Laura Hoogland, Founder of SUNT Foods inspires and offers words of wisdom from her experience starting SUNT Food – who sell delicious banana bread to supermarkets, using bananas that would have been thrown away. Helping reduce food waste, whilst making flavoursome, healthy banana bread.
What made you start a purpose-driven business?
When I first had my idea for healthy ready-made banana bread I made a deal with a small local supermarket in my street. Because I promptly quit my job to start my own business and didn’t have that much money, I made a deal that I could get his “leftover” bananas for free. When I found out how many bananas this little supermarket was already throwing away, it got me thinking. I started to do research and found that bananas are the most eaten, yet most wasted type of fruit worldwide. Of the 150 billion grown each year, 75 billion ends up in the bin simply because they are too small, too big or too ripe. That’s when I knew, I wanted to fight this unnecessary food waste by rescuing bananas with healthy banana bread.
Why are sustainability and purpose so important to you?
Sustainability used to have a very “dusty” and “non-cool” image. But to us, food waste really is one of the most ridiculous problems in our world today. A third of the food produced worldwide is wasted, while 800 million people go to bed hungry at night. Not to speak of the fact that food waste has about 15 times more impact on global warming than plastics. That’s why we decided to build a lifestyle brand around food waste. Not only to gain awareness for this global problem, but also to show that there is a really interesting business model around waste. We hope to inspire other businesses to take a second look at their own waste.
How did starting a business change your life?
Starting my own business was the scariest thing I had ever done. At one point I had to sell my car, rent out my home and move back to my parents. If it taught me one thing, it’s that never giving up and believing in yourself is a cliché for a very good reason.
What is the best thing about running your own business?
I am not a typical entrepreneur, but definitely the entrepreneurial type. I’ve worked for a lot of people and companies before I started SUNT. Having my own business also means I can create the vibe and spirit in the company that I missed so much with former employers. I also love the fact that everything we think of and want to do, can be done immediately without having to go through multiple departments. Besides that, there is nothing cooler than seeing your own idea develop into something feasible and growing into something loved by people you’ve never met before. We are literally feeding people. I’m a professional feeder now, haha!
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
I think Covid was the most recent challenge I had to overcome. A few launches we’d planned to happen in March/April were postponed until September. I could literally throw away the budget I made for 2020. We were expecting a lot of growth and had to find new ways to make up for the delay of this growth. Luckily, I have the best team by my side and we did extremely well in this period. We launched a major PR campaign within 2 days and found new ways of getting sales focused on B2B. Really there is no such thing as ‘self-made’. It takes a village!
What are the biggest things you have learnt?
Never doubt your choices. If you look back afterwards and think you should have done something differently, remember that at the time you made the best choices given the circumstances. Don’t drive yourself crazy in hindsight.
What advice and tips do you have for other people starting purpose-driven businesses?
Just start somewhere. There is no perfect course of action and plenty of hurdles down the road. The best thing to do is just dive in, be confident and dare more than you ever thought you’d dare.
Do you have a simple quote you would like to share with others?
There is no such thing as self-made – it takes a village.
What sources of information/inspiration did you find useful when you were starting?
I googled my socks of. Also, I met with a lot of start-ups as well to learn from each other.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Don’t think you can’t start a purpose-driven company. Even if other people tell you it’s madness, believe in yourself and your vision. The rest (eventually) will follow.