Isabel Alvarez-Martos, CEO of Cellugy, motivates us all by sharing her inspiring experience from starting a business to being able to do exactly what she wanted together with like-minded people working towards a common goal. Cellugy is a start-up based in Aarhus, Denmark and specialised in producing the next-generation sustainable barrier coating designed for packaging applications, helping to solve the plastic pollution problem.
Q: What made you start a purpose-driven business?
Plastic pollution due to packaging is causing incommensurable damage to the ecosystem and our health via CO2 emissions and microplastics reaching our plates. I started a purpose-driven business because I saw this problem that I could not unsee. Currently, only 14% of global plastics produced are recycled. This is because of a lack of technology targeted to the real problem: the material itself. The passion and urge to solve this problem, plus prior scientific knowledge resulted in our company. So Cellugy was born from a mix of knowledge, passion, and opportunity.
Q: Why is purpose so important to you?
Purpose is a driving force for change. It is that one thing that is constant, that is embedded so much in our core that we can’t separate it from our daily life. And I think it has been what keeps us moving. When we get a project rejection, when a pitch doesn’t turn out the way we wanted or when we fail on the occasion, purpose is what keeps us moving forward.
Q: How did starting a business change your life?
In so many ways! At the very beginning, it was challenging because at some point I had to make a decision between a steady job and an opportunity, an idea. But again, this is when purpose played its role and made us take the leap. Then, we encountered growth opportunities like grants, workshops, and like-minded people willing to give a hand, and it became a lot easier. And now, I am at the point in my life where I am doing exactly what I wanted to do and this is an exploration journey, priceless.
Q: What is the best thing about running your own business?
The best thing is having a team of passionate people working together to achieve a common goal. We want Cellugy to thrive and EcoFLEXY to be available in the market because we believe in being part of sustainable change and in playing a key role in creating a circular economy for packaging applications. Knowing that everyone on the team is pushing as hard as me is invaluable.
Q: What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Our product has evolved enormously since we started, and we overcame different challenges during this process by reading, researching, and brainstorming ways in which we could make an impact and solve the problem of plastic pollution. Collaborators have helped us grasp the market insight and catch up with the big players in the industry.
Q: What are the biggest things you have learnt?
That you can’t do it alone. Our success is the sum of the collective effort of many people, agencies, and even other businesses that believe in us. Nurturing those collaborations is extremely important for us.
Q: What advice and tips do you have for other people starting purpose-driven businesses?
Surround yourself with like-minded people. Look for events, collaborations, initiatives, and programs that help startups and founders. There are a lot out there, and I believe that when you have passion, it shows, and is a magnet to attract the right people to succeed.
Q: What sources of information / inspiration did you find useful as you were starting out?
Of course, seeing how other people in my circle or area succeed was truly inspirational. By seeking role models I was able to start looking at myself in those positions. And also discovering how many opportunities there were to apply for grants and win awards to help kickstart a business, was truly inspirational to not give up.
Q: How has running a purpose-driven business impacted your life?
Again, working in something that I am truly passionate about is essential to me, and it is what keeps me going. Mornings are enthusiastic on the way to work. But this also means that sometimes the line between free time and work fades away, which has also impacted my life. I sometimes have to remind myself to unplug.
Q: Do you have a simple quote you would like to share with others?
I like this quote by Thomas Edison: “Genius is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration.” The initial idea may be the result of inspiration, serendipity, or other forces of the universe, but it is only the beginning. The rest is a lot of hard work.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
There truly are many resources out there to help kickstart a business. I would like to encourage people with a passion to take the leap and put their idea into action. Nobody expects them to do it by themselves, but to be able to convince others that their idea is valuable and will solve an important problem.