket change in uh in Denmark, they came knocking and said, okay, we can see your great success here. So, we would like to try your didn't matter for the next six months and let's see where it goes.

And then started a the whole kind of, true of our journey when you went through the rebranding process. Did you, were there any challenges in trying to find packaging and kind of, the visual message from what you would have in, say, a health food store versus what you would have in a really commercial supermarket, definitely it's been and I think we discussed this so many times because it's uh it's very, very different when we had our first packaging for sure. It was very artsy and very uh modern look like this very clean package and it was very simple text and very it was very nice. It just didn't you couldn't really feel that it was uh it was something that you want to eat, it wasn't really how you say tasty looking. Um but it was working very, very well at museums and these small health stores because you knew that what you buy here is usually something that you can eat.

Uh and uh when we went with this packaging into 7 11, that's definitely where we figured out this packaging is not working. It's people didn't know what it is, even if we were at the cashier's, which we weren't that back then. But even if we kept this uh stuck with this packaging, I don't think we would have been a success. People would not like take an extra look at it. It was not, it was not drawing focus at the cashiers and as soon as we put on, for instance, for the minute match variant or the ginger variant, we put on the actual photo of a mint leaf or the ginger root and all of a sudden people were like, okay, this is suitable, it's it's something for me to eat and then they actually already for their focus to it and then pick up packaging and say, okay, so if you take a look at it then you can see an ingredient list and so on. And then they kind of got intrigued.

So for sure when we went into super maggots, a whole new discussion came up because like which supermarkets because the first one that we got into the more organic and and people that are very focused on on what they eat and clean label and so on. That was working perfectly with the idea of the brand and what we're trying to do. So keep it very very clean label, so fewer ingredients as possible was better. And when we hit the shelves in a supermarket that is very classic. So completely big store in in Denmark we were discussing so this you know is pricing and everything. Is that gonna work in these types of stores, is people going to buy it if it's almost twice as expensive as the conventional government there, which is very tricky because people don't spend a lot of money on these convenience products.

It's more like I needed and I nice fresh feeling in the mouth but it's not that important. That is natural or clean naval or vegan. And we were really scared actually we were for sure. But luckily I think the the rebranding of the chewing gum was definitely important. Otherwise we would not have, I I don't think that people would have looked at it like twice in the in the supermarkets if we have the right image of truth. Um for sure. And when you guys have like started to grow and scale and obviously get these larger supermarket chains on board, have you also had to get new investment to be able to keep scaling or were you able to stick with your original factory and the kitchen and everything that you already had with the first round of investment, first investment and also the money that we put in the in the company, they would run out when we needed to scale up production because we have a production to begin with when we did maybe 10 kg a day.

We'll even back when we did one killer the day it was handmade like all the way through. There was just the, you know, we got really strong because you have to meet the gum by yourself and and you're like pulling and stretching like when you make a hard candy as well and it's just it's a tough job and it's really, I was doing maybe at that time point before we got any machines at all. I got 400 g per batch which was very hard because you were doing it by hand. So like really big arm muscles in that time period. Um and I was like, no, this is not gonna work is too tough. It's like when, when we, if we need just like at this time when we had 10, 12 cafes in Copenhagen uh was like the change, we're not even, you know in our minds at this time point, but when we discussed with 7 11 the first time was like, I was looking at the guys and they're like yeah they are very interested in the 11th, like 2 300 stores around them.

Like I was like no that's not gonna happen, I can't do that. I could usually like all my strength and energy to produce the gum. So we're like okay we have to take a look at machinery, we have to have some machines and something that's called the chewing gum machine, and we're like no, I don't know. And we were Googling and discussing with some people that I know from the Bachelor and my Master's and now, so there's something called a separate need er I was like okay, we have to figure out how to get this and how much it costs. And then we went to this machine fair in Germany in cologne and it was gigantic fair. And and we were these tiny, small startup people and they were not laughing but inside they probably work because every time we were looking at these machines we were like, okay, so that does this one ton machine mixer thing, can they make, I don't know, a lab scale size one for us. It's because it's like this is where they were not making a ton of chewing gum.

It's crazy. So this machinery all of a sudden came on on board, and we're like, okay, so we have to discuss with some, maybe, uh, secondhand company or something like that. And all of a sudden we had to, you know, figure out how do you make the gun when you're not just doing it by hand? And uh, and then this bear was definitely, it was a kickstart into our production set up, german journey. It was, it was crazy to see these big machinery that could make a ton per hour or something like that. And we were just searching for something that could do maybe two kg per hour. It was, it was insane. But from this fair, we got a good context. And uh, we found a company that made refurbishment of the machine machinery, and then we figured out how to actually make it when it's not completely by hand. So we got kind of what is called food process process, uh, was needing the gun for us. And we just had to figure out the mixing times and so on.

And and then at this time when we were still hand rolling the gum into ropes, and then we're cutting on cutting boards, which was also insane. I think we were four people always standing there in the kitchen, just like sweating. And we're wearing gloves all the time, and your fingers just like, started to peel off almost in these gloves. And it was just, it was really a tough time producing, tearing them. We were like, oh, why didn't we do chocolate or something else? But but it was also fun, like trying to get to know these machines as well, because of course, at this time point, we we knew that, okay, it could be a success, but we really have to power through all of this because it's a the machinery's it's expensive, so we we have to do a lot by hand still. And but that was the first machinery we got from that fair, and then it was more or less a small, tiny factory of the 16 square meters on the second floor and some old wooden building in Copenhagen, that was like the first Oh, no, no, it was just the then we knew after a while, and we we had to build a bigger factory and not be on the second floor, because second floor is horrible, like, lifting boxes up and lifting boxes with chewing gum down and all of this, it was so much caring and it was, I think in the end of the day where we were at the old place, it was maybe three tons a month going up and three tons going downstairs.

It was horrible. So we had to go in something that was on the, on ground level. So, so we moved actually only last year in june, so we've been there at the old place for quite some time, but when we moved here where we are now actually, um uh we uh we had to get some investment, but I think for us it was also important to like keep the share mostly between us. So so keep all the percentage of the company between us for at least try to keep the majority. And we've been agreeing on that since the day one I think. But then we we got one investment from a guy that used to be ceo of several when it was actually in Denmark, which is one of the largest chewing gum brands in Denmark at least. And uh quite a big part of europe. So, so when he got in touch with us and he actually contacted us, he was very interested in what we were doing.

And So he had like 10 or 15 years of experience from chewing gum factory and running the whole place. We were like, yeah, that's probably a good person to, to to get in. So it was like uh, not only for the money because of course at this time when we could sell more the of our company and get more uh liquid. But I think this time it was also very important to get like uh to do the take the clever choice or how you should say. And and also get somebody enrolled in True, but I'm kind of and say okay you could also, you know, be quite a big part of this, not only about the money. You you have to kind of help us out and you have the great context and so on. So so this was very important investment. Not only for the money, definitely was also needed. Of course it's it's tough running a production and getting all the raw materials and machinery.

It's tough. But I think this was also great to have a good investment in in the people for sure. And I want to talk about your because obviously operate a lot of big to be dealing directly with your like supermarche customers and things like that, but you're also direct to consumer and you can buy your gum online. Was that like that from the beginning or did you introduce that later on down the track and you sort of thought to yourself, okay let's market um B two C. Actually it started like that the first day before we even got into any cafes and so on. We were selling the chewing gum online and we made these started kids. So we got one of each flavor at this time when I think it was actually two of each flavor. We have three flavors at this time when relinquish the ginger and the wind. And uh to begin with we thought, okay one of each flavor that's all but the the costs of sending it out was like eating up the one that we could actually get from this sale, the sales.

And so we, we ended up doing like two of each packs and then you can just like try it out like once or you could describe today we don't have any subscription online yet are still, but we uh, we started with subscriptions and I think we ended up maybe having 80 82 subscriptions. Maybe something like that. Only danish customers of course. But it was, it was kind of good because sometimes then you can just ride out to the emails and say, okay, how do you like the new ginger recipe? We changed it from today and just let us know kind of, and it was nice to get some feedback that was not only friends and family because we only had friends and family to, to get some feedback from. So subscription of of True Graham was possible back then. And then online sales is still, and I think especially when people see our apprehend and the instagram, especially when they go to our web page and and purchase it because now we also so directly to the customer in other countries.

Yeah. So it's also a way to get people to try it out. Yeah, for sure. Is your bigger um, what's your biggest market for online? Is it still where you are or is it somewhere else in the world now, it's still still in Denmark for sure with the online sales. That's uh still biggest in Denmark. But I think these corona days, I don't know if it's actually went up. I didn't talk to the guys if it actually did. But I think we're not selling that much online. It's very much the supermarkets, especially those places where we are the at the cashier's uh, registry. And uh, and maybe even these uh dumpers that's on the, on the floor. Like you cannot really pass through the store without, you know, hitting them. That's the perfect spot because then you can really fall into true gun instead of the walking by the candy shelves and you will never even notice our during down there. So definitely to income, it has to be at the cashews and when you have those contracts with the supermarkets, how do you negotiate to be the brand that's at the register and the brand that's in those bumpers versus just being in the candy aisle.

Mm That's uh, that's really a tough one for sure. The first supermarket chain we were in Denmark, the more organic focused supermarket. They really liked our chewing gum. So I think they had an agreement with similar role. I'm actually not sure um where Steam will probably which purchased this spot close to the registry, but because they liked our brand and, and they liked us and we were the ones, you know, going out to the store and say, hey wouldn't you want to have True come here instead it fits your profile as a supermarket as well, a lot better than steam roll. And we of course also spend a lot of, a lot of time, especially the 1st 22 years to actually educate people in. So what is actually insuring them and did you know and all these things that actually inform people on of their choices, especially the store owner of Yemen and Denmark, which is the name of the, of the stores, They were really shocked and there you can, I feel like they made it their course to try and you know, be part of this plastic free change which was also running very much on in Denmark it at this time when the plastic was plastic waste in general was very high in focus, so which was also very, very lucky for our brand, I think also pushing us forward Yeah, in this, in this direction.

So I think for the shells right now in the big supermarkets, I think we still need to argue a lot uh to kind of make the store feel like they're also part of a big change, especially in Denmark, but also worldwide that we need to focus on get rid of plastics wherever we can. It's not really needed in two income when you have this gum base which is from the country itself and inspire degradable and luckily we have some very, very good uh people in sales and magazines, So they really, They're doing an amazing job to actually push this forward because we cannot as a start a small startup company. We don't really, we can't really afford paying maybe 2% of our sales to to the stores. Uh and I think I'm not even sure how much the big companies like Wrigley's and so on paid to be there, but I think it's a lot definitely.

So it was not possible for us to pay us way pay for the way into the shelves, but talk our way that's uh that's for your charge. Talk louder, shout and get your customers to shout. Exactly, exactly. Um I want to talk about your instagram because you touched on it before and your marketing in general is just so on point and I think um you guys do such a great job at educating the customer into obviously the issues with chewing gum that we probably all never knew about before and what goes into these kind of products. Um So can you talk a little bit about that direction and, and has that been the direction from the beginning or you sort of realize the need to also educate the customer? Um Yeah, I know for sure it's uh it's been tricky to begin with like which types of us peace that we want to work on because to begin with, we were looking at, I don't know, five or six different USPS that we really want to highlight and all the time used on social media and so on.

But I think to begin with, we used natural a lot because people were very focused on natural products and these also like raw materials and clean label and, and such things. But then came the whole vegan and then we changed it a little bit like, oh, how about the vegan and then, okay, we have to focus a little bit more on that. And uh, it was a little bit messy to begin with I think. And I think for for most people, especially also in food branding, it's very tricky to know like what is the people's focus and what should our focus and be? And I thought we had an amazing product and to begin with like, okay, so can we call it plastic free? And what is plastic in? How do you say that the common way of talking about plastic is the same plastic that goes into chewing gum? Uh, maybe 10 or 15% of it. It's the same that goes into car tires and, and plastic bottles and so on.

So we're like, okay, we, we have to call the plastic. So it's also something about the legal stuff to how, how is it allowed to say something is free from, You have a lot of free from the kind of foods out there And some of them are legal and some of them are not. So definitely also took us some time to, to like dig into what can we actually say. And then we ended up these days, especially a lot of focus on plastic and plastic waste. And we figured out along the way, especially the first year, year and a half that people were very much focused on this plastic free and not so much that it was natural ingredients and so on because kind of the branding itself, they thought they would look at it once twice and they were like, yeah, of course it's natural. And they even thought it was organic as well and and we cannot actually be organic, but they thought, yeah, it's natural organic as is true them. And after that we realized this is be a little bit more bold and then we went with with plastic free and this is kind of a hopefully maybe where we, where we ended up and kind of the strongest USP that we have.

It's definitely a plastic free because all the other things, they just kind of take along with the plastic free message. Oh wow, it's so cool. I really love what you're doing and I think it's just such an amazing um, products that I've never even thought about before and to innovate in an industry that's kind of out of mind. It must be quite thrilling actually. Um, I Wanted to ask you about the impact of what's happening at the moment with COVID-19 and and whether it's impacted the way that you're working with your team or with your factory. And then we kind of spoke about it before the podcast technically started. But if we can circle back, hopefully just increasing production, but definitely right now we can see setback especially our biggest uh chain in Germany DM definitely because they have been on lockdown for such a long time. You can see the sales are decreasing a lot like 60 70% or something like that.

And of course that has an impact when you're producing yourself because you have staff that you would want to keep and and all these things. But luckily for us, we have lot of solidarity here and then to Rome and people are really helping, you know, from both the operators in production until uh ask the, the owners to, to actually get this through this uh, through this rough patch or how you should say so, so for sure it has quite an impact on production company and especially when we have our own production here in Denmark, but definitely you can already see that the sales are going a little bit up now, which is great. And, and actually today was quite a big news in uh, in the office because we just got 1200 new stores in Austria. So hopefully soon. Yeah, everything is going to go well, which was quite amazing because right now we didn't think that, you know, we've been not really focusing on sales that much and we've of course had a lot of time to be on instagram and facebook and all these social media's, but we haven't really been able to discuss a lot of sales opportunities out there because people are like now holding a little bit back and, and so this was really great news and I know for sure this is, it's gonna work out in the end for sure.

And So you know, just one last question on this, if you're producing like 500 kg in a day and now you have like another 1200 stores that have just signed on, for example, how many packets of gum is that in a year? Like how many? It's a lot. It's, it's a lot and it's really scary numbers. I remember when we did our first marketing campaign and the videos and so on to to promote true gum and peter. He's in charge of marketing and he was running up these numbers from all these statistics and it's completely insane how much ends up on the, on the streets and the sidewalks and then people from the government, they had to come and scrape it off from the, from the sidewalk because otherwise it will stay there for everyone looked really bad. Then it end ups in ends up in sewers, ends up in the ocean and ends up in our food chain all over again because the fish they eat it and it's a horrible story.

It's a, it's a lot of plastic. It's insane. Uh yeah, it's crazy when you think about those kind of numbers and it puts it into perspective how much plastic must be coming from chewing gum on the roads and in the, in the ocean. It's really scary. And I'm conscious that we've already been talking for an hour, but I just want to quickly quickly go back to the marketing and see um, what your marketing strategy has been to grow your, your director, consumer base and what kind of efforts are working for you at the moment with those channels in general for our marketing. We haven't really, because we are producing ourselves and and have the factory. I think we, we spent a lot of money on production equipment and raw materials because we have to buy the gun based from south America and it takes a while before it gets here. You know, all of our money is tied up in in raw materials and production in general. So we haven't really spent a lot of money in in marketing um, area.

So what we do is is mainly keep people informed through social media and so on. I think we peter especially, he spends a lot of time getting these behind the scenes kind of footage and videos from our productions, like keep everything as seafood as possible because then for the consumer at least it's a, it's better than one big, you know, billboard somewhere where you can see oh several and get fresh, I don't know, airwaves through your mouth and everything is kind of synthetic and here you can show people how it's done and we don't have anything to hide. So I think everything has been very kind of organic growth from the beginning and it's it's still working that way. We don't really have a big budget for for marketing or we use some money of course, and facebook ads and so on, but we don't really put the money there and I think I'm to blame maybe because I'm using all the money and production in the instead.

But yeah, it's a it's very uh it goes a normal social media and so on, so, and luckily it's still it's working because I think the message is quite a how do you say? Yeah, a strong message. A strong message. Yeah, exactly. So people, they they talk about it, so that's a that's amazing. Do you have any advice for other women who might be wanting to get into the startup scene and um sort of jump into the sustainability sort of businesses or um just producing in the FNB space at all in general, for me, the most important thing has been to just, you know, catch the day and and if there's problems just like stay happy and and focus on solving the problem and just work through the tough patch, The rough patches because there will be rough patches when you have your own production or if there's somebody out there who who wants to to produce their only it doesn't even matter if it's food or I don't know something else completely different.

It's uh there's gonna be a lot of rough patches and there's gonna be a heavy lifting faces and there's gonna be a lot of tough uh long hours and you really have to just push through. And really the best advice is to find the right team because a lot of people can also do it alone and I really, you know taking my hat off from for for those people because we've been four people and I could not imagine that we've been only one or two people, it's been so much work and and you need to you definitely need different areas of expertise and and with my fruit background I like chemistry and all these nerdy, he's nerdy things and and the guys with the commercial background and they just they know where to to get the right people and how to use a sweet talk, all these supermarket chains and so on you. You need all aspects if you want to to grow a food company and be a success.

So definitely look at the look at your team and if you're missing somebody just spend some time on yeah figure out who your teammates should be lovely and the last thing I do with every woman that I interview is six quick questions. It's a quick fire round. Um you might have seen them in the last episodes. So number one is what's your, why what's my wife who? It's a very tricky. I think for me it has been just too, I have to be able to make a change. And the big chocolate factory I was working at before it's just a big commercialized business and it was just not for me I couldn't make a difference because I was just I don't know kind of redoing things sometimes. I think for me it's been too actually start from scratch and see where it can go to actually make a change and not feel like every day is the same. I really love that every day is is different.

What's The # one strategy or marketing moment that made your business pop? That's also tricky. Um for sure we were very lucky that kind of change in focus like people's focus. They were really focus on natural and and plastic free and so on. We were really lucky to to hit the right uh kind of the the right thing there. But I think uh one thing now it must be that the growing focus on on what you actually eat. That's what made our business problem. Maybe the rebranding was kind of important. Where do you hang out to get smarter. Well when I'm not spending all my time in the factory uh these days at least then I think I started out like using a lot of time on Youtube and like watching how it's made kind of videos and so on and, and uh listen to a lot of great podcasts and the good food is podcast is really great.

Uh I think the british podcast here. Um yeah, I'll Have to check that one out. Yeah, it's really great. Number four is how do you win the day? I love these questions. Um yeah, I think for me it's been quite important that like with good food and yeah, during yoga for instance, that's really whenever there was a time, there was a period in the instagram history where there was no time for anything. We slept maybe four hours and just like worked all the time. It was, it was of course tough because it was a tough job lifting a lot and so on. But it's especially tough because you don't eat properly and, and exercise. That's, you don't have the strength or energy to actually stay happy and healthy and actually focusing on your goals for the day. So I think like good food in yoga, that's probably my recipe question Number five is if you only had $1,000 left in the business bank account, what would you spend it on? Yeah, that one is really, that's for me, it's like, I don't know, first panic.

That's the, that's the first thing and then I think you have to just like stop production immediately because that cost way too much. But I think if I had 1000 left on my account, you would have spent it on first a lot of samples so we could go out, still meet the people and fairs and and spend a lot of time these food fairs and and talking to the consumer and and so on and then maybe the rest of the money would have to go in there in the social media and facebook ads and getting people to know us. And last and final question is how do you deal with failure? And that can be either a specific example or just your general approach and your mindset towards it with fairly because of course there's a lot of failure, especially in startup and you do things, you know, also even you can fail in the same thing twice sometimes because you're like, no, this time it's gonna work. What's the first thing is just like don't blame anybody because it's not worth it. And if you're like, we are four people and it could, you kind of really don't blame anybody, so like don't blame anybody and I kind of feel the sense of urgency and and act upon it.

Um just like get the job done, that's a, you know, you learn from your mistakes. So that's I think you have to feel like it's kind of fun to learn from your mistakes when you're in a startup, you cannot really, you know, sit down and cry about it. So it's like, you know, a sense of urgency and then just get it, get it done because nobody is going to do it for you. So yeah, absolutely, that's true. Thank you so much for taking the time. I just want to get the specifics of where people can find you if they want to look you up on instagram or linked in. Oh yeah, I'm really not much on instagram, but definitely you can get the true gum and the instagram just like true gum, small letters and um facebook is completely the same. But if it's me, just like, if you have any questions or anything at all, you can also write my email. It's completely okay. It's like Sabrina, it's likely true. Dom dot com.

Amazing. Well, thank you so much for taking the time. No, thank you. Thank you for letting me be on your show, it's amazing. Hey, it's just me here. Thanks for listening to this amazing episode of the female startup Club podcast. If you want to hear more, Head to my instagram at Dune rasheen to see my filmed interviews with incredible female founders, like Erica from fluffy Beauty Greta from drop bottle and Sammy leo from breeze bomb and if you like what we're doing here, visit our website and sign up to female startup Club dot com to get all of the good stuff delivered straight to your inbox and lastly, subscribe to the Female Startup Club podcast. Yeah. Yeah. No. Mhm. Mhm. Yeah.

Did you know chewing gum has plastic in it and it’s the world’s second most common form of litter? Zabrina Ziegler on how to build a sustainable startup and True Gum’s mission to educate and create impact.
Did you know chewing gum has plastic in it and it’s the world’s second most common form of litter? Zabrina Ziegler on how to build a sustainable startup and True Gum’s mission to educate and create impact.
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