We recently chatted to one of our dearest alumni, I Love You Veggie Much, to get all of their latest updates. The Berlin-based startup produces organic, plant-based baby food, and was part of our fourth cohort, in 2020. Since then, the team has built a solid foundation for launching their products, established their marketing strategy and business model, and much more!
I Love You Veggie Much was founded by Susanne Komorek and Darja Pilz, both new mothers and vegans, who were looking for a way to offer the best food to their children. Susanne, the CEO of the startup, has a background in marketing, design and branding, while Darja is experienced in photography and film production. Let’s see what they have to say about their startup’s journey.
Tell us about your journey since graduating from the ProVeg Incubator
Susanne: We started development of the highly complex production process with our contract producer and we have now almost finished it. We have also nailed our marketing strategy, business model, and future planning. Basically, we created a solid ground for continuing to build our business.
Now we have the pleasure of joining the Hafven impact accelerator programme, where we have a lot of support and inspiration for preparing our official product launch. Our network is growing daily and it’s so exciting to meet talented, energetic people and have strong mentors on our side.
Tell us more about the products you are launching
Darja: We are just about to finish the product-development process! There is only one last step left to do. We have already started preparing the launch, which will take place soon.
We will launch our product online, so that parents can easily order what they need, in just a few minutes. It’s very exciting to see that the project we have been working on for such a long time will soon become a reality. We can’t wait for it to finally happen and to see how our customers are going to interact with our brand.
What have been the main challenges of your startup journey?
Darja: The baby-food sector is a huge challenge. Of course we had to meet all of the baby-food regulations and this was our biggest hurdle: to balance innovation and regulation.
The ingredients in baby food need to meet very strict criteria – which we absolutely agree with and support. The safety and health of the child is the number-one priority for us.
Only a limited selection of healthy ingredients are currently available in the quality required for the development of baby-food products. The standards that have to be met are also connected to soil quality, and the use of pesticides and fertilisers. At I Love You Veggie Much, we want to promote change and be able to offer healthier, safer, and more sustainable foods for children. Happily, we found fantastic suppliers who fully support this endeavor.
In addition, there have been many challenges with the production process – we didn’t expect it to be that difficult. But, eventually, every problem has a solution! With this state of mind, we finally got to where we are now.
What have been the main highlights of your startup journey?
Susanne: Joining the ProVeg Incubator was, of course, one of the biggest highlights for I Love You Veggie Much. We learned so much during the programme and the people at the Incubator were just incredible. It was very helpful and motivating to be part of a community and even more part of a movement: the plant-based revolution! That’s why we are so happy to join the Hafven accelerator now. Community is a booster.
Darja: We also had all those little highlights, when parents sent us videos of their kids eating our baby food like crazy, and saying, “see, he always was such a bad eater. Now here we go. I can’t believe this – thank you so much.” That’s really mind-blowing! We can’t describe the feeling it causes. It’s too good to find words for..
What was your strategyfor starting a company and surviving during the Corona pandemic?
Susanne: We started building the company shortly before Corona started – that’s true. And the crisis really took a toll on the food sector. It was hard for us, specifically, to find a producer. In general, food manufacturers are constantly running out of capacity because of the crisis and supply chains were interrupted for a while.
We hope that this is going to be over soon – it’s a tough time for food startups. But we’re not complaining. We are the lucky ones who are building a startup now – other company founders see their life’s work in pieces and we feel really sorry for them.
Where do you want your company to be in two years?
Darja: Hopefully, customers will find us on every retail shelf in Germany, so we can reach a lot of families with our healthy plant-based baby food. And we want to grow. We are looking forward to welcoming new team members to support us in realising our dream.
What have you learned from your startup experience that you wish you had known earlier?
Susanne: No-one told us it was going to be such a rollercoaster. You really need strong nerves. Many decisions have to be made quickly and intuitively.
Depending on your product and whether you already have a network in the food industry, finding the right producer and establishing the production process can take a lot of time. Our product launch was supposed to take place much earlier, and finding ourselves under such a lot of pressure was challenging. I would advise startups to keep their timelines and milestones ambitious but realistic. Also, to be as flexible as possible in order to be able to adapt as you gain new insights.
That said, I need to add that I never expected to find so much support, so many nice, talented, and amazing people who are willing to help us to build this company. It was a huge surprise for us how much positive energy you can find out there. It’s been a crazy but really enriching and fulfilling experience.