A Day in the Life of a Startup Founder
In this blog we explore the day in the life of a Startup Founder of a small business that is reducing food waste.
Our EIT Food Day in the Life series is an educational resource aimed at young people and professionals who are interested in the agrifood job market. We profile a wide range of careers in the agrifood sector, interviewing professionals to find out what their job is like, why it is important, and how you could take up the profession.
You will learn:
- What a typical day is like as a Startup Founder
- The main responsibilities of a Startup Founder
- What makes this job role unique
- How you can take up this career path
Meet Solveiga Pakštaitė, the Startup Founder of Mimica, a startup who are reducing food waste. Creating a startup company is not an easy career path. Yet in agrifood, we need companies that can develop innovative products and services that will transform our food systems to be healthier, more sustainable and trusted.
Solveiga tells us about her job and how you can start your own agrifood business.
What is a typical day like as a startup founder and director?
Solveiga’s day-to-day work is often varied, but her main role is to support her team to do their work in the best way possible. As a company director of a small business, there is a responsibility to manage employees effectively and ensure they are happy at work and understand what is expected of them.
Aside from supporting her team, Solveiga is responsible for her company’s outreach. She takes pride in raising awareness about her company, to make new connections that will drive her business forward.
“I’m in charge of all of our company outreach, so that means speaking at the right events and conferences to make new contacts, whether that’s new customers or new suppliers or new investors. I champion our mission and try to spread our mission as widely as possible.”
Why is a career as a startup founder unique?
Solveiga explains that a job as a startup founder is unique because it relies on yourself, your idea and your motivation to succeed. The individual essentially creates the role for themselves and must carry out multiple roles to begin with, from product development and commercialisation to seeking investment.
Although this comes with many risks, the outcome can be extremely rewarding – from seeing your product on the market to employing staff that can take the company to the next level. In fact, according to Solveiga, it’s 3% of the population that provide the other 97% of jobs. Therefore, it is individuals like Solveiga who start their own company, that can provide jobs for many others seeking employment.
“The company started out being just me, but now we’re 18 people in different roles, bringing this technology to market.”
How the business was formed
For Solveiga, starting Mimica took place after university where she studied industrial design. In her final year project, Solveiga wanted to help people with visual impairment to be able to understand when their food really spoils, as expiry dates are not accessible to everyone. However, she soon realised that expiry dates on food packaging presented a worst-case scenario situation, when, food can last much longer. As such, none of us has a real-time indication of when food truly spoils.
To combat food waste, Solveiga went on to develop their product – Bump - a temperature-sensitive indicator cap or tag can be used to indicate food freshness. It helps customers to store food at the right temperature and reduces food waste by changing its texture when food actually spoils, rather than relying on the wasteful expiry dates.
“My plan was never to start a company, but I’m so excited that I did get pulled into this adventure, because I’m excited that something I’d thought of could change the food industry for the better”
Importantly, it was the market demand for her product that helped Solveiga to develop Mimica into a viable business. As such, starting a company must involve developing a product or service that has market-value and that can solve a particular need for the target customer.
Mimica completed a consumer trial on 33 households testing how long orange juice was still fresh after the best-before date by using their ‘Bump Cap’. Results showed that 97% of the participants were able to enjoy their juice for 3-6 days longer than the current guidance. The product helps with food waste which overall reduces cost spend for households.
What are the pathways to starting your own agrifood business?
Starting your own agrifood business normally comes from a place of passion and wanting to drive change which helps others, just like Solveiga after completing her university degree.
There are multiple pathways to setting up your own business such as classic routes like studying a business degree at university. This should give you enough knowledge about business to have the confidence and insight to go forward.
You can ask others for help and talk with other business owners to gain extra knowledge, advice and guidance. You can also gain more help and information by doing extra courses that are available online and through different organisations. You can also find lots of research online that could help you in certain areas, such as EIT Food’s guidance lesson on starting up an agrifood business.
As well individual learning, you could shadow a colleague in their role by working at a small business, doing an apprenticeship or internship, which should give you on-the-job experience and extra understanding on how you could set up your own business. This could also be a great way to create connections that could help you further along your business journey.
Setting up a business is hard work, however there are numerous things you can do to give you the confidence and expertise to create something exciting.
What is the most challenging part of the job? What is the best part of the job?
A career as a company director can be challenging, as often it involves making important and risky decisions that will affect the business and its stakeholders. For Solveiga, being the company director of an agrifood startup is challenging, because she’s trying to disrupt the food industry, which is the largest industry in the world. Mimica is trying to encourage people to understand that reducing food waste is good for business, however currently it is still a novel idea.
There is a perception that taking actions to improve environmental sustainability is a trade-off for economic return. Yet, businesses such as Mimica demonstrate that reducing food waste is not only important for the planet, but it can in fact be a profitable business decision.
For Solveiga, the best part of her job is to redefine leadership and the way business is done. As a company founder, Solveiga chooses to define leadership as valuing each employee for the work they do and provide them with a sense of responsibility.
“Leadership…doesn’t have to be this alpha-male, shouting at people anymore, we can do business in a better way.”
Solveiga sums up her job in 3 words:
About EIT Food’s Day in the Life series
EIT Food’s Day in the Life series is a video series that explores the variety of careers that our agrifood system has to offer. The aim of the series is to raise awareness of the range of high-skilled and highly rewarding jobs that the food and farming sector has to offer and inspire younger generations to consider one of these careers for themselves.